FREE Anti-Trump POSTER: DUMP Trump, TRUMP Dump — It all makes sense when you realize that the “T” is silent

Confused about the daily antics of Donald Trump and his regime of toadies? Perhaps this will clear it up. I give you this FREE Anti-Trump POSTER: DUMP Trump, TRUMP Dump — “It all makes sense when you realize that the “T” is silent.”

FREE Anti-Trump POSTER: DUMP Trump, TRUMP Dump -- It all makes sense when you realize that the "T" is silent

Feel free to check out my anti-Trump button special; your choice of 50 assorted buttons OR 50 buttons in one of these anti-Trump designs (all for only $19.95):

The New York Times cataloged a list of items that Prez Donald Trump has done to lower the bar of presidential behavior. Such a trove of uncouth, demeaning, and dangerous behavior fuels anti-Trump sentiment and action. This list is only from the first eight months of his presidency; the list is much longer now, and growing every day. Here is the starter list:

  • Mock a foreign leader with a demeaning nickname and threaten his country with nuclear annihilation over Twitter
  • Call for the firing of “son of a bitch” athletes who choose to exercise their right to free speech
  • Refer to the White House as “a real dump”
  • Spend the weekend golfing at your private club while the mayor of an American city wades through sewage-filled water to help citizens after a catastrophic hurricane, then accuse that mayor of “poor leadership” when she criticizes your administration’s slow response to the storm
  • Criticize victims of that hurricane still living without drinking water or electricity by saying they “want everything to be done for them”
  • During a visit to some of those victims, throw rolls of paper towels at them and tell them they should be “very proud” that only 16 people have died so far, unlike in a “real catastrophe”
  • Attack a senator battling terminal cancer
  • Pick nominees to the federal bench who call a sitting Supreme Court justice a “judicial prostitute” and refer to transgender children as part of “Satan’s plan”
  • Campaign hard for a Senate candidate; then when he appears likely to lose, say “I might have made a mistake” and later delete your tweets supporting him
  • Behave so erratically and irresponsibly that senators of your own party resort to saying you’re treated like someone at “an adult day-care center” to keep you from starting World War III
  • Spend one of every three days as president visiting at least one of your own properties
  • Publicly and privately humiliate your own attorney general for recusing himself from an investigation into your campaign
  • Say nothing when a foreign leader’s bodyguards brutally attack peaceful protesters in the streets of Washington, D.C.
  • Tweet GIFs of yourself violently attacking the media and your former political opponent
  • Encourage police officers not to be “too nice” when apprehending criminal suspects
  • Help draft a misleading statement about the purpose of a meeting between your son, other top campaign aides and representatives of a rival foreign power intent on interfering in the election
  • Deliver a speech to the Boy Scouts of America that includes mockery of a former president and winking references to sexual orgies, and then lie by claiming that the head of that organization called and told you it was the best speech ever delivered in Boy Scout history
  • Hang a framed copy of a fake Time magazine cover celebrating your business acumen in your golf clubs around the world
  • Mock a female television anchor’s appearance, saying the anchor was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” at a holiday gathering at your private resort
  • Force your cabinet members to take turns extolling your virtues in front of television cameras
  • Welcome into the Oval Office a man who threatened to assassinate your predecessor, whom he called a “subhuman mongrel,” and who referred to your political opponent as a “worthless bitch”
  • Continue to deny that Russia attempted to influence the presidential election, despite the consensus of the American intelligence community — and yet also blame your predecessor for not doing anything to stop that interference
  • Grant temporary White House press credentials to a website that, among other things, claims that Sept. 11 was an “inside job” and that the massacre of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax
  • Block people who criticize you on Twitter
  • Claim that an investigation into your campaign’s possible collusion with a foreign power is “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
  • Pressure multiple intelligence chiefs to state publicly that there was no collusion between your presidential campaign and the Russian government
  • Without consulting anyone at the Pentagon, announce a new policy barring transgender soldiers from serving in the military
  • Pardon a former sheriff who was convicted of criminal contempt of court for refusing to obey the law
  • Continue to repeat, with admiration, a false story about an American military general committing war crimes
  • Mock the mayor of a world city for his careful, sober response to a terrorist attack
  • Tell Americans that a march of torch-carrying white supremacists and neo-Nazis includes “some very fine people” — and when one of those marchers murders a peaceful counterprotester, condemn violence on “both sides”
  • Run an administration whose ethical standards have, in the words of the federal government’s top ethics enforcer, made the United States “close to a laughingstock”
  • Hide data that don’t support your pre-existing policy preferences
  • Admit to trying to intimidate a key witness in a federal investigation
  • Continue to leave hundreds of executive branch positions unfilled
  • Profit off the presidency, accepting millions of dollars from foreign government officials, businesses, politicians and other supporters who pay a premium to patronize your properties and get access to you — while also attempting to hide the visitor lists at some of those properties from the public
  • Promise to drain the swamp, then quietly grant ethics waivers to multiple former industry lobbyists who want to work in your administration
  • Tell a lie, on average, more than five times a day
  • Call for criminal investigations of your former political opponent, seven months after winning the election
  • Appoint your family wedding planner to head a federal housing office
  • Shove aside a fellow head of state at a photo-op
  • Attack private citizens on Twitter
  • Delegitimize federal judges who rule against you
  • Refuse to take responsibility for military actions gone awry
  • Fire the F.B.I. chief in the middle of his expanding investigation into your campaign and your associates
  • Accuse a former president, without evidence, of an impeachable offense
  • Employ top aides with financial and other connections to a hostile foreign power
  • Blame the judiciary, in advance, for any terror attacks
  • Call the media “the enemy of the American people”
  • Demand personal loyalty from the F.B.I. director
  • Threaten the former F.B.I. director
  • Accept foreign payments to your businesses, in possible violation of the Constitution
  • Occupy the White House with the help of a hostile foreign power
  • Intimidate congressional witnesses
  • Allow White House staff members to use their personal email for government business
  • Claim, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally
  • Fail to fire high-ranking members of your national security team for weeks, even after knowing they lied to your vice president and exposed themselves to blackmail
  • Refuse to release tax returns
  • Hide the White House visitors’ list from the public
  • Vacation at one of your private residences nearly every weekend
  • Use an unsecured personal cellphone
  • Criticize specific businesses for dropping your family members’ products
  • Review and discuss highly sensitive intelligence in a restaurant, and allow the Army officer carrying the “nuclear football” to be photographed and identified by name
  • Obstruct justice
  • Hire relatives for key White House posts, and let them meet with foreign officials and engage in business at the same time
  • Promote family businesses on federal government websites
  • Tweet, tweet, tweet
  • Collude with members of Congress to try to shut down investigations of you and your associates
  • Threaten military conflict with other nations in the middle of news interviews
  • Compare the U.S. intelligence community to Nazis
  • Display complete ignorance about international relations, your own administration’s policies, American history and the basic structure of our system of government
  • Skip daily intelligence briefings
  • Repeat untruths
  • Share highly classified information with a hostile foreign power without the source’s permission
  • Lie

RAMBO JESUS CARTOON: Will of Rambo Jesus Revealed – Protect The Fodder-land

I’ve always been dumbstruck how Christians so easily justify violence, especially since there is so little in the Gospels that can be fodder for envisioning a violence-advocating Jesus.  Violence always strikes me as a deathly perilous game of “means” and “ends.”  You know, live by the sword, die by the sword. Perhaps most importantly, institutionalized violence is dreadfully prone to benefit elites, who are generally not combatants, and kill approximately 10 civilians for every combatant killed. Those hurt by violence most are way more likely to be the most vulnerable people on both sides of a conflict. At the heart of every true religion is compassion and care for the most vulnerable –you know, widows and orphans. The seduction to violently impose won’s will on others strikes me as the opposite of authentic religious sensibilities. Of course, if following Jesus was easy, everybody would be doing it. OK, calm down, don’t get cross…

In the spirit of American Christianity and its ridiculously easy acceptance of violence, I bring you this RAMBO JESUS CARTOON: Will of Rambo Jesus Revealed – Protect The Fodder-land.

RAMBO JESUS CARTOON: Will of Rambo Jesus Revealed - Protect The Fodder-land

Feel free to browse my peace and anti-war designs.

POLITICAL POEM: Buy Partisan Ship

If you knot for me
You agin
Me
Oh my
They would halve US
Believe
In a New York minute
Weather 60 second ads
Or master debating in public
For ours
To won party
Or buy partisan ship
That teeming lode
When in realty
Wee are left harboring
To a T
Our weariness
In the wake
Of the dearth of trust
And in the daze
Long after
The election
Has Petered out
There are know
More mock promises
And crock tears
Until hour rejects
Sow board their ship
And bring about
See change

This poem is about partisanship and weather we should take any partisanship from anyone.  The is nothing like — nothing like — a presidential election campaign to stir up partisan emotions and partisan posturing.  As someone who is chronically politically active, and someone who has frequently experienced the short end of long partisan sticks, I have become increasingly aware of my deep distaste for partisanship.  In America, the conventional wisdom would have you believe that political activity and partisanship are the same thing.  This is not true, and the seemingly inescapable enmeshment of politics and partisanship is distinctly dysfunctional for humanity.  In my view, both the spiritual and political project of life is to ever expand our consciousness and participation in our collective life.  Our spiritual enlightenment is necessarily communal, and political freedom is only authentic when our participation in our collective life is shared equitably.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. so aptly observed, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere--Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONPartisan in-groups, that parcel out power based on membership in anything other than our shared humanity, is a barrier to our spiritual and political evolution.  This mine-blowing realty is the ground for radical politics as necessarily counter-cultural and, as a rule, marginalized by the status quo and powers that be.  Nobody likes to be marginalized, which is precisely the shared basis for such a radical politics!  A paradoxical corollary to this is that marginalization, by happenstance or design, is the engine for radical politics.  It is no accident that marginalized people are typically the leaders of radical political activity, just as it is no accident that inasmuch as anyone stands in solidarity with marginalized people, they too will be marginalized.  Working through our own marginalization is synchronous with working through all of humanity’s marginalization.  The consciousness of intersectionality, that all areas of marginalization and injustice are inescapably linked, forms the antithesis and antidote to partisanship.

There are many overlapping in-groups and out-groups jockeying for power.  This is interest-based politics, and often identity politics.  For better or worse, each of us is marginalized in one way or another.  Hopefully, this can serve as leverage to increasing consciousness to the marginalization of others, especially those currently in an out-group.  The tricky part is that empathizing with out-group members is decidedly more dangerous than making any variety of internal criticisms intended to make an in-group a better in-group.  Making better in-groups is the lifeblood of partisan politics, though the seemingly easier job of undercutting out-groups, often scapegoating or even demonizing them, is what truly makes politics a bloodsport.  Haters hating haters is cause for plenty of bloodshed.  Nevertheless, to add insult to injury, and injury to non-violence, love of enemy prompts much bloodshed as well, though it is the lovers who are crucified, their own blood spilled.  Transcending narrow self-interests and in-group privileges is a costly endeavor exceeded only by the pricelessness of justice for all.

Beyond Democratic and Republican partisanship, is a unifying in-groupism, that corrosive beast called nationalism.  Nationalism Infantile Disease Measles of Mankind--PEACE QUOTE BUTTONThat ever-popular divide between Team America and Team Non-America (or Un-American).  As a nation, we are blind to the hubris-ridden assertion that what’s good for America is good for the world.  On occasion we may see clearly, yet we are at least as likely to fall for similar hubris-ridden assertions that are in fact against even our narrow national interests, such as “what is good for General Motors is good for America.”  Such endemic blindness is what Jesus was referring to when he spoke of the blind leading the blind, caught in a bind of our lack of awareness or consciousness.  Only higher consciousness of our shared humanity can overcome such lower ordered thinking and partisan warring, which is doomed to eternal, unsolvable conflict between “competing” interests.

Partisans inevitably think that anyone not for them is against them.  This is not the secret of the spirit of unity.  Interestingly, welcoming as, with, and for the least (those marginalized) is the greatest — “For whoever is the least among all of you, he is the greatest.” and “for whoever is not against you is for you.” [Luke 9:48,50]Jesus: What Happened to Least of These - Christian POLITICAL BUTTON

May we be willing to pay the price for unity among all of God’s children, which is breaking free of being beholden to in-group power and privileges, and fervently welcoming all good things for the least among us.

POEM: The Curator

I am
The curator
Of your infinite beauty
Privy to collections timeless
And in real time
Streaming glorious tributaries
To the art of who you are

This is a poem about the glorious privilege in close relationships of having unique access to the beauty of another, particularly a lover.  Inspired by my muse and sweetheart, such beauty is an unending — as in head over heels — source of teeming enthrallment.  Joy is Most Infallible Sign Presence of God--PEACE QUOTE BUTTONI genuflect at the mass of wondrous moments and shared memories.  Mere reminiscence of our first kiss is lost in the wake of our most recent kiss.  Every new kiss shatters the inadequacy of my imagination with the surpassing reality of beauty ever anew.  In the face of such beauty, my poetry pales.  The irresistible invitation to shut up and kiss me blissfully wins the day, holy inseparable.  Only when apart is my poetry birthed, orphaned of such beauty, hankering for those unrivaled tears of joy.

This poem, while a testament to the beauty of human love, offers a parallel connection to an even more holy love. As so aptly stated by Victor Hugo in Les Miserables: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”  To love another person is to see the face of God. Victor Hugo, Les Miserables quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONThis should surprise no one who sees God as love.  God revels in your infinite beauty, even if others may not witness it.  You are an ongoing work of art only adequately appreciated when one subject experiences another subject, not merely for what they do or look like, but who they are, both a work and source of ineffable art and artistry.

In my poems, I frequently use “I am” in a single line.  This is meant to allude to God, “I AM.”  In Exodus 3:14, Moses is instructed to tell his fellow Israelites from whom he is sent: “I AM.”  The long version, “I AM WHO I AM,” speaks to the sovereign character of God.  To the less discerning this may simply appear akin to Popeye declaring “I am what I am,” or Forrest Gump simply affirming, “Stupid is as stupid does.”  However, in the pedagogy of God, such tautologies are unhelpful.  Whatever Popeye is, is what he is.  On the face of it, what stupid is, is what stupid does.  Still, whatever I might do, or however I may appear to you, does not fully define who I am.  Your unduplicated set of personal thoughts and feelings, hopes and desires, experiences and perspectives, confound explication and formulation.  And, as for you, as for God (or vice versa).  You, as an authentic subject, are not fully experienced if only related to as a thing that looks a certain way and behaves in a certain way. The sacredness of being beloved is not the same as merely being witnessed or even appreciated for what one is or how one behaves.  The sacredness of being beloved encompasses a reverence for our ongoing artistry, the chosen project of our unreplicable life, what ever that may be.  This reflects the love a parent has for a child, regardless of what they happen to be at any given moment, or how they behave.  This reflects the love one has for their beloved, seeking their beloved’s best, even when it may be in parent conflict with what is best for them.  Similarly, God, as an authentic subject, is not fully experienced simply by examining, however closely, creation, and what the universe looks like or how it behaves.  Such data sets, however extensive, and formulations, however complete, cannot capture the living God; just as you are not defined only by how you look to others and how your behaviors are perceived.  Two subjects meeting, experiencing one another: this is the stuff of gods and goddesses, where new worlds are created.  Theologians, philosophers, and even scientists, talk about God, but this has little resemblance to experience looking God in the I.  And if this peers inaccessible, find a good lover, have a child, maybe both.  You assuredly will be surprised!

POEM: Capitalism Perfected

Capitalism perfected
Wear every won
Cells their soul
And when
Every body
No’s that
They have
A fare price
For dreams fabricated
And nightmares awoken

This poem’s title has a misleading title which implies that capitalism can be perfected. The twist in the rest of the poem is that it rebukes the illusion that capitalism can fulfill our dreams, free our souls, or save us from our nightmares feared.  Instead of settling on a fair price in selling our souls (even if it reaps a profit of the whole world), we must reject this false reality and accept the fare, the cost, the price, of a higher way, which can preserve and nourish our souls.  The comedian and social commentator, George Carlin, once said, “They call it the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”  Waking up to the pricelessness of our souls is the foundation of an architecture and arc of living that money cannot buy.  Saying “No” to capitalism, the reduction of human values to monetary terms, is a worthy start to life as a free range human being.  Returning money to a mere convenience for exchange of goods and services and toppling money and the “economy” from their god-like status are prerequisites for a flourishing humanity.  Humans should not be domesticated around the needs of money or the “economy.”  A properly ordered life is one where money serves humans, not humans serving money.  Whenever there is a conflict between humans and the things that money can buy, people should come first — not including corporate persons!  As Jesus so aptly put it, “You can’t serve both God and money.”  Capitalism perfected is capitalism put in its place, firmly at the feet of humanity, never to rise above the least of human beings.

POEM: Less Taken Now

It was an eve to remember
The surf was swell
Giving rise to him
Way above his peers
He cried out mightily
“I’m on top of the world!”
Just moments later
Crashing onto the rocks
Baring him
No ill will
Nor give
A lessen too great for won
What remains
Borne by less fêted peers
Less taken now
By swell futures
Rocking on
Before the rising dawn

By accident or design, by great will or serendipity, we may find ourselves in epic places. This poem addresses issues of humility, grandiosity, and risk. A desire to be above our peers carries inherent risk. In both humans and the material world at large, there are natural limits. The organic nature of life does not easily support parasitical relationships. Even a parasite must take some care not to kill its host. I view humility as being right-sized, neither being too big, puffed up, nor being too small, shrinking to life’s demands. This poem addresses the puffed up half of the humility equation. Nature is not mean. Nonetheless, nature has laws. When nature’s laws are broken, such a lawlessness creates chaos rather than harmony. There is risk inherent in chaos. In pushing natural limits, we can reasonably expect push-back. Some might call this karma. Sometimes it is simply gravity.

To some degree, we must all deal with some form of chaos, if simply the unknown, or even unknowable. Life requires some space for give and take to thrive. Nonetheless, even gifted surfers of chaos would be better served by respecting grander surges. Living life in harmony requires a balance and a deep respect of the danger of extremes. A harmonious life, in contrast to a parasitical life, often demands from us to be “less taken.” This phrases double meaning encompasses both the material world where hoarding of nature’s bounty, or its destruction creates imbalance, and the transcendent world where our undue attachment to material wealth and power originates such imbalance.

Humans seem to have quite peculiar, even unique, role in nature. If we learn and respect natural laws, we can navigate the world in a nearly infinite number of ways, symbiotically glorifying both nature and the highest human potentials. If we live in ignorance and conflict with natural laws, in essence being parasites, nature may very well take us down, crashing us on the rocks from our foolish heights. There is great wisdom in understanding the simple and profound gravity of such situations. There is plenty of room for harmony. Nature is not miserly. Our own greed and blind grandiosity is the greatest threat to humanity. As Gandhi so wisely summed up, “There is enough for everyone’s need. There is not enough for everyone’s greed.” This is the most basic natural limit that humans face. It deserves the highest respect.

POEM: Trust is the Glue

Trust is the glue
Sticking me to you
The favored few
The spoils of many
Consume mating
The fool
Faith and credit
Of US
Divining
Kindly mirror
Or unwelcome truth
A confidence game
And quiet passably
Escaped convictions
Sow what
Is the catch
Having been borne
Into a flimsy throng
With shortcomings taut
Exposed arrears
And know weigh out
From what hangs in the balance
And scaling up intimates dread
Both
Give and take
Be for you
A present
A forward looking gift
Offering as such
Promise
Seasons swimmingly
A rested development
And good grief
Those early mournings
In one’s out look
As prodigal hearts aplomb
And despite awe
One knows
Turning out
To be
Better than goaled
And silver locks fall away
Any hitch
A mere trailer of coming attractions
The untangled web weave
And too the our
Looming cleave

Trust is the real currency of human relationships and civilization.  True community can only be built upon trust.  We are born vulnerable, and vulnerability remains at the center of human intimacy throughout life.  Authentic human intimacy can only be achieved through vulnerability.  Exploring our vulnerability with others, and sharing our burdens of vulnerability with others, is a necessary process for building trust.  If we put ourselves out there and we are accepted and embraced, the space where we can truly be ourselves and truly learn about others grows wider and deeper.  This knowledge and experience of ourselves and others is essential for reaching our full human potential.  In its most simplest terms, we need others to be fully human.  Trust is an invitation to trust.  If another reciprocates that trust, then trust grows.  If another shuts us down or hurts us, then trust stagnates or recedes.  Similarly, mistrust becomes an invitation to mistrust.

We have all experienced rejection and hurt, and many have experienced outright trauma.  These facts of human existence provide the baseline for how much trust we might expect at any given time.  However, building trust or healing from mistrust can only occur by inviting others to trust, which requires a vulnerability from anyone inviting another to grow trust.  These are the true heroes of human community, not those who “make” things happen (the purview of force).

Without trust we devolve into isolation and fear.  Individualism can only be maintained by increasing control over others whom we do not trust and consider threatening.  This does not play well with the people sought to be controlled.  This is the most fundamental division in forming, maintaining, and building human community.  There may be a nominal alignment of interests within social classes to secure common goals, but these interests will remain forever in tension and at risk of erosion if the primary driver is individual security.  The perpetual warring of competing interests, and continual realigning of interest groups, is an inescapable result of an unwillingness or inability to share vulnerabilities with other people, to invite mutual trust.

Further, the drive to control others emanates directly from a subjugation of the common good to our own perceived good.  Whether conscious or unconscious, this drive is based on the calculation or assumption that, as an individual, one can fare better by competition against rather than cooperation with others.  While this may be true in limited contexts and time-frames, such competition and subjugation erodes the potential for human progress or evolution at any given moment.  There are many things that a trusting community, of two or more people, can build than an individual, no matter how much force they can apply to others to control others according to their own will.  If you have any doubt about the benefits of trust, consider the simple advantages of unlocked doors versus locked doors.  A fortress mentality, built on mistrust, is costly both physically and psychologically.  Of course, physical security for one’s person and property is perhaps the crudest manifestation of trust’s benefits.  At the heart of trusting relationships is self-discovery in the safety of accepting and loving others, and deep knowledge of others; both of which vastly improve our functioning in the human world in realistic and effective ways.

Since community builds from a growing trust in others, it is not surprising that families and close personal relationships are the building blocks of community.  Even the trust of institutions near and far is powerfully mediated by our personal experiences and from the example, character, and opinions of those whom we trust, those closest to us.  For this reason alone, building community is a bottom-up enterprise.

You can’t legislate trust.  Trust is synonymous with authority, not power to coerce but that which we believe has a legitimate claim upon us.  Institutions seem to have a life of their own, a self-replicating or self-perpetuating nature.  However, human institutions are dependent on humans.  Any authority that an institution has is derived somewhere down the line from the “street cred,” the level of trustworthiness of that humans associated with that institution.  Institutions are comprised of a set of humans associated with it, and a set of impersonal “corporate” relationships that govern its behavior.  The consent and trust of humans determines the legitimate authority of institutions (as opposed to simply force), not the other way around.

At the nexus of the personal relationships of humans and the impersonal corporate relationships of an institution, is the next level of human community where trust and mistrust manifest themselves.  Institutions guided by trust are mere tools, a technology to be used, by humans, to achieve some common good.  They act in accord with the will of the people associated with it, and demonstrate authority in as much as it behaves in ways with legitimate claims to creating common goods.   Institutions guided by mistrust are those plagued by humans who value the tool more than the people it was designed to serve.  Such human plague trusts tools, things, more than people.

The difference is between humans using a tool or the tool using humans.  Of course, the tool does not have a life of its own, but its character is derived from the humans associated with it.   Used appropriately, institutions serve as a tool to magnify the common good, and they both deserve and build trust.  Used inappropriately, institutions are weaponized by some to control others, magnifying the invitation to mistrust, and degrading community.  This weaponization of institutions hinges on a mistrust that chooses valuing “things” over people, in a quest for individual security.  In essence, such institutional abuse is a form of dehumanization, reducing people (and their institutions) to things simply to be used for one’s own advantage.  This tension or outright conflict within institutions greatly magnifies the dividing line between people and things.  While institutions can leverage the common good, I suspect that the ease of hijacking institutions compared to the great effort required to build healthy institutions does not bode well for the total net benefit of large institutions in human life and community.  Large institutions with their relative ease of weaponization sets up access to perhaps the greatest area of power differentials in human society.  Perhaps the best basis for securing human equality is minimizing large institutions which can magnify power differentials between people.

I suspect that widespread trust is much more efficient and effective than the widespread large institutions, the hallmark of Western civilization, at bringing about healthy, happy, and free human communities.  The fulcrum between trust and mistrust is compassion, or love.  Without compassion toward ourselves and others regarding our vulnerabilities and imperfections, we will forever fall short of being whole human beings, who can only be made whole in community.  Compassion builds trust and can banish fear.  I am hopeful that the experience of authentic, healthy community is more powerful and attractive than fearful isolation and individualism.  May it be so…

POEM: Of Cucumbers and Fences

The punk was going to take
My cucumber
From my fence
So I clutched
My trusty shotgun
And I fired a shot
Way over his head
He scattered like so much buckshot
Having triggered his nerves
Like a fresh kill
Whose life would only ebb
A lessen all-too-familiar to mortals
Missing his heart
By a million miles
Would win me no award
As marksmen
Or neighbor
But sure enough
Would secure
My pride and property
For another day
My generosity unknown
For had he asked
A cucumber I’d have given
In unspeakable modesty
I am the grower of cucumbers
As well as
The builder of fences
And if I can’t have your respect
I’ll settle for your fear
Only growing
Outside my fences

This freshly grown poem sprung from a conversation I had yesterday with a new acquaintance in a coffee shop, perhaps appropriately with a poetry reading occurring across the room.  This poem is based on a story told to me by a self-described spawn of an old hillbilly, now serving as a leader of Libertarians.  Early in the conversation, I was threatened to be taken out back and beaten to a pulp, minus some snot.  This is not the first time I have experienced such a first shot over the bow in a conversation with a new Libertarian acquaintance.  As it was a public place and each of us apparently had some modest respect for the law, we could not compare manhoods directly.  He did confess that his threatening manhood was in fact a joke.  I suspect that there was a small truth to this.

While this poem is written in the first person, much like Adam or Cain and Abel, the story is of his proud hillbilly father.  Those who know me would expect that it wasn’t my own story, except inasmuch as it is all of our’s story.  I find the juxtaposition of a prideful swagger all-too-familiar with violence and a genuine down-home generosity as intriguing as it is commonplace.  The true conflict is between pride and generosity — one of which can be defended with violence.  Both the pride of the gardener, with his fence and shotgun, and the punk who dares steal from another’s labor, begs for something more, a deeper generosity.  Sometimes a punk’s taking is innocent, as from a garden meant for all, that garden of eatin’ of which we have all experienced.  Many times a punk’s taking is a lazy pride asserting that all is theirs for the taking, without regard to their neighbors.  Of course, the gardener’s pride can lead him to mistake himself for the Gardener, the giver of all, who possesses a generosity overwhelming any value-added we may contribute by our labor.  The fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, curses us with a fruit of awareness that competes with an all-encompassing awareness of the Gardener.  That competing awareness is the builder of fences, which both cuts ourselves off from the one garden and cuts others off with our fences.  The birth of private property possesses us.  Scarcity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, yet our profits remain strangely unfulfilling.  We look to grow fears outside our fences faster than thay grow within.  We learn to plunder with ease, not work, generous abundance.  And plucked from the vine such fruit dies.  Many a firstborn son has been planted at the hands of fearful gardeners a tempting to secure puny labors.  Such Abel-bodied young men stand as a testament, a very old testament, to the Cain-do attitude of private profits.  The first fruit is offering your best to God and neighbor.  The only sin: hoarding your first for yourself, and offering only your excess to God and neighbor.  What is it that would steal our hearts?  All fruits, and gardeners for that matter, die; only first fruits are born again and again, turning death into life — an offering Abel to banish fear, and transcend scarcity.  The fence between life and death is only the fence we truly know and fear.  And everyone knows: it takes a thief to know a good fence.  If you should cross a thief, or perhaps two, generously invite them in, or scarce join them.  May there be one fate shared: good for all.

POEM: Eternal Seasoning

A house divided soon Falls
From fair-weathered friends
A summer fallowing
Hommés united spring eternal
From perennial buds
After a parent winter
So goes
The eternal seasoning
A savor for all
The whirled

This short poem is about hope, friendship, and collective action.  I must give props to M.K. Gandhi who said something with a similar sentiment: “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it — always.”

Hope is a common theme in my writings.  Partly because the world so commonly seems in so desperate need of hope.  Partly because I find the nature of hope intriguing, elusive and indefatigable!  After all, I literally graduated from Hope College!  Of course, it was with a B.S., so you may want to take what I say with a grain of salt.  Though, personally, I’d prefer that you’d take it with innumerable grains of salt, as in Gandhi’s Salt Campaign for independence from British rule:

Led by Mohandas K. Gandhi, the Congress’s Working Committee decided to target the 1882 British Salt Act that gave the British a monopoly on the collection and manufacture of salt and allowed them to levy a salt tax. Although he faced initial ambivalence and opposition to the idea of targeting the Salt Laws, Gandhi asserted that salt would help unite Indians of all religious communities, castes, and regions for salt represented a basic and crucial dietary need that the British colonial government monopolized for its own benefit. By encouraging all Indians to defy the Salt Laws by manufacturing and selling salt themselves, Gandhi argued, Indians could collectively challenge the authority of the Raj.

At the time of the Indian Salt campaign (1930-31), the United States was in the Great Depression, as a result of reckless financial speculation, another great trickle down from the money changers of the world.  Some things never change.  The more recent Occupy Wall Street movement recognized that the 99% vastly outnumber the 1% and that direct democracy, empowering the masses to take control of their lives without relying on the profiteering inter-mediators of the 1%.  Many mourn the rising and falling tides of social movements, but the currents favoring truth hold sway forever.  Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.”

The “house divided” reference is both to Mark 3:25: “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand,” and the famous speech by Abraham Lincoln during his presidential re-election campaign amidst the Civil War (NOTE: “civil war” is perhaps one of the greatest oxymorons ever).  The most famous passage of the speech is:

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

As described in Wikipedia, the people’s encyclopedia, Lincoln used this speech to frame the epic moral and political question of the day:

“Lincoln’s goals with this speech were, firstly, to differentiate himself from Douglas, the incumbent; and secondly, to publicly voice a prophecy for the future. Douglas had long advocated popular sovereignty, under which the settlers in each new territory decided their own status as a slave or free state; he had repeatedly asserted that the proper application of popular sovereignty would end slavery-induced conflict, and would allow northern and southern states to resume their peaceful coexistence. Lincoln, however, responded that the Dred Scott decision had closed the door on Douglas’s preferred option and left the Union with only two remaining outcomes: the United States would inevitably become either all slave, or all free. Now that the North and the South had come to hold distinct opinions in the question of slavery, and now that this issue had come to permeate every other political question, the time would soon come when the Union would no longer be able to function.”

This poem attempts to capture some of the flavor — the eternal seasoning — of this perennial cycling and recycling of the work for justice throughout our lives and across generations.  Savor the high tides, but be not discouraged when the tectonic shifts of social change seem imperceptible.  Winter always passes, and hope springs eternal.  And if you still have a headache from all of this, just mix two metaphors, ingest gently, and call me in the mourning.

POEM: Synctretised Swimming

Synctretised Swimming

Unearth as it is in heaven
Land and see
The evolution
Of God’s creation
And learn
Who or what
Our teachers be
In theology schooled
Like fish in water
Expounding on thirst
All the wile
Shitting where they drink
Considering it a symphony
When just one movement
And by miracle
Pinching loaves and fishes
Feeding scores
Still
Some live on bread crumbs
And what will follow

This is one of those poems that came to me in the middle of the night, and a few lines quickly grew into a full poem.  The poem’s title, “Syncretised Swimming,” is most apparently a pun of “synchronized swimming.”  Probably less obvious, is the reference “syncretised” which refers to syncretism.  “Syncretism is the combining of different, often seemingly contradictory beliefs, while melding practices of various schools of thought. Syncretism involves the merger and analogizing of several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, thus asserting an underlying unity and allowing for an inclusive approach to other faiths.”  Religious purists view syncretism as some form of error or heresy.  This poem speaks against such religious purism.

So, why the “synchronized swimming” reference?  Schools of fish swim in perfect synchronization, moving the same way instantly, in a way that science cannot explain.  This mystery is used as a parody reference to the three seminal lines: In theology schooled/Like fish in water/Expounding on thirst.  Trained theologians, awash in mystery, manage to move in surprisingly similar ways, apt to expound on a set of similar abstract truths that may engender blank looks like when trying to explain thirst to fish in water.  Theology undertakes the humbling enterprise of trying to make mystery a science.  Of course, mystery cannot be fully explained by science — that’s why it’s mystery.  To try to reduce mystery to a science would deny and kill mystery by pretending to banish it.  My objection to religious purists and the issue of syncretism is that ultimately there are things that we cannot know, in principle!  Philosophers and theologians call the discipline of what we can and cannot know, epistemology.  The heart of theology is ultimately unknowable in any modern scientific sense.  This rubric of theology builds in an irreducible amount of hubris for any absolute claim.  This is why I see a necessary foundation for spirituality is openness, especially if one is looking for a living God that moves.

The reference to evolution evokes a popular conflict between scientists and some religious people, most heated between those scientists who don’t understand epistemology and religious folks who don’t understand science.  I don’t think that there is a conflict between religion and science.  Rather I view religion and science as complementary fields which need to give proper due to one another.  I intend the analogy of evolution more specifically as a context for my mixed metaphors.  Most poignantly, the line “Shitting where they drink.”  For humans, generally understood to be more advanced than fish, “shitting where you drink (eat),” is an obvious and palpable example of short-sighted and self-destructive behavior.  For fish, not so much.  The difference is context.  I think that religious purists tend to view syncretism in a limited context, perhaps not worthy of the unfathomable depth and diversity of God’s creation.  As a biologist, I look at human culture as analogous to ecosystems.  There are countless possible configurations of thriving ecosystems.  I see human culture as similarly adaptive; though human’s seem to have an accelerated trajectory of epic successes and epic fails.  What this ultimately means is appropriately a theological question.  Nonetheless, I have perhaps a more synchronous view of religion and science, whereby they are both judged by their fruits; what is produced, what works, what follows.  Of course, the most intriguing questions are not about mere utility and manipulation, but what constitutes a good end or state of affairs.  In this case, theology trumps science.  Which is fine in my book, as long as it doesn’t thump science.

I get a chuckle out of how God can take our impure, zigzagged paths and sanctify them. I get somewhat less of a chuckle out of how we humans can seem to take credit for this through our various programs of sanctification, none of which are very pure.  As a former United Methodist, I chuckle that John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement never envisioned as separate denomination but desired only to be an Anglican – of which he lived, breathed and died.  Of course, the Anglicans, the Church of England, is a sooty descendant of the Roman Catholic church which had irreconcilable differences with a King over divorce.  Even further, Christianity, at times claimed solely by the Roman Catholic church, is founded upon Jesus, a Jew who never wanted to be anything other than a Jew.  Yep, Christianity is a Jewish sect.  Thank God for syncretism, holding it all together amidst our unholy messes!

POEM: Serendipity and Dippity Doo

On occasions
I find it easy
To believe
In sarin gas
And dippity doo
Rather than serendipity
These are not special occasions

While many of my poems have an edge to them, my body of work is decidedly hopeful.  This poem reflects on the way too easy response in life to be inane or even cruel.  It seems that the “reptilian” deep part of our brain that responds to immediate threats with “fight of flight” is a default mechanism that is triggered, and acted upon, unless higher functions override it.  When confronted with violence or injustice, a first response is often to strike back (fight) or avoid conflict (flight).  In an unreflective reflex to large, institutional violence or injustice, the “sarin gas” option feels good, to strike back and hurt when hurt.  Fortunately, such actions are rarely converted to action!  More commonly, conflict avoidance is practiced by burying ourselves in simple denial or inane distraction — thus, the dippity doo (for those who may not get the reference, dippity doo is a hair gel).  Each of these fight or flight responses is contrasted with “serendipity,” a playful alliteration, and a lucky or pleasant surprise.  This is a call to live in a place that is more luminous, patient, and generous — to live in the presence of a higher power that is beneficent and life-giving.  This may seem namby-pamby or a cop-out to some, but it is actually a place of being from which right action emanates.  With gratitude rather than anger and hurt, we can de-link our actions from simple fight or flight responses and transcend to a higher level of action.  Of course, allowing time for reflective mental processing is essential for finding a third way, out of “reptilian” action-reaction.  When the instantaneously “easy” way is taken, and the “reptilian” brain runs our lives, “These are not special occasions.”

To learn, adapt, and grow, we need to be open to that which is new.  Humans have a special gift of conscious awareness and will or intent to aim and frame our experiences with a chosen attitude.  More simply put: expect to be pleasantly surprised.  Certainly, we are animals.  But more importantly, we are so much more than animals!

POEM: Patriot

My name is patriot
I am a force to be reckoned with
That few dare oppose
Just tell me what country I live in
And I’ll know exactly how to behave

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” – Samuel Johnson

Patriotism typically runs into contradictions when patriots from different countries honestly compare notes. Inasmuch as patriotism is rooted in national interest to the exclusion of other nations’ national interests, conflict, violence and wars are inevitable.  This form of patriotism is simply nationalism.  I do believe in patriotism if it simply represents an appreciation and celebration of one’s particular place in life — such as geographic beauty, the particular people you know in face-to-face community in a particular place.  This Pablo Casals quote captures it well:

“The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?”

 

POEM: The Innies and Outies of the Birthday of US

Here is a tribute to the immigration debate going on in the United States, as we celebrate the birthday of U.S., with a tip of the hat to Dr. Suess’ Butter Battle Book, where the conflict was over and between those who butter their bread on the up side versus those who butter their bread on the down side.

The Innies and Outies of the Birthday of US

Go forth Julio
A nay sayin’ of immigrants
A fraud of crossing the stream of history
Overlooking the rio
Grand
Parent of us all
Pissing off a thousand generations
Bordering on the mad
Someone with a pitchfork
Aside a woman with a torch
Asking only for what just US demands
Give me you tard
You’re poor
You’re huddled masses
Earning to breathe
Free
The wretched
Refuse
Of your teaming
Sure
We herd you
Dividing as you multiply
Separating those who may be bonded
Due to accidents of birth
Still born of dis chord
Wile won for all
Hominies forgotten
And little southern comfort
For hospitalities stolen
Fore what fills their belly
Whether buttoning up
Whether buttoning down
In discriminating
The INS
And OUTS
Of segregation
Of immigration
Of crossing boarders
Sojourning on

The Poor Have Suffered Enough

The Poor Have Suffered Enough-POLITICAL BUTTON

The Poor Have Suffered Enough-POLITICAL BUTTON

The Poor Have Suffered Enough-POLITICAL BUTTON

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To even have to say that the poor have suffered enough saddens me.  I would have to rate compassion as one of the top characteristics of what it means to be human.  Unfortunately, the predilection to cause or allow to continue suffering as a way of learning seems to be commonplace.  I’ll be the first one to say that you can learn a lot from suffering.  If you smacked me in the side of the head with a 2 x 4, I suspect that I would probably learn something.  However, that is a crappy reason for smacking somebody on the side of the head with a 2 x 4!  Suffering happens.  I suspect that enough suffering happens that we don’t need to cause it, get in the way of alleviating it, or ignore it for there to be plenty of raw experience of suffering to learn the particular lessons that suffering has to teach.  Like many things in life, I suspect that our attraction to suffering as a means to teach people is closely related to our desire to control other people.  Compassion short-circuits the desire to control other people through suffering, because compassion links others’ suffering to our own suffering.  I think that most people would agree that wanting suffering for oneself is not healthy.  Unfortunately, many fewer people would agree that wanting suffering or others is not healthy.  The idea that people should suffer for their own good is commonplace.  I think this actually means that other people should suffer for our own concept of what is good.  But, how can suffering be not good for ourselves yet good for others?  It strikes me that lack of compassion is the true poverty.  Although quite conveniently, many people might even be willing to tolerate that as long as it doesn’t involve financial poverty.  The simple reality is that many people would gladly trade their spiritual health for financial health.  When asked the proverbial question, “your money or your life?” most people would probably have to think about it for a while.  However, I don’t want to get caught in the either/or thinking that spiritual health is necessarily in conflict with financial well-being.  If we took care of first things first, our spiritual health, which is a communal project, treating one another with love and respect, then we should experience community in such a way that our financial well-being is not threatened.  There is plenty of resources on the planet for the need of all.  There are not enough resources on the planet for the greed of all!  Now, in the rough-and-tumble world that we live in, I believe that those who are spiritually healthy do not generally end up materially wealthy.  I believe that this is due to the simple fact that spiritually healthy people, that is compassionate people, do not commandeer a lot of material resources for themselves in a world where people are starving to death and don’t have the basic necessities of life.  It seems inescapable to me that the only way to get around this reality is to somehow believe that poor people deserve to suffer.  Thus, I pose the simple statement, the poor have suffered enough.  I’d like to think that this is not a question, but a fact.

Real Test of Power to Prevent War

PEACE QUOTE: Real Test of Power to Prevent War–PEACE SIGN BUTTON

PEACE QUOTE: Real Test of Power to Prevent War--PEACE SIGN BUTTON

PEACE QUOTE: Real Test of Power to Prevent War–PEACE SIGN BUTTON

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This peace quote reverses the typical notions of power.  Power is typically viewed as the ability to make things happen.  That is certainly true in the context of the capacity to make war.  However, the power to exert brute force and coercion is very different from the type of moral force is needed to build and sustain peace.  Morality, in its essence, is about restraint.  By contrast, amorality is simply having no restraint or limits on one’s actions.   Thus, when comparing the capacity to make war versus the capacity to prevent war, or to create peace, these concepts of power tend to clash.  War is hardly an exercise in restraint.  While war may require a lot of discipline in many respects, it requires unleashing incredible brute force that by its very nature cannot be controlled.  One simply has to recognize the reality that for every combatant killed in wartime, approximately ten non-combatant are killed.  Clearly, war is not a precise surgical procedure, despite all the talk about smart bombs and laser guided systems.

As the United States is beating the drums of war against Iran, there is talk about the right thing to do, the moral thing to do.  Of course, most of this talk is couched in terms of all the evil, bad, or immoral things that some other parties are doing.  Sort of by default, morality is imputed on people who oppose such evil doings and evil doers.  Unfortunately, what is lost in the mix, mostly of lies, is that morality is more about restraining one’s own behavior than about restraining another’s behavior.  By losing our focus on our own behavior, we can drift dangerously close to the unaccountability needed in order to wage war.  If you think war-making requires restraint and discipline, try peacemaking and loving your enemies.  The difficult task of taking personal responsibility for one’s behavior both as an individual and as a citizen of a nation can be costly.  However, there seems to be an  inertia in the human condition that defaults to blaming others for one’s own problems, and shifting the cost of relating to one another as human beings to other people that we see at fault.  Even if I have a relationship with someone where a conflict or “problem” is 20% mine and 80% theirs, this does not relieve me of being accountable for my 20%.  Rather than taking care of our own moral business and accountability, we often feel justified in focusing the blame and the full costs of the conflict onto those we see as enemies.  It is impossible to successfully wage war without demonizing one’s enemies.  This is the only way to justify killing a combatant.  This is definitely the only way to justify killing non-combatant.   Show me a nation that can create peace in the face of potential war and I will show you the most morally powerful nation on earth.

Who’s the One percent and 99 Percent?

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been successful in framing much of the political debate in this country around the concept of who is the 1%, and who are the 99%.  Obviously, for those in the United States, it is usually quite easy to ascertain whether you are in the top 99% or not.  The confusion probably only arises among Americans whose income is at least a few hundred thousand dollars per year.  The actual break off for the top 1% income in the United States is about $380,000.

However, as Morgan Housel, the Motley Fool blogger, has written in his article, Attention, Protestors: You’re Probably Part of the 1%, the profile of who is the 1% and who are the 99% changes drastically when looked in the context of occupying the entire planet.  When considering all humans on this planet, earning about $34,000 per year or more will place you in the top 1% of incomes.  Further, an income of about $70,000 per year would place you in the top .1% of incomes worldwide.  Now, in dollar-denominated economies, you can probably discount such income about 10% or 20% when comparing incomes worldwide.  Thus, to be among the top 1 percent of incomes worldwide, would be about $40,000 per year or so in the United States.  Likewise, to be among the top .1% of incomes worldwide, you would need to have an income of about $80,000 per year or so in the United States.  This is a humbling reality for many Americans, most of whom consider themselves at least cash poor and middle-class.  Somewhat ironically, most of the 99% in the United States are actually the 1% in a worldwide context.  Even the poorest 5% of Americans are better off economically than more than two-thirds of the world’s population.  Thus, in American discourse, the discussion of rich and poor, wealth and poverty, would be greatly enriched my understanding and appreciating the massive income inequality both between and within different countries.  A common thread in the American discourse of rich and poor is about “earnings”, and about who are deserving poor.  To shed some light on this discussion, we need to realize that our country of birth determines more than 60% of the variability in incomes worldwide.   Apparently, picking parents who resides in the right country account for most of our economic success!

There many things that we take for granted living in the United States.  One example would be having access to clean water and adequate sanitation.  This is nearly universal the United States.  However, according to the blue planet network, over one billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water, roughly one-sixth of the world’s population.  Over two million people in developing countries, most of them children, die every year from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.  Half of the world’s hospital beds are filled with people suffering from water related illnesses.  In the past 10 years, diarrhea has killed more children than all the people lost to armed conflict since World War II.  Half of people on earth lack adequate sanitation. Another way to look at it: Nearly half of the world’s population fails to receive the level of water services available 2,000 years ago to the citizens of ancient Rome.  80 percent of diseases in the developing world are caused by contaminated water.  The average distance that women in Africa and Asia walk to collect water is six kilometers.  The average person in the developing world uses 2.64 gallons of water a day.  The average person in the United Kingdom uses 35.66 gallons of water per day. The average person in the United States uses between 100 and 175 gallons every day at home.  It takes 5 liters of water to make 1 liter of bottled water.  It takes 2,900 gallons of water to produce one quarter pound hamburger (just the meat).  The UN estimates it would cost an additional $30 billion to provide access to safe water to the entire planet.  That’s a third of what the world spends in a year on bottled water.

If we are going to have an evolution or a revolution that changes the world, we certainly can’t settle for fixing the perceived problems in the economically developed world.  The vast income inequalities across the planet must be addressed with eyes wide open and hearts wide open if we are to have any hope of bringing justice to this planet and its inhabitants.

POEM: Arguing with Atheists

Arguing with atheists is like panning for gold in a bathtub.

This one line poem is certainly provocative, and probably dangerous.  First I would like to concede that I cannot prove that God exists.  Secondly, and equally, I don’t think that is a proper understanding of reality to conclude that God cannot exist.  Thus the chasm between theists and atheists.  Actually, the term “God” is so loaded for people I would like to suggest a different tack.  I think the issue boils down to an argument between subjectivity and objectivity.  I find that the predominant view of atheists that I have met or read about seem to take an objectivist view, what I would call scientific reductionism.  While this view can be very helpful for understanding part of reality, it specifically rules out any subjective reality.  While this seems eminently reasonable to most modern people of a scientific bent, it ignores the most basic experience of human life: that humans are subjects, subjective.  If folks would argue that people are not subjects or subjective, then we don’t have much to talk about, and perhaps all that we do have to talk about has been predetermined in the infinite cascade of objective cause-and-effect.  The philosophy or arguments that preclude or exclude subjects or subjectivity destroys both humans and God in a single stroke.  Now, while it seems quite easy in terms of simplicity or Occam’s razor, to just eliminate God, the “Subject”, from the equation, eliminating oneself and all other subjects seems much more dangerous, even foolish.  I can probably appreciate absurdity as much of the next person, probably more.  However, scientific reductionism comes to a nice clean and neat end when it reaches absurdity, which perhaps ironically, it inevitably does.  It can go no further.  I wish to go further.  This requires uncertainty, even absurdity.  However, I think that this is where the gold is found.  Panning for gold can be a long and tedious process, and it may not even pay off for many, maybe even most.  Nonetheless, such gold cannot be found in a bathtub, the proverbial scientific reductionist billiard ball world.

One last note, on the concept of arguing.  Arguing is often seen as an intellectual exercise.  Unfortunately, the intellect has its limits, and there are places for which it is not an adequate instrument to explore.  These are the matters of the heart, of subjectivity, of life itself, which cannot be reduced to a machine, at least not with the unintended consequences of killing life.  Residing in the heart, centering our experience around the heart, living a wholehearted life, is a way existential enterprise.  There is meaning, and we discover that meaning through our subjective faculties.  I must surpass or transcends mere intellect.  I must literally vote with my life, my life force, the subjectivity that is mine.  Ultimately, talking about or arguing about things is inadequate.  What we do matters.  How we live our life matters.  Ultimately, our life is our message.  If someone else’s life seems argumentative with our own message, then so be it.  A certain amount of conflict and absurdity is necessary in life.  I don’t think many would argue with that.  Though feel free to pan my views…

Birth Control as a Human Right – Toledo Protest

On Friday, February 6, about a dozen protesters gathered outside St. Anne’s Hospital on Secor Road in Toledo, Ohio.  This protest was organized by the Toledo Chapter of the National Organization for Women (see Toledo NOW facebook page), it also supported by Occupy Toledo.  The purpose of this protest was to advocate for birth control is a human right.  This was triggered by the recent decision by the Obama administration to require that organizations owned by religious groups must provide birth control as part of their health insurance plans.  This rule does not require that religious groups themselves must provide birth control as part of group health insurance plans to their employees, only to those employees that work in organizations owned by religious groups, such as a Catholic hospital.Birth Control is a Human Right - Toledo Protest

Anita Rios, President of Toledo chapter of N.O.W., demonstrating for birth control as a human right (photo courtesy of The Toledo Blade).

I went to this protest.  When I pulled into the massive empty parking lot of St. Anne’s Hospital, I was greeted by two of their security guards.  They immediately asked, “Are you from Occupy Toledo?” Indicating that I was there for the protest, they told me that I could not park there.  Now, that’s what I call radical hospitality!  I recognize the right of private property, but I can’t help but find it ironic, that respecting the right of a woman to be the steward of her own body and her own life is trumped by a claim of religious freedom.  Personally, I consider conscience and religious freedom, the stewardship of one’s soul, the most sacred thing in which we are entrusted.  Also, I recognize that conscience and the functions of the state will inevitably come into conflict at certain points. The only question I would ask, that when religion and the state comes into conflict, can one tell the difference between a religion and the state.  I find nationalism as a religion is completely repugnant and patently idolatrous.  I will stand against such idolatry every opportunity I am afforded.  In the same vein, when I find that religion functions largely as just another interest in society, it profoundly diminishes its sacred role in society. So, how does one tell the difference between a religion and the state?  I would submit that a willingness to sacrifice one’s own interests for a larger good, and ever larger good, is a way of sacred living that points to the ever “more” that God is. Of course, with nationalism, that ever larger good comes to an abrupt end at our geopolitical borders and a rather crass commitment to our national interest ( as opposed to a global interest, or an interest in protecting creation).  With religion, the demarcation of giving up on an ever larger good is usually at the boundary of that religion’s institution.  This is where conventional wisdom takes over.  In the case of Christianity, the gospel becomes foolishness.  The profound and mystical sacred texts that speak about dying in order to be born anew are too large to be held within the boundaries of an institution.  In more practical terms, this is seen as sacrifice, self-sacrifice, giving up something of lesser value for something of greater value.  I am eagerly waiting to see the Roman Catholic Church’s response to this conflict between church and state.  If, in fact, the reality for the Roman Catholic Church is that its doctrine is sacred, then I would expect that they would be willing to pay a large price in order to see that its doctrine becomes manifest in the world.  Let me be clear.  When I say being willing to pay a large price, I mean that they themselves are willing to pay a large price, not forcing others to pay a large price.  The latter is simply the ways of the world, conventional wisdom, bad news.  If the Roman Catholic Church is willing to take on huge fines to witness to the importance and value of this doctrine that they hold to be true, then they will earn a commensurate measure of respect from me.

Birth Control as Human Right Protesters in Toledo, Ohio

Toledo Protesters Demonstrating for Birth Control as a Human Right

Defending and promoting one’s values is costly, typically in direct proportion to the value of those values.  I was delighted to join a dozen or so protesters who were willing to put a little skin in the game, invest a little time, enter the fray, risk ridicule and misunderstanding, etc. to demonstrate how much they value birth control as a human right. May many more join the fight for this and other human rights!

Peace Lecture: The End of War? Nonviolence in the 21st Century

“The End of War?: Nonviolence in the 21st Century”

Nakamoto Peace Lecture
Gwynne Dyer

7:30 P.M. Thursday, February 2, 2012
Bowen-Thompson Student Union Theater

Free and open to the public

One of the world’s great geopolitical analysts, Gwynne Dyer has worked as a freelance journalist, columnist, filmmaker, and lecturer on international affairs for over 30 years. His twice-weekly column on international affairs appears in over 40 countries in a variety of newspapers including the Toledo Blade.   His radio and TV documentaries on the subjects of ranging from war to climate change and emerging global culture have aired around the world.  He has served in three navies, and holds a Ph.D in Military and Middle Eastern History from the University of London.  His recent books analyze military and political issues and include War (2004), Future: Tense (2004), The Mess They Made (2007), and Climate Wars (revised edition 2010).

This lecture is made possible by a generous donation from Ms. Hiroko Nakamoto, a BGSU alum.  It is co-sponsored by the International Relations Organization, the Department of Political Science, and the BGSU Peace and Conflict Studies program.

Ms. Nakamoto is in the process of constructing a peace memorial in her hometown of Hiroshima, Japan.  Located near the railway station, her” Gateway to Peace” project promotes peace and seeks to educate young people about the lessons of Hiroshima, which are fast being forgotten.  Ms. Nakamoto seeks to inspire young people to build a more peaceful world, so that no one will ever relive what she experienced as a young girl on August 6, 1945.  You can learn more about this project at http://hiroshimagatewaytopeace.org.

For additional information, please contact Marc Simon (419-372-7386.

You can download this flyer here: Nakamoto Peace Lecture Gwynne Dyer 2012

Toledo Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Celebration

Toledo Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Celebration

I just got back from the Toledo Martin Luther King Jr. Day unity celebration. I was delighted to see thousands oMLK T-shirtf people celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Toledo once again. I’m not sure there were quite as many people as there has been in recent years’ MLK unity celebrations in Toledo. Nonetheless, it is nearly impossible to have an event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. without being inspired in some way. I particularly enjoyed the keynote address by Hari Jones, Curator of the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum. He spoke quite eloquently about the tension between empirical skepticism and metaphysical optimism in the creation of this nation and the American dream, which includes and is perhaps typified by Martin Luther King’s dream. I like the quote from Art Tatum, a native Toledoan and celebrated jazz artist, who said that in jazz often all that there is a “there is no such thing as a wrong note.” This elicits a great concept about unity. Dr. Jones spoke at some length about how everyone must play notes and in this apparent discordance harmony paradoxically can arise. I wonder at times though, given our cultural value of conflict avoidance, that we focus on and perhaps vainly hope for an authentic unity that is forged somehow without conflict. If there is anything that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us, it surely would be something to do with dealing with conflict and authentic manner that is loving, respectful, and challenging — very challenging! While there is certainly merit in promoting community service, if we are truly to understand, appreciate, and embody the life and work of Martin Luther King, then we need to recognize and honor that his unique contribution to American society and the world was about successfully organizing masses of regular people to challenge and overthrow an unjust status quo. This is hard work. This is work that divides people as far apart as justice and injustice. Like Jesus was misunderstood in saying that he came to bring not peace but a sword, MLK is often misunderstood or idealized as some peacemaker who doesn’t understand the true nature of conflict and what it takes to bring justice in the world that can be cruel and apathetic to those suffering injustices. This misunderstanding often leads to acceptance, even if reluctant acceptance, of violence, as a necessary evil. The division that Jesus was referring to was not the division of flesh by a sword, but the division of people by those who would stand for justice and those who would let injustice stand. Pacifists like Dr. King and Jesus understand that there is no real way to get around conflict in life and its injustices, that we need to go through conflict. The trick is to go through that conflict with a humane measure of dignity and respect, a big dose of discipline, and an undying commitment to the fact that humanity and creation is one. This task is so large that it escapes mere human grasp and relies on grace from God, a power greater than ourselves, our family, our community, and even creation. Pacifism has historically been rooted in people with a deep relationship with the creator not simply the created, whether that be other people or the material world and all its bounty. In our modern or postmodern secular world many people may feel uncomfortable with the obvious, undeniable fact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the reverend, was a deeply religious man. Because MLK was so successful at providing a model for dealing with practical and large-scale injustices in our society, he is accessible to many who would like to claim him as their own. Unfortunately, to not delve to understand the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a religious pacifist is perhaps the miss the main point of his life, and death. At this point, I will stop babbling on and asks simply read or listen to some of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s writings or speeches. Equipping ourselves with a greater depth of understanding of MLK is a good start to honoring and celebrating his legacy.