A Spiritual Autobiography

I wrote the below spiritual autobiography a dozen years ago as part of a servant leadership study group.  While it definitely needs updating, it serves well as a brief overview of my spiritual history and development over much of my life, particularly my early years.  Fortuitously, my humor remains righteously irreverent and my faith grows.

RUTTS
by Alex Haley
(that’s just my pun name)

The year was 1961. Preceded by John, a child was conceived, fathered by a closeted gay man, in Bethlehem, on the outskirts of the city of brotherly love. In my mother’s womb, I was transported to Haiti, where my parents, as doctor and nurse, were beginning their service as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee. A dozen (and a half) generations ago my ancestors had fled religious persecution and military conscription in Germany to settle in America. For a new beginning, they were gifted with land from William Penn. This land was some of the most fertile in the world; so fertile, in fact, that even gay men father children there! Though now in Haiti, they were soon to be counted again among the privileged of the world. I was born. And on this journey, Joseph followed. Continuing my heritage as a sojourner in a foreign land, I was born a true child of the 60s.

I have no specific memories of those first couple of years in Haiti. However, only in recent years have I realized my ideal vision of serenity as sleeping without a care late in the morning in a mountain cabin while the rain pounds on the tin roof likely came from memories as a baby (now, if only I can figure out why I have a pleasant association with the smell of skunk!). Also, I am told that I was scared of most white people. Strangely, I am still haunted by white people on occasion.

After a brief stint in Detroit, perhaps explaining my love of urban life, I grew up in a small town in Michigan. The town was Mennonite-free, so I was raised a United Methodist. My childhood was strikingly trauma-free (only striking in retrospect). I knew safety. I knew predictability and caring. Our family always ate meals together, beginning with a prayer too short not to recount here: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.” A lot more theology in that prayer than I usually give credit. Our family participated in worship and church functions regularly. Worship was generally boring. One of my few memories was a teenager with a guitar, singing “Blowing in the wind.” I guess that would have been contemporary music, huh? And that was before Bob Dylan was a Christian. I attended Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and youth group. I only vaguely remember confirmation. I remember good times. Except for a desperately poor matching of gifts by placing me in a children’s choir – my first, and really only, experience with “playing hooky.” I loved summer camp. First there were church camps, then Boy Scout camps. My younger brother and I earned Eagle Scout ranking (the highest in Boy Scouts) in record time. Our scoutmaster was easygoing and playful. Perhaps paradoxically, it was easy to achieve in that environment. If “achievement” had been required of me, I probably wouldn’t have done it, or at least wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much. When we later moved and joined another scout troop, which was probably better organized and certainly more rigid, we dropped out after a while.

My understanding of diversity was child-like. I knew that Catholic families were the ones with five or six kids. Good families to play with. My best friend’s dad was Cuban. He also had two older half-siblings. In retrospect, this was the only somewhat non-traditional family I recall; though I don’t recall giving it much thought.

I was baptized at age eleven. Apparently, I was out of the country at the time such events usually occur. Fortunately, my understanding of baptism was still pretty much that of an infant, so it worked out well. I was confirmed a year later. About this same time, I was in little league baseball. In an attempt to deal with performance anxiety, I kept a pocket-sized New Testament in my back pocket. This crude attempt at spiritual osmosis was discovered by my brothers who with little affection labeled me “Bible boy.” I didn’t like this. I remember that my parent rebuked them.

When we moved to Dearborn, Michigan, before my ninth grade, my parents looked for a church nearby, but had little success – “too suburban” I think. Not surprising, considering we lived in a nice home with a pool, only 100 feet from a golf course. They decided to return to their church from earlier years, Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit, 20 minutes away. Central is the oldest Protest-ant church in Michigan, and has been called “the conscience of the city.” Always a leader in social justice, their most widely known pastor preached pacifism before, during and after World War II. I was soon to be raised on 45+ minute sermons, truly epic sermons. A turning point happened to me sometime during my high school years when my mom took me to a peace conference at church. My eyes were opened and my heart would soon follow.

I went to Hope College, a small, private, liberal arts school. It was a Christian College, as were most of its staff and students, mostly Reformed and Christian Reformed. However, it was unlikely that I would ever be Reformed; conservatively speaking that is. My college years began with my father lightly warning me of these Calvinists. I didn’t know what he was talking about. My first roommate and I, who were boyhood friends, unknowingly were matched because we were both Methodists – apparently, a rare breed thereabouts. Early on, I must have been an easy target for an overabundance of evangelism. A friend invited me to Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I went to what turned out to be a practically diversity-free zone; even ALL of the other persons in my small group were named “Kathy” (though probably a diversity of spellings). Later, when I saw out my dorm room window the friend who invited me, I said, “hello.” She asked me what I thought of the meeting. I shouted from the second floor window something to the effect that it was “too religious.” I did like church, and I went willingly. I even went to chapel services three times a week – religiously. I was also on part-time staff of the campus ministry. Though a biology major, I was frequently mistaken for a political science or philosophy major. Apparently, I was succeeding at the liberal arts (or at least the art of being liberal).

I very soon got involved with a small group of students known as the World Hunger Committee. Being a United Methodist, I must have known that there would be a committee for that! This formally launched my work in social justice, and my personal interest in stewardship, vegetarianism and nutrition. That first year, God brought together this son of a Mennonite with a Hope graduate who was a Mennonite (perhaps the only one). I told him that I was concerned about President Carter re-instituting draft registration. He said, “Why don’t you start a peace group?” I said, “Yes.” Fortunately, I didn’t now what I was doing. So, I helped found “Hope for Peace.”

For my own concerns, I hooked up with a Viet Nam war-era draft counselor. To make a long story short, when President Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration, I was identified in the Detroit News as a non-registrant. Being the only publicly-identified non-registrant in Michigan, I garnered much media attention. Eventually, the Reagan ‘get the government off your back’ regime and his Attorney General, Edwin ‘people are only hungry by choice’ Meese III, saw that out of millions of non-registrants, I was number 13 to be prosecuted. In the end, six years later, after heroically losing half a dozen pre-trial motions (with the help of a volunteer team of legal experts), my older brother dying, graduating from college, getting married, having a son, graduating from graduate school, and getting a job, I defended myself before a jury of my peers (though none of them were subject to the law I was defending myself from). I lost. But what did I win? (that is, beside three months room and board at the taxpayers’ expense) I learned to live in good conscience. I learned to refine my beliefs, even amidst great public scrutiny. I learned about civil disobedience, or as A.J. Muste, a great American pacifist and Hope College graduate would have said, “holy obedience” (in my write mind I say, “wholly obedience). I learned that the U.S. government has the absolute authority to draft any citizen regardless of conscientious objection. Any exception to this is due only to “legislative grace.” I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my government. Actually, I presented my case at the Detroit Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, in conjunction with a resolution to support young men’s consciences who were subject to draft registration laws, whether their conscience led them to register or not. The resolution failed. So, I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my denomination.

During college, after guest preaching at my home church in Detroit, someone came up afterwards and said, “I didn’t know that you were in seminary.” Nonetheless, I consider myself a theological mutt. I have drawn from many Christian traditions. I have studied Asian religions, and I am drawn to Buddhism. I am an amateur philosopher (that is, until someone pays me) and I am intrigued by the angst of existentialism. I have experienced a spiritual re-awakening in Alanon, which has given me things that my church could not. I believe that “religionism” may be the ultimate “-ism,” preventing us from experiencing the oneness of God. I may be a leading candidate to be voted, “most likely to be heretical,” by the powers that be. This is my orthodoxy. I believe that paradox lives in the neighbor of truth; and we should love our neighbors. In true Zen-like fashion, I find that irreverence is often the highest form of reverence. Among my heresies is my unabashed appreciation of “The Simpsons” (but, as the Hindus would say, “Don’t have a cow.”).

After an intense summer working for Bread for the World as an organizer, and days before my senior year began, my brother John was killed in an avalanche in Western Canada; but only after dropping out of college while on foreign study, wandering, rock-climbing and working (pretty much in that order) for a couple of years in Africa and the Western U.S. His death has given me a much greater sense of mortality and the preciousness of life each day. I actually find funerals as fruitful opportunities for reflection and renewing my sense of “living in the moment.” I have undervalued such opportunities. One of the few regrets in my life was missing three of four funerals of my grandparents.

My paternal grandparents were particularly religious. Only upon the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary (and doing the math) did I realize that my father was a near-bastard child to a teen mom. Years later, when my sister was pregnant and out-of-wedlock at age 19, my grandfather said, “The sins of the grandfather are being visited upon the granddaughter.” My thought: get over it! Well, at least, I can now understand why my gay father was closeted until his parents were either dead or demented. While I didn’t see healing in my grandparents, I saw that having an understanding of God under construction is a good thing, and sometimes demolition work is required.

That brings me to my marriage. To make a long, and usually happy, story short, my marriage of 11+ years ended 10 years ago. Nonetheless, we were blessed with two wonderful children, Joshua and Kathryn. I love being a parent. It may be the closest I’ve been able to experience what God must feel in His/Her unconditional love for us. Kate’s life is an ongoing miracle since she was born with multiple heart defects. She underwent two heart surgeries, and at one point with surgical complications, a doctor, trying to be optimistic, said, she has at least a 50/50 chance of living. A brush with death. There’s that mortality thing again. Not unlike death, I thought I had no problem with divorce – as long as it was happening to other people. Accepting our divorce was the most difficult thing I have ever dealt with.

Being out of a “relationship” for a number of years helped my re-develop my relationship with myself and with God. This came more through Alanon than church. Now, being in a relationship for eight years with a wise and beautiful woman has taught me to appreciate life as it comes, one day at a time – with both of us half single, half single parent; no longer with in-laws but ex’s. I’ve learned that God makes all things new, and often faster than I want. God never gives me what I want; God always gives me something better!

My career. God brought me to a career in public health, as I savored its roots in social justice. God brought me out of public health, re-naming me “Top Pun,” and appointing me as a jester for peace, where the pun is mightier than the sword, and justice is no yoke. My canvasses are buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and the World Wide Web. My business, by definition, is good – that is, maximizing prophets. My business is exactly on schedule; though I don’t know what the schedule is.

God brought me to Central’s neighborhood, and a few hours later, to Central. Centralites were my kind of people. Some happened to be Christians who were gay. Through my social justice work, not my public health work, God brought me to work in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This opened further opportunities to work with persons who happened to be gay. My dad “came out.” My parents divorced. God had prepared me.

I have issues with money. I aspire to live simply, gracefully facilitated by my recent poverty-level earnings. Living with less financial security has inspired me to give today because I may not be able to give later. Whatever old car I’m driving facilitates my prayer life (of course, no “auto”-biography would be complete without a mention of my car).

I am a mystic at heart, journeying as a gifted rationalist, Caucasian, male, father, lover, businessman, American, etc., etc., yada, yada, yada. While embracing the enigmatic, I hope these few words will offer you a clue as to who I am. Hopefully, these few words will offer you a clue as to who we are. One of my favorite poems is from Muhammad Ali: “Me. We.”

In all, God has never left me; except for an instant in 1981, but that’s another story…

POEM: Of Coarseness

Don’t put won over me
F every won
Flunk sexism
Flunk racism
Flunk classism
Flunk nationalism
And sow on
And sow on
In effability
Of coarse
They say
Vulgarity vulgarity
Every ware
I look
In just US
The capital of the whirled
Spinning lies
Wile iniquity runs rampant
Fore public office
As up right
The riotous
Will be herd
If scuff law in order
To re-buff amoral cents
And counting dullards
Drilled simply for being crude
And unrepentantly unrefined
Tolled to keep off the crass
In a tour de farce
As if
In decency
Merely unappetizing crudités
Interrupting
Our place
At the table
Only too be taken away
Be for serving
The entree
To the winners of our discontent

This poem plays on the nominal vulgarity of swear words versus the substantial vulgarities of endemic sexism, racism, classism, amoral capitalism, nationalism and the unlike.  Civilized Nations Have Best Implements for War--ANTI-WAR QUOTE BUTTONI am struck by the hugely disproportionate reactions by so-called civilized society to the nominal vulgarities of swear words and the substantial vulgarities of rampant iniquity and inequities.  This reminds me of one of my favorite passages from the Tao Te Ching (chapter 38):

When Tao is lost
There is virtue
When virtue is lost
There is morality
When morality is lost
There is propriety

CIVIL WAR - When Oxymorons Run Amok ANTI-WAR BUTTONThis passage captures the devolution of society and politics when propriety is the central reference point and standard for judgments, having devolved from simple morality and core virtues. Of course, even virtue and morality are devolutions of Tao, the ineffable and mysterious source from which life flows and finds its being.  Propriety is a pitiful veneer covering a morally bankrupt society, where unmoored virtue makes alienation the norm, and nothing is sacred.  What could be more coarse than a society where power, privilege and status are self-aggrandizing and injustice is but a chronic inconvenience?

I am proud to have written a poem about vulgarity without directly using verbal vulgarities — though the implied vulgarities may make the poem PG-13.  Vulgarities may not be necessary, but when our concern is over words rather than from the underlying realities which deserve much more attention, we get sucked into dangerous distraction.  My increasingly surreal experience of the gap between popular awareness and underlying injustices seems like a good basis for the full employment by this poet of awe words, vulgar or not.  May we see beyond the superficial proprieties of language to see clearly the grinding injustices which bespeak vulgarities.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER – SUPPORT THE ARTS – Artists Make Lousy Slaves

This free poster takes a relatively apolitical statement, “Support The Arts,” and combines it with a socially and politically provocative assertion that artists make lousy slaves.  Slavery is perhaps the penultimate expression of dehumanization, literally selling humanity for simple utility and profit.  Art and artists are commonly viewed as of marginal utility, which is simply another way of saying that our vain culture and capitalist/consumerist economy finds it relatively difficult to monetize and/or control artistic expression.  Thus, artistic expression is routinely relegated to the margins.  Of course, the margins is where unvarnished truth tends to hang out more freely and where the marginalized more freely embrace truth.  Heartfelt and expert expressions of the human experience are anathema to slavery, the crude making of chattel of men, women, and children for mere utility.  Art and artists align with social justice concerns inasmuch as free expression is neither simply sold or controlled by commercial interests.  May the experiences and expressions of artists provide inspiration for free living and just us for awe.FREE POLITICAL POSTER - SUPPORT THE ARTS - Artists Make Lousy Slaves

Please feel free to share or print out this FREE POLITICAL POSTER: SUPPORT THE ARTS – Artists Make Lousy Slaves.

POEM: Namaste

Who dares ax
Why I am
Sow meta for
As the spear it in me
Razes up
Too meat the spirit in you

http://www.toppun.com/Religious-Spiritual/Buttons/Don-t-Have-A-Sacred-Cow-SPIRITUAL-BUTTON.htmlThis poem is an ode to my favorite version of the greeting “namaste:” may the spirit in me rise up to meet the spirit in you.  My poetic version plays with the meeting of the spiritual and physical, the spirit and the flesh.  How do the sublime and the crude coexist?  The short answer is that life is marvelously messy.  Daring to question why I am the way I am can be a precarious project.  Delving into why the great “I AM” is “I AM” can be downright dangerous.  Existence is puzzling; essence more sow.  One of my projects in life is to be in touch with my bastard nature, daring “too meat” the spirit in you.  The churning of my spirit yearns to kiss the whirled of flesh, and perhaps more.  The paradox of “Razes up” speaks to the inextricable cycles of destruction and creation, countless resurrections, risings up from the ashes like a phoenix. Re-born Again and again and again and again SPIRITUAL BUTTON This is a death-defying game: “the spear it in me.”  Still, I like to stir things up.  Things that are settled strike me as dead.  My Karma Ran Over Your Dogma. SPIRITUAL BUTTONWhere there is pretension, expect to be punctuated with vulgarity.  Where there is cynicism, expect to be flooded by my delugings of unabashed hope.  I will hurl sublime poetry over your ahead, but I won’t pick at your soars.  I will lob softballs to hit you out of park, but know one will keep score.  The hallowed and the hollowed will mete.  There are plenty of weepin’s in this life too be had.  How ever, weather I reach hi or lo, behold my arse and all.  Think good that the pun is mightier than the sored!  What ever this life is, it is the most beautiful thing I ever metaphor.  Metaphors Be With You SPIRITUAL BUTTONNamaste.

 

 

 

 

 

Please feel free to check out other spirit-filled, inspiring and life challenging designs:

A Conclusion Is The Place Where You Got Tired Of Thinking SPIRITUAL BUTTONIf you are in control, then you are going too slow. SPIRITUAL BUTTONWhy not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is? Mark Twain quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Not All Who Wander Are Lost SPIRITUAL BUTTONFind Your Own Way -- Buddha SPIRITUAL BUTTONThey will say you are on the wrong road, if it is your own. Antonio Porchia quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Don't take life so seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway. SPIRITUAL BUTTONFirst Things First But Not Necessarily in That Order SPIRITUAL BUTTONReality is for people who lack imagination. SPIRITUAL BUTTON

BORN AGAIN and Again and Again SPIRITUAL BUTTONEver Wonder? SPIRITUAL BUTTONGot Inspiration SPIRITUAL BUTTON

The Beginning is Near SPIRITUAL BUTTON

POEM: Can She Be Eunuch?

She stated
No one else can do what I do
To witch
They rejoined
Realing in whore
Accept that you are a cog
You intractable wrench
Unfit for cloning round
And unstranded
She cut out
From the puppet tier
Knot to be
Am ployed
As if
She were eunuch

This poem is about breaking away from the artifice and inhumanity of the machine, aka, capitalism, which is designed to monetize you in any way possible.  When someone discovers the passion of their unique role and contribution to the world, the machine pushes back as it has difficulty incorporating one’s soul eccentricities into it’s standardized system and dehumanized algorithms.  Generous portions of creativity easily overwhelm “the way we have always done things” as well as distant, disconnected orders from big bosses.  Creativity is so unnatural to the machine that it ultimately creates huge inefficiencies, even amidst its seeming devotion to efficiency.  The machine typically finds it much more expedient to grind cows to hamburger than even milk them for all that they are worth.  Workers’ humanity routinely suffers the analogous outcome.  Creativity that cannot be easily plugged into the machine is ignored, discounted, or actively stifled.  In this poem, the sheer stupidity and foolishness of a system that fails to adapt to the unfathomable creativity of the human spirit is represented by the rhetorical question that is the title: Can she be eunuch?  Beside the overlayed meaning of the pun eunuch/unique, the definitional absurdity of a female being a eunuch (a castrated male) illustrates how the machine fundamentally misunderstands and misuses the very people it is alleged to serve.  The machine is indiscriminate in its castration!  Of coarse, such crudeness does serve some people, just not workers within the system.  Even though a system well designed to incorporate human creativity and eccentricities could unleash incalculable efficiencies and productivity AND be well aligned with the desires and needs of each of those working within such a system, the capitalist system is not intended to produce the greatest good, particularly the common good, but instead is geared and cogged to produce material wealth for an elite few who pull the levers of so-called industry.  Private profit at the expense of human potential and the common good is the only real order of the day in capitalism.  The common good is reduced to foolhardiness as it is wide open to being robbed by the capitalistic princes of virtue, greed being the organizing principle of capitalism.  Human attributes not easily monetized atrophy in capitalism.  Turning humans into cogs for personal profit may very well be one of the better definitions of evil.  Robbing others of their God-given creativity and eccentric passions for a few bucks and a cynical acceptance of a diminished humanity is a pathetic way of honoring the countless gifts humanity brings to the world.  Courageous creativity, the bold commitment and determination to find a way to be who you were created to be, is the answer to the dehumanizing capitalistic machine.  Reveling in the infinitely greater portion of life that is not easily monetized assures a home and hearth for your own humanity and all those who take the time to be present to such gifts.  May you find your unique passions and the courage to boldly follow them in their many serendipitous consummations.

POEM: A Strange Gift From Smother Earth

I awoke
Too the rumble
Of a river of cars
Getting the goods
Being trucked over and over
As fuming motorists
And fuelish consumers
Whirled wide
Tank up
With great import
As their gauges reach emptily
A diction
Beyond words
Feeding this uneconomic engine
Internally combusting
A humanity greased
Plunged into a vain artery
So so leading
To an err tight garage sail
N’air to see O2 again
Only lust C’ing a singular “O!”
To be
Fallowed buy
Cryptic silence
As nature returns
A strange gift from smother earth

This poem was inspired by awaking to the rumble of cars and trucks from I-75 about a mile from my house.  I am quite familiar with this noise pollution, a steady hum 24/7, though I usually only take notice of it at night or in the morning while lying in bed.  Noise (and light) pollution are on my short list of pet peeves and everyday side effects of so-called civilization.  However, this poem meditates on the constant stream of air pollution and inevitable environmental destruction from a carbon-based energy economy and transportation system.  The congested arteries of our highways and buy ways consternate both motorists and Mother Earth — not to mention pedestrians and bicyclists.  This poem also alludes to the military shenanigans (as we “tank up”) needed to assure a steady supply of a crude lifestyle.  The addiction to petroleum leads us to morally depraved measures of success, such as the accepted norm that destroying the environment is part and parcel to a good economy.  Such insanity brings to mind the wise aphorism: don’t shit where you eat.  The metaphor of drowning in our own waste is incarnated in this poem as the suicide of exhausted and fuming motorists in their garages, the final resting place of going nowhere fast.  This poem requires a certain knowledge of chemistry to be fully comprehended, specifically the chemical structure of carbon monoxide.  If you also know that carbon monoxide preferentially binds, in place of oxygen, on hemoglobin, then you can more fully appreciate the breathtaking nature of this poem.  The feedback of nature is neither random nor mean-spirited.  Nonetheless, if humans insist on living in unsustainable ways, then nature will weed us out or prune us down to size.  Perhaps this is poetic justice for smother earth…

POEM: Smoking Guns

Smoking Guns

Gun control is their aim
Bringing a bout
Sad states
And a stag nation
Wear points are sported
Big bucks are the game
Triggering depression
Beyond one’s cope
Looking down
The business end
Of a gun shaking
As one’s head
Worse than beating
Against the wall
Steadied boots
Quaking again
Mourning posthumous convictions
Of scofflaw abiding citizens
Accost paid
Wrapped in flags
Until free at last
Like taking life
Most like one own
Or another
Like black male
Against one’s will
No more amendments seconded
In this ultimate bill of rites
Pain in full
Coffin at the price
High as a kite
And nonnegotiable        
Hostage too smoking
Guns unlocked
And loaded
Still packing
In their sleep
Dreams of night stands
And steel pillows
Leaving red necks
And faces
Like a smothers love
Taking homicides
As common ground
All the wile
Shooting off their mouths
Making impossible Glock suckers
Deceasing and desisting
The Man
Behind the curtain
Firing the lynch pin
For all times
As smoking guns
Don’t prove anything
So says anyone with half a brain

The title of this poem, “Smoking Guns,” is at least a triple pun.  The first meaning, most literal, is a gun just fired.  The second meaning refers to a quest for direct evidence of something (like a gun being fired!).  The third meaning is a bit more nuanced and fleshed out in the poem: literally smoking a gun by holding it in one’s mouth and committing suicide by firing it and blowing one’s brains out.  While this may seem more crude than nuanced, it is referencing an oft overlooked reality about guns and public health and safety: guns kill more Americans by suicide than murder.  The bizarre notion that guns offer some great protection in a dangerous world is negated by the frightening reality that someone possessing a gun is more likely to shoot and kill themselves, then kill another.  Now, this may be some bizarre karmic feedback to those with guns, but it can’t get much stranger — another loaded pun!  If someone possessing a gun manages not to kill themselves, they are far more likely to mistakenly kill a family member than a truly threatening stranger.  Of course, this leapfrogs over the tragic reality of purely unintentional deaths from accidental discharges, most often of a gun owner’s family members or friends!  Only when guns are outlawed will outlaws accidentally shoot their kids!  So much for protection.

The reality is guns are lethal consumer products that have escaped safe, commonsense regulation — unparalleled by any other consumer product with such inherent lethality.  Guns and suicide are the perfect example of this public health problem.  Guns are a very effective means of killing oneself that doesn’t take any special knowledge or training.  Very few people “fail” when trying to kill themselves with a gun.  Combined with the nature of suicide attempts, guns become particularly lethal.  Firearms are involved in over half of all suicides.  Most suicide attempts are by people depressed or distressed who experience an acute episode of severe suicidal thoughts.  These episodes are most frequently minutes or hours.  Without easy access to lethal means, most suicidal episodes are survived.  The choice of suicide methods is key. Moderating easy access to firearms is the most effective means of reducing suicides.  For example, compared to men, women are about three times more likely to experience depression, twice as likely to attempt suicide, yet only about a fourth as likely to “successfully” complete suicide.  This is largely related to the suicidal methods chosen.  Simply put, women use guns much less frequently in suicide attempts.  Women are only about a third as likely as men to own a gun, and are less likely to live in households with guns.

The main alternative approach to preventing suicides is having an excellent mental health system.  Unfortunately, this approach is at least as complex, and perhaps similarly intractable, as altering easy gun access.  Plus, building and maintaining an excellent mental health system is surely more financially expensive and less cost-effective than sensible regulation of firearms.  Of course, pursuing both would have definite payoffs, reducing suicide and much more!

Having worked in public health for many years, I see the parallels in the battles to bring both tobacco use and guns into a reasonable place in protecting the publics health.  Frankly, I see gun right’s nuts as even crazier than tobacco company executives lining up in front of congress and saying that they don’t believe that nicotine is addictive.  It’s difficult to think of another area of public policy and public health where the political and societal realities are so divorced from science and reason.  May we escape the ideological traps that threaten the public’s health and well-being.  After all, guns don’t die, people do!

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

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

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

Download Free Martin Luther King Obama Poster

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

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

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

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

War Travels By Night and Bidet

War Travels By Night and Bidet-FUNNY ANTI-WAR BUTTON

War Travels By Night and Bidet-FUNNY ANTI-WAR BUTTON

War Travels By Night and Bidet-FUNNY ANTI-WAR BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

View more Anti-War Buttons.

Truth is the first casualty of war.  To successfully wage war this truth needs to be hidden.  This design in a simple and even in a crude way exposes this.  The “traveling by night” reference alludes to fly-by-night operations or those requiring the cover of darkness.  The pun on “by day” with “bidet” steals away the natural balance of the night with day, leaving behind only a bunch of crap or other waste products, which at best are put out of sight and out of mind to protect our civilized sensibilities.  In our modern Western civilization, we typically do not ponder where all of our crap or trash goes.  Not surprisingly, in the long run we will have to deal with the fact that we are drowning in our own waste products.  War is the perfect example of denial and cost shifting.  We flush all the bad stuff out of sight and pretend that all of the shit that we send someone else’s way just works itself out somehow.  But like they say, all weapons are boomerangs, and what goes around comes around.  Some high society sophisticates try to pawn off war as some kind of noble enterprise built on courage and service.  Those who profit from war has convinced many others that violent warriors represents some ideal.  Our culture’s worship of military service and veterans is proof of this.  Though I would argue that our actual treatment of veterans is proof of our hypocrisy.  War is an enterprise built more on tearing apart human lives and shitting on creation than some courageous service.  If we are not careful, our highbrow leaders may just find sustainability only in the death brought about by drowning in our own waste products.  Of course, those of us familiar with food science, know that this is how fine wine is made: you allow bacteria to consume all that is sweet, producing a waste product called alcohol at such levels that eventually kill the bacteria themselves.  This is why wine has an alcohol level of about 12%, because that is the concentration of alcohol that kills the bacteria and stops the process.  And while downing this slurry of dead bacteria and their waste products has a certain appeal to those of finer tastes, if we end up with a slurry of dead humans and their waste products one can’t help wonder who could possibly enjoy that.  But alas, I merely want us to stop whining!  The alcohol level of Western civilization is rising and those drunk with power seem to have severely impaired judgment.  Those still sober and awake need to take action.  Otherwise, we all may well end up in the bidet (swirl slightly and wait for the aftertaste).  And who wants to waste, especially a vintage 1984 Orwellian, where drunk is the new sobriety…

It Takes Enemas for War to Happen-FUNNY ANTI-WAR BUTTON

It Takes Enemas for War to Happen-FUNNY ANTI-WAR BUTTON

It Takes Enemas for War to Happen-FUNNY ANTI-WAR BUTTON

It Takes Enemas for War to Happen-FUNNY ANTI-WAR BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

View more Anti-War Buttons.

This design is one of the early anti-war designs that I made.  You can probably tell this by the simple graphic and relatively rudimentary text.  My graphic design skills have improved over time.  However, it is strangely appropriate that this crude design be designed relatively crudely.  This qualifies as a classic among my puns designs, because it has two great puns, related to one another.  Also, this design neatly descends into and transcends potty mouth humor.  The simple tautology that war needs enemies to happen becomes a shocking commentary when enemas is substituted for enemies.  The less-than-subtle tone of this design cuts through the bull shit that is all so typical when speaking of war and its so-called glory. But the design and message doesn’t end there.  With a call for more moral fiber, this serious, funny, and seriously funny call to action, hopefully, combines the playfulness and creativity needed to bring an end to war, with the high-minded and nonviolent-hearted moral force needed to do the hard work of bringing an end to war.  This design qualifies in one of my everyday-living themes, in the sense that everyone poops; and somewhat less in our everyday awareness, that everyone has enemies.  Hopefully, we can make waging peace and every day part of our lives.  What do you think?