Testimony for National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service — END DRAFT REGISTRATION

I prepared the below testimony to present at a public meeting in Chicago before the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, a commission created by Congress to deal with questions of draft registration, most specifically, whether to end draft registration or expand it to women. The Commission designed the format for this meeting with severely restricted opportunities for general public input. I intend to submit this testimony in written form, but I do not anticipate that I will be able to present it in person. At the end of this testimony is a much shorter statement that I intend to present to the media in Chicago, and directly to the Commission, if possible.

FULL TESTIMONY

My name is Dan Rutt. I have traveled from Toledo, Ohio, to be here today. I have come from 250 miles away to testify to you about service. I am volunteering my time to testify about that which is involuntary: conscience. I have come much further than 250 miles to be here today…

My testimony is rooted in family history predating the existence of the United States of America.  I am 12th generation in this land now known as the United States of America. In the early 1700’s, my ancestors settled on land given to them by William Penn, on what would come to be known as Pennsylvania. My Mennonite ancestors fled Germany to escape conscription and war.

With that wave of German immigrants and refugees, those that occupied the land had much fear about them ruining life as they new it. Newly-arrived German males age 16 and older were forced to take a loyalty oath to the British crown. The English oath was administered roughshod over the newly arriving boys and men, most of whom spoke only German upon their arrival. Apparently, a nominal and blind oath provided some comfort to those fearful residents already occupying the land.

As the Philadelphia harbor bells rang, signaling new arrivals, people gathered to greet them. Many gathered to welcome family or provide strangers with much needed assistance, knowing what it is like to leave one’s home and arrive in a strange land with little or nothing. Others gathered to enlist indentured servants. Here is my most important question regarding service. Serving freely or serving under coercion — which is the greater service? I submit that serving freely is greater. In this particular case, the free service of hospitality and welcoming outsiders is greater than enlisting indentured servants. In the shared scripture of The People of The Book — Jews, Christians and Muslims — a similar exhortation is repeated multiple times: “You must love foreigners because you were foreigners in Egypt.” This service of what may be considered radical hospitality is a time-honored practice of Jews, Christians and Muslims. The humble practice is at the heart of every great faith worldwide. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love because you were first loved. My ancestors, yearning to be free, wanted neither to be the cause of war as soldiers nor the tragic effects of war in its wanton destruction. This was at the heart of my ancestors’ journeys in life. This is my heritage.

More recently, in relation to war and peace, my great-grandfather, during World War II, ran an alternative service camp for conscientious objectors. As for me, I was literally born into service. I was born in 1961 in Haiti, while my parents were serving as medical missionaries, a doctor and nurse, with Mennonite Central Committee. Mennonite Central Committee has long encouraged and empowered years-long terms of service, often overseas. For my Dad, this was also as an alternative service to military service.

In 1979, the year I graduated from high school, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. In response to this, President Jimmy Carter instituted draft registration of young men my age, ostensibly to send a message of military preparedness to Soviet leaders. I was in the first batch of young men required by U.S. law to register for the draft. However, the prospect of draft registration conflicted with a higher law, my conscience and ultimate commitments. I could not and cannot, in good conscience, participate in war-making. As the clarity of my conscience emerged, I could find no way to register for the military draft, whose sole purpose is preparedness for war. My conscience also dictated that if I was to disobey an unconscionable law, then I was to openly take full responsibly for my actions while I worked to change such a law. I began by writing letters to Selective Service and my elected representatives. I may not have had been well-schooled — yet, anyways — on the politics of waging war or peace, but I was intimately familiar with my conscience and the legal duty that my young male peers and I faced. I was a teenager facing obedience to my conscience. This obedience came at the legal threat of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

I quickly learned that my war resistance is not dependent on geopolitical circumstances, political pendulums, or legal threats. I am already opposed to the next war. Unlike in the pragmatism of war, my enemy’s enemy is not my friend. For me, war is the enemy. Nonetheless, the nearly 40 years since my initial confrontation with draft registration affords me a certain perspective as I have lived through a full cycle of history.  While I was a skinny teenager facing taking on the United States government, the U.S. government was backing the soon-enough-to-be-notorious Osama bin Laden as a so-called “freedom fighter,” leading the mujahadeen in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation.  Of course, our support of Osama bin Laden, our enemy’s enemy, turned out to be a deadly lessen in the futility of weaponizing violent radicals in the vain hope that it won’t blowback in further violence on virtually all fronts. Today’s “freedom fighter” is tomorrow’s terrorist. Today’s war seeds tomorrow’s terrorist. Gandhi spoke frequently of the seamless connection of means and ends. War IS terrorism. How can we expect it to produce anything else — with it many “means” and “ends”? In the end, I cannot view warmaking as service to this country, or any country for that madder, certainly not to humanity as a hole. I find warmaking incompatible with Jesus’ call to love our enemies and to be peacemakers, the children of God.

In speaking with hundreds of Americans over the years about draft registration resistance, I have found that people’s objections to my objections are of two basic types. One type of response is basically that draft registration is such a minimal requirement that it isn’t worth much fuss. If this is the case, then why don’t we just get rid of draft registration, without much fuss? The other type of response is about the utter graveness of our warmaking, and usually something about our national doody. If war is so grave, perhaps the concerns around someone refusing to go postal should receive more thoughtful and consequential consideration. To add insult to injury, in a surreal show of moral farce, war apologists routinely cite “necessary evil” as their moral foundation. This is not the God I serve. Straddling these two poles of minimal and supreme concern, are the tired questions that are asked pacifists, such as: “What would you do if someone was raping your grandmother in the ally?” I learned to answer such questions with: “I’d register for the draft.” If their perplexity persisted, they might suggest that I go back to Russia (where I’ve never been) or indicated their inclination to see me face time in jail; presumably, so I am not around to not protect them.

Mean wile, back in 1980, soon after winning the presidential election, Ronald Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration. His campaign rhetoric about getting the government off the backs of people rang hollow, like a hollow bullet to my heart. The media wanted to do a story on this broken promise and how it affected the young men subject to the law, particularly those opposed to it. As it turned out, while there were millions of nonregistrants quietly in violation of the law, I was the only local public nonregistrant that they could track down, and I soon found myself highlighted in various media for years to come.

To make a long story shorter, in 1983, I was indicted for failure to register — I prefer refusal to register. In 1986, I was tried and convicted. My indiscriminate honesty more than compensated for their lack of investigatory skills. I served 107 days in the federal Community Corrections Center in Detroit, served two years probation, and served 200 hours of community service. I can’t help but note, today, since the theme is “service,” that the solution to my singular failure was to rip me from my community in order to integrate me back into my community. Plus, the court had to bean-count community service that you couldn’t have stopped me from serving anyway.

Of course, there were larger forces at work. I, and a select few others, had to be made examples of. I, for One, am proud of the example I served. In the case of The United States of America vs. Daniel A. Rutt, there was a focus on my failure/refusal. In the meantime, I had finished college, got married, finished graduate school, had a son, and got a job. I went on to serve in a public health career of almost two decades. I even got a national award from the feds for my work in health promotion — thanks for noticing, U.S. of A. For the last 16 years, I have run my own business promoting social justice.

I do not consider my time imprisoned or countless hours engaging in war resistance as any great burden. In fact, I consider this as service to my country and humanity. I do suspect that most any person who did a tour of active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan has suffered more than I.  Unfortunately, war is replete with suffering. Of course, suffering is of no great inherent value. Nonetheless, whatever we willingly suffer for is a good measure of what we truly value. I hope that more Americans, whether male or female, young or old, will volunteer to put more skin in the game and resist war in any way they can. I believe that the cost of freedom is found in not killing, rather than killing. As General Patton so infamously stated, “No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his country.”

It is impossible for me to separate my service from my conscience. Conscience is that small still voice that emanates from the foundation of our existence, that calls us, at the risk of trademark infringement, to be all that we can be. My war resistance is deeply rooted in following Jesus, The Prince of Peace. The Jesus I follow was executed as an enemy of the state. He was executed at the behest of the religious elite. Today, the religious elite dutifully save themselves and their clan, more faithfully blessing warmakers than counseling their youth to resist war, more conveniently blessing warmakers than counseling their youth to resist war. The first wave of martyrs in early Christendom were men who refused military service. The broader wave of martyrs were Jesus followers who refused idolatry, the literal and figurative “pinch of incense on the altar” to Caesar.

For me, draft registration is that “pinch of incense on the altar” of the state. When it comes to military service, in the great U.S.A., there is no “one nation under God.” When it comes to military service, The United States of America is God. Specifically, The United States of America, does not recognize ANY Constitutional right to refuse military service for ANY reason, including conscience or freedom of religion. As we all know, the U.S. Constitution provides for many rights, rights that cannot be infringed upon by the state. There are many constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom to petition for redress of grievances, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and the right to equal protection under the law, among others. These are often referred to as natural rights or God-given rights. Such rights define the character of a state, and place limits on its sovereignty, recognizing a power greater than itself. The United States of America, does not recognize ANY natural or God-given right to refuse military service for ANY reason. If you are surprised by this, so was I. I count this as the singular lesson that I learned in my draft registration resistance. This sad and idolatrous reality was unmasked only by a federal judge citing a Supreme Court case in a legal opinion rejecting my motion for dismissal on the basis of religious freedom. Fortunately, I have found that God’s grace extends further than legislative grace or constitutional provision of this republic. I strongly suspect that tens of millions of Americans of faith recognize that holy obedience sometimes requires civil disobedience.

My male ancestors age 16 plus who arrived to this land so many years ago were forced to swear a loyalty oath to the government, even though most didn’t even speak the language in which the oath was administered. This didn’t even seem to matter to government officials. Why is this? I suspect that the nominal and incomprehensible oath was a “pinch of incense on the altar,” a ritual form of national worship needed by a resident populace afraid of strangers. The minimal content of the oath served as a safe and surefire way to maximize compliance and minimize resistance. Who would get back on the boat and return across the sea because they had to mouth or sign an incomprehensible swearing. Who would not submit their name and basic information to the Selective Service System? Well, most young men do not register when they first become legally required. Most young men, hoping to go somewhere, register when they need to secure a driver’s license, or when they reach the shore of an education, needing a student loan.

I suspect that the ritual obedience of a “pinch of incense on the altar” may be more important than an actually functioning, fair and equitable system of potential conscription. Conspicuously absent from the Selective Service annual report is the noncompliance rate with the requirement for registrants to update their address (within 10 days) every time they move. Every observant person knows that 18-25 year-old men move a lot. How many address updates do they get? How many address updates don’t they get? Surely, this can be estimated, and certainly it matters if one actually cares about being able to effectively and fairly enlist young men in a potential draft. The noncompliance rate for initial registration is 8% for all 18-25 year-old men. I strongly suspect that the noncompliance with current address is much higher than noncompliance with initial registration; probably, in combination, high enough to blow a hole in any contention that draft registration is effective and fair. By the way, those young men not complying with address updates are subject to the same legal penalties of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. In FY 2017, 184,051 names and addresses of suspected violators to initial registration were provided to the Department of Justice. Does it strike anyone else as odd that the names and addresses of suspected violators are forwarded? If the Selective Service System has the names and addresses of potential enlistees, what else do they need?

I contend that what Selective Service is largely after is your assent to civil obedience, participation in a national religion of warmaking, your “pinch of incense on the altar,” if you will. This seems to be a better characterization of Selective Service’s function than, in the case of a military draft, to “rapidly provide personnel in a fair and equitable manner.” Oddly, if you find yourself a male age 26 or older, beyond the age requirement to register, and you failed to register, you could still run into trouble by being denied eligibility for federal student financial aid, federal job training, federal employment, or U.S. citizenship; yet, you may be in the clear if your can “show by a preponderance of evidence” that your failure to register was not knowing and willful. Just don’t be too conscientious; that is, until you have to prove that you were not conscientious. Apparently, the true crime is conscientiousness in not registering, more so than simply not registering. The selective prosecution of a few conscientious and public resisters while millions are noncompliant speaks volumes to this.  Certainly, a system where obliviousness is excusable and objecting conscientiously is a crime is a system that distorts our nation’s highest values.  I don’t object to Selective Service being shot full of holes regarding compliance. I do object to Selective Service dishonoring or punishing conscientiousness. As there is no way for a registrant to officially indicate any intent at conscientious objection, I would be very curious to see what would happen if conscientious objector status were a checkbox in the registration process. We might learn a lot about the state of conscientious objection in America. Of course, if Selective Service noncompliance is largely about non-conscientiousness, then I have to ask: What would such a level of non-conscientiousness say about what we might be fighting for and who might be fighting for it?

The draft registration system cannot account for true conscientiousness. The draft registration system cannot muster enough compliance, conscientious or not, to claim fairness and equitability. The honorable course of action, in both cases, is to end draft registration.

In truth, the actual practice of draft registration ignores conscientious objection. While there is no apparent constitutional right to refuse military conscription, there are some legislative provisions for what are called conscientious objectors. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to indicate conscientious objection during the current draft registration process. This is objectionable to many conscientiously opposed to war. Somewhat oddly, the only legal way to make such a claim is to submit to a system, the Selective Service System, whose sole purpose is preparing for war, which you must reject completely. Plus, conscientious objector status is only possible as a military service classification, if and when a draft may occur. The longer a registrant is unrecognized as conscientiously opposed to war, the further the objection. Further, conscientious objector status can only be recognized for those who are opposed to all wars. If you in good conscience object to whatever current war in which you are subject to serve, this is oddly irrelevant. You could, in fact, turn out to conscientiously object to every actual war that comes down the pike in your lifetime and this is deemed irrelevant if you are not opposed to every theoretical war (or past war). This renders conscientious objection to a meaningless idea for what is perhaps the vast bulk of being conscientiously opposed to war. Finally, there is no real mechanism to truly count or officially value the service of conscientious objectors, meaning that men will be drafted until the military need is met, whether ten or ten million men have conscientious objection. The service of a conscientious objector is superfluous to the determining aim of the Selective Service System. This itself is offensive to many persons of conscience opposed to war-making. Let’s end the criminalization of conscience.

In truth, the actual practice of warmaking habitually runs roughshod over international law and human rights. The promise of some possible future alternative service as a noncombatant is little comfort to my conscience, and of many others. In a warring world, the distinction between combatants and noncombatants offers fantastical sanitization rather than actual sanity. The fact is that across time and across a myriad of modern armed conflicts, over ten so-called “noncombatants” are killed for every “combatant.” The first casualty of war is the truth; most of the rest are noncombatants. My duty is to oppose war, not escape military service. This is my service to humanity. This service is regardless of combatant status. Plus, the best way to serve warriors happens to be ending war.

In the age of terrorism, some will claim that we live in new era of war, not subject to the old rules of war. We do live in a different time than in the 1980’s, the decade when draft registration was initiated. I can testify to a profound shift toward anti-war sentiment since then. During the first Gulf war, in the early 1990’s, I never felt so isolated as an American, confronting palpable resistance even from liberals. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, our local peace network, the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition, initiated weekly Sunday demonstrations at busy intersections around town. These demonstrations for peace and against war occurred weekly for 15 years (and continue twice each month). In the early years, most of the feedback we had from passing motorists was angry yelling, middle fingers, and expletives flying. Over the years, this angry response has become rare, perhaps a couple a week, and the overwhelming positive responses are represented by hundreds of “honks for peace,” peace signs and thumbs up. Americans in the heartland of Ohio are tired of war and welcome peace. Draft registration is a relic of ages past. Why have draft registration when even the military cites no scenarios where they would want a draft?

One issue at the heart of draft registration and military conscription is what is the proper role of women in warmaking and peacemaking. I am delighted to see that women serve as 5 of the 11 commissioners. Surely, it is women who should determine what is the proper role of women, in this case, concerning warmaking and peacemaking. In my lifelong work across a wide range of social justice movements, I have found women to be the most reliable and most inspiring leaders and laborers for social justice. I strongly suspect that women will take up the mantle of even greater war resistance if they become subject to military conscription. I take inspiration to serve as a war resister from Julia Ward Howe. She, most famously known as the composer of the Battle Hymn of The Republic, was the founder of Mother’s Day, originally a day of war resistance. She issued this Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870:

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says “Disarm! Disarm!” The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

As men have forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his time the sacred impress not of Caesar, but of God.

 In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

I would much prefer entrusting my conscience and fate to such “a general congress of women without limit of nationality,” rather than the currently constituted National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

Perhaps somewhat ironic, given my heritage, Germany now has a constitutional right to conscientious objection while the United States does not. When Germany ended conscription in 2011, the majority of those serving were conscientious objectors, and the debate had shifted from conscience to whether they should give up a huge pool of cheap labor. I believe that forced national service is incongruent with our nation’s highest ideals. I believe that volunteerism is at the core of authentic service. I suspect that lowering our ideals by forcing service is a poor way to nurture true service. Let us lead by example. This is why I am here today. If you want to gauge both the heart and the cutting edge of service in this country and for this country, look to those who volunteer, willingly, without pay, to live out their deepest values. This is the clearest view of our highest ideals incarnate, that service, that work, which cannot be bought and sold.

I appreciate the opportunity to testify before the Commission. From your bios, I can see that you are exemplary leaders in service. Unfortunately, I think that you may have an impossible job. I appreciate that Selective Service is technically considered under civilian control. Still, I can’t help but notice that both Selective Service and this Commission are heavily represented by persons from the military or traditional national security apparatus. This does not fairly represent America in the civilian service necessary to make for peace in the world. Also, about 4 in 10 Americans are persons of color, including many of those in the military. Why is this Commission even whiter than the overly white Congress who appointed it? This is not a service to America, and raises the question of whether white supremacy is part and parcel to your work. In tandem, the Commission’s overwhelmingly militarized representation and unduly whiteness, inspires little confidence that your recommendations can represent America. Perhaps it would be more honest to call this Commission an Omission. I suspect that this failure is rooted in the failure and cowardice of Congress to deal with draft registration in a changing world, that is, a world that recognizes women as equals. Congress punted on the politically unpopular choices of just ending draft registration or expanding it to women. Instead, Congress kicked the can down the road for a couple of years by creating a Commission to address this question for them. Unfortunately, This Congress-created Commission is so couched in generic service rhetoric that it is hamstrung in dealing straightforwardly with the singular issue that triggered its creation: draft registration. Until the Commission owns up to addressing the issue of draft registration as its core reason for existing, any hopes of sparking a national conversation on service will be sparks falling on damp firewood.  Further complicating the credibility of the Commission is the tightly controlled and choreographed public meetings in conjunction with severely limited open public testimony. A responsive democratic process would have began with generous opportunities for open public testimony, and then using this input to shape additional “invited” testimony. This may already be too late to remedy. The chasm between the nature of “invited” testimony and uninvited testimony betrays a characterization of the Commission’s work to date as democratic or representative. In my years of public service, both as a community planner and as a citizen participant in many public forums, I think that it is fairer to characterize the Commission’s public meetings to date more as “dog and pony shows” than as an open and responsive democratic process. For this Commission’s work to claim legitimacy, there is a lot of changes that need to be made. Lastly, having to make FOIA requests to find out about the basic public functioning of the Commission does not bode well for a culture of transparent, accountable public service by the Commission. I hope that you have found worthwhile input in my testimony to move toward a peace-loving democracy in which every one of us finds ample opportunities, free of compulsion, for self-sacrificial service for the good of all.

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PRESS STATEMENT

My name is Dan Rutt. I have traveled from Toledo, Ohio, about 250 miles away, to be here today. I am one of the select few prosecuted and imprisoned for refusing to register for the draft, back in the 1980’s. We are here today for one reason, and one reason alone: Congress punted on the politically unpopular choices of just ending draft registration or expanding it to women. Congress punted by appointing a Commission to provide recommendations regarding draft registration a couple years down the road. That Commission is the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. Unfortunately, This Commission’s work is so couched in generic service rhetoric that it is hamstrung in dealing straightforwardly with the singular issue that triggered its creation: draft registration. Until the Commission owns up to honestly and openly addressing the issue of draft registration as its core reason for existing, the Commission will be a failure. Draft registration continues to have no mechanism to accommodate conscientious objection. Draft registration is fraught with noncompliance by young men either not registering at all, registering late, or not updating their addresses. The military cites no scenarios where they would want a draft. This is no time to expand draft registration, whether to women or persons with select skills the military might want. Now is the time to end draft registration. Voluntary service is true service. Let’s keep it that way.

Today’s public meeting in particular highlights the failing credibility of the Commission. Previous public meetings around the country have had very limited opportunity for open testimony from the general public. Today’s meeting has even less opportunity. Previous public meetings have been billed as having opportunities to speak directly to the Commission; and when people get there they find out that there is a scheduled two minutes per citizen. This meeting is being billed as an opportunity for Q&A, not even to the Commission but to their invited speakers. Furthermore, the overall time for the public to even participate in this insular Q&A has been cut down to “20 or 30 minutes.” From the experience of previous public meetings, the chasm between the nature of “invited” testimony and uninvited testimony betrays a characterization of the Commission’s work to date as democratic. The Commission is moving in the wrong direction. A responsive democratic process would have began with generous opportunities for open public testimony, and then used this input to shape additional “invited” testimony as needed. This may already be too late to remedy.

Unfortunately, the Commission has other credibility problems that may very well make their job impossible. This Commission is dominated by members from the military or traditional national security apparatus, all the while trying to couch their work in a broader, more generic view of service. This Commission is extremely white, in a nation where people of color are about 4 of 10 Americans. This Commission is poorly designed to represent America. To make matters worse, the Commission has chosen to conduct its business in such a manner that citizens have had to make FOIA requests to find out about the basic public functioning of the Commission. This does not bode well for a culture of transparent, accountable public service by the Commission.

Originally, I planned my trip from Toledo to Chicago, for this public meeting, to deliver testimony to the Commission, offering a story of conscience and how draft registration fails to meet a broad range of America’s ideals. Because this public meeting cannot accommodate such open testimony, I stand before you, hoping that a free press will shine a light on the ill-conceived and poorly executed work of The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

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FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Senator ROB Portman “The GRINCH” Putting The ROB in Christmas

This free political poster is inspired by the pathetic and horrific tax cuts for the rich that congressional Republicans are pushing like crack for the wealthy this Christmas season.  The Senate Republican bill even includes a repeal of the individual health insurance mandate which would result in a projected 13 million Americans joining the ranks of the uninsured and fracturing our health care system into even more tiers or classes of citizens. Most poignantly for the Republican grinches, this lures many modest income people off subsidized health insurance plans to bet their health against whatever their cash contribution may be; this recoups hundreds of billions of dollars in insurance assistance available to modest income Americans which Republicans can use to fund tax cuts for wealthy Americans.  Repealing the individual health insurance mandate is a foolhardy accounting gimmick which will, in essence, “tax” all remaining insured Americans with an estimated 10% increase in premium contributions while nominally “saving” tax dollars, shifting costs, even greater costs, from the public to the private sector. HEADLINE: Republicans Rob Peter to Pay Paul So Overall Americans Can Pay Slightly More For Slightly Less.  Merry Christmas from congressional Republicans.  Never fear, the good news, not to be mistaken for The Good News of Christmas, is that the richest corporations and Americans will get a disproportionately large tax cut.

The poster design below is yet another in my “Parity or Parody” series targeting Sen. ROB Portman (R-OH) an alleged moderate who supports the repeal of the individual health insurance mandate to fund tax cuts for the rich.  Please feel free to distribute this free political poster: “Senator ROB Portman “The GRINCH” Putting The ROB in Christmas.”

Senator Rob Portman The GRINCH Putting The ROB in Christmas

I designed this Grinch poster to be used in conjunction with a satirical Christmas caroling protest outside Sen. Rob Portman’s Toledo office. To savor the flavor of this Republican hijacked holy season, please relish these parody lyrics to classic Christmas tunes:

1. Here We Go A-Caroling (to the tune of “Here We Go A-Wassailing”)

Here we go a-caroling against this bad tax bill,
Here we go a-caroling so Amer-ricans can still
See physicians when they’re sick,
Avoid vampiric politics,
And protect our economy from gre-edy ill will,
And protect us from gre-edy ill will

2. We Wish for a Better Tax Bill (to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”)

Good counsel we bring
To you and your friends
And if you don’t listen,
We’ll sing it again!

We wish for a bet-ter tax bill
We wish for a bet-ter tax bill
We wish for a bet-ter tax bill
And protected healthcare.

We won’t quit until we get it
We won’t quit until we get it
We won’t quit until we get it
And remember, we VOTE!

3. I’m Dreaming of a Good Tax Plan

I’m dreaming of a good tax plan,
One that doesn’t kill our healthcare
Where the poor are respected
Income equality is perfected,
And everyone prospers, thrives, and grows.

I’m dreaming of a good tax plan
With every “She Persisted” card I send
I’m hoping you will hear me, my friend,
And this greed-y, money-grab will end.

I’m dreaming of a good tax plan,
One that doesn’t kill our healthcare
Where the poor are respected
Income equality is perfected,
And everyone prospers, thrives, and grows.

I’m dreaming of a good tax plan
With every “She Persisted” card I send
I’m hoping you will hear me, my friend,
And this greedy, money-grab will end.

4. Be Mindful Shameful Gentlemen (to the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”)

Be mindful, shameful gentlemen,
stop robbing from the poor.
Remember revolution starts
and ends on your front door.
God save us from your greedy plan
To kill ObamaCare,
Wi-ith tidings of vo-ter outrage,
Voter outrage,
Oh ti-ding of voter outrage.

In cities and in country sides
The damage will be clear,
How will the people live their lives–
high taxes, no healthcare?
Republicans will damn themselves
For hurting people’s lives,
Oh ti-dings of vo-ter outrage
voter outrage
Oh ti-dings of vo-ter outrage…

5. Hark, The Senate Hear Us Sing

Hark the Sen-ate hear us sing,
This tax bill won’t fix a thing.
A tril-lion in added debt,
Isn’t right and you know it!

Let’s let go of party di-vides,
And improve the people’s lives
By tax codes – more in line
With – our founders’ – Democratic design

Hark the Senate, lest you ere,
We love our Obama-care!
Let’s make – our nation – a better place
A coun-try of hope and grace!

6. Jingle Bells

Oh, jingle bells, Paul Ryan smells,
McConnell laid an egg
Their tax plot will hurt a lot,
And shoot them in the leg.

Oh, dashing through Senate
In an ill-considered bill,
The Republicans are plotting
Their greedy, reckless shill

And, taking all of us
captive for the ride
we can’t believe they’d do this to us,
They’re not on our side!

Oh, jingle bells, Paul Ryan smells,
McConnell laid an egg
Their tax plot will hurt a lot,
And shoot them in the leg, Hey!

7. You’re a Mean One Mr. Portman (to the tune of “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”)

You’re a mean one, Mr. Portman,
It really is un-fair
Don’t vote – against the people or take aw-ay Obamacare Mr.
Port-man
All the while they pay your health bills, and you just don’t – seem to ca-re!

Don’t be callous, Mr. Portman
Is profit – the only – goal?
Raising taxes on your voters, giving loopholes to corporate ogres Mr.
Port-man
I wouldn’t vote for this tax bill with a nine and a half foot pole!

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: That Cursory Savor

Life
As present
Did not add up
As if
A zero
Sum game
The passed getting bigger
The future getting smaller
That good buy
That eminent lessen
As holy for gone
As refuse
As waive that fortune
Having only
Too come to wrest
With that cursory savor
The eternal
Now

That was Zen - This is Tao - FUNNY SPIRITUAL BUTTONHere is yet another poem on the theme of the eternal now. Life can seem to pass by so quickly with so many distractions, perhaps wondering where it all goes. Know madder how attached we are to things, they seem to pass.  The present, arisen from the past and cascading into the future, is awe we have.  And we find ourselves, moved by weigh of this exquisite mystery, in the mist of where the passed and the future are knot won or the other.  Long the weigh, most of us look for a savor of some sort, weather short and sweet or lingering and rarefied.  Not with standing, we are prone to cling on, fighting increasingly alien forces, light years beyond any measure of good taste.  Our salivation dries up before our face, caught in a scrunch, as whither every fecund moment reseeds in a parent mummification.  And in spite of everything, the Tao jones arises again and agin…

POEM: A Star To Be Borne — People Knot Looking Up

In dozin’s of dozin’s
They were engrossed
Fueled time and time agin
In con founding sow a ware
Their tension helled by their idol busyness
In pitches black to looming executors
As orderly
As dark
Knot knowing her
Under stand
Oh so only
A pinpoint of light
Maid awe
The brighter
Bye her dark surroundings
A soul star
Hardily seen
By fortune it few
Wile spacey masses
Worship the knows on their efface
As oblivion too her
As if
A gazillion miles away
Holy unappreciated
Yet in good accompany
Uncounted others
As bidding awe
To glisten up
And down bellow
To those untoward souls
Doody bound to knot look up
The bind leading the bind
As eyes razed
Awe through the night
Dreaming of eight hour daze
And might as well be
Taken for granite
Ahead stone
In concrete cubicles
And dead lines
In deed missing
Hi noon
Starring you in the face
As you were
Out to lunch

This poem tells a story of lives lived in such a fast and concrete way that awe is mist.  Weather the gently glistening star unseen from mansions suitable for slumber or the noonday sun unnoticed as out to lunch, people make due knot looking up.  Threw out most of human history, people looked up to the stars as entree to the eternal.  Unshrouded by big city lights, beacons of planetary possibilities bound only by imagination lucidly invite us to feast from such a contemplate.  Even in the light of day, when our own earth beckons hour attention, original peoples looked to the sun in their measure of time, as the nightly heavens did their seasoning allot.  The latest version of humanity, with each precisely distracted digital watch, now combined with a wring tone of our favorite bland, solicits us to look down time and time agin.  Fastened in a virtual reality, the only looking up we due is Googling.  Sow trying, to keep up to speed!   Who can resist such a lure?  Perhaps a generous summon from a heavenly place can raze our efface.  May the ponderings of countless stars, or a singular sun, be sufficient inspiration in life to look up without flail.

POEM: Anew Page Delivering

I am
Subject too
The very inquisition
Wanting too a void
Axing the quest in
Who would halve me
Believe
Know
One
Wrote
The book
In my heart
Anything but stone
Nothing accept
Throwing multifarious dirt
At clay feat
As sum
Call me
A fool
Of epic portions
Too big to swallow
That is, whole
Left only
With unspeakable meanings
In awe weighs wanting
A wisdom that mounts to nothing
Right only
In a captivating holey warship
Without bail
In a nature without nurture
A watered down
Whirled view
That reigns on know won
With nothing too win
Oar lose
In awe awash
The impotent lored
Unable
Too even
No udder abandon
Wholly sown
Borne of the wind
Mysteriously yielding
Earthy harvests
Wile holy unaccounted for
As only seer
What ex-specter
Bared without
A shroud
Of evidence
Leaving no witnesses
And subjects unknown
To know a veil
Having awl ready
Punching holes in the heavens
The sores of professorial cosmo-logical blood
Shedding rare light
At least
Enough
Too read God’s will
In a towering Babel on
Like stairing into the sun
And skywriting in Braille
Counting on Cain
To objectify truth
Like a bat out of hell
Holy out
Of our census
Destined to be committed too
The most minimal theories passable
In firm in the phase of
Ever unfolding realty
Having
The tome of your life
As if
Sum man you script
Published in determination
As know more than a mirror leaflet
To fig you’re sufficient to cover
Such immaterial shame
And random glory
Whole to pass on
Such immanent domain
That writ largesse
Wading
One’s hole life
Fore a single letter
Soul ward
Incomprehensible sentences
Terminally de-composing
The tree of know ledge
Turned too
Pulp
Fiction
For just
A taste of a lie berry
A free offering
For every scion ’tis
Enough
Too make blue bloods
Turn read
Anew page delivering
Awe that is novel
In the art of hearts

This somewhat epic poem is a playful romp and survey of epistemology, in the philosophical field of study of knowledge and justified belief.  How dreadful the truth can be when there is no hope in the truth. Sophocles quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONI am fascinated by the sores and limits of knowledge.  I am a skeptic of skepticism, delver into intuition, and humble admirer of profound inner experience that cannot be fully shared in words (even in poetry). I find the most profound truths to reek more of playfulness than dogmatism.  I find humor both a scrumptious tool and irresistible outcome in hanging out in the neighborhood of truth which is paradox.  If any of your well-worn beliefs or weighs of being feel skewered by my poetry, then welcome to the heart of my unifying theory of sheesh kabob.  May your hopes outpace your skepticism, and may your dreams root for truth.

Feel free to browse positive attitude and optimism designs.

Hope Trumps Despair PEACE BUTTONEverything that is done in the world is done by hope -- Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONGot Dreams SPIRITUAL BUTTON

POEM: Hippie Hippie Array!

I am
A bohemian, man
Razing consciousness wherever
Or whatever
I happen to wander about
Are you
Brushed off by my long hair
While you suck it up
All the err
Straining awe of your shabby tension
In the face
Of my frayed clothes
And your painstakingly frayed whirled view
Like nothing writing off my poetry
As holy gratuitous
And under raiding my intellect as well
Eschewing upon awe but straight up homo genus
Making plain your redundant homogenous specious
As if
Once in for all
You might as well
Be at least
One finger shy
Of won’s iconic sign of peace

This poem plays with the trite but true notion that we often make an avalanche of judgments about other people based on our first glance at them.Ever Wonder? SPIRITUAL BUTTONA great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. William James quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON  Gender.  Class.  Age.  Race.  Attractiveness.   In this poem, in my case, it’s about looking like a hippie.  The superficial array of features that we display to the world is a gift to the lazy and the uncurious.  I consider my outward appearance a powerful screening tool to weed out those unprepared to delve into my provocative inner beauty and intriguing eccentricities.  When stereotypers and skeptics make it through this screening process, I must admit, I get a special thrill out of witnessing people amending an initial underrating and/or misconstrual of me.  Yep, I like to mess with people — for the very reason that people are messy.  The last lines of this poem is an example of this.  Practicing Rampant Non-Judgementalism SPIRITUAL BUTTONOnce in a while it really hits people that they don't have to experience the world in the way they have been told to. Alan Keightley quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONWhen demonstrating for peace on a street corner — a totally hippie thing to do — occasionally, a passing motorist will share a singular upright finger to signal their notion of victory.  I am known to note to my friendly demonstrators the valiant efforts of another one-fingered veteran trying to make the peace sign, aka victory sign.  We don’t know what we don’t know.  And most of us know very little about most people we encounter.  I am a person leavened with hope.  May we find hope in one another as we ardently explore each other’s breathtaking lives and singular place in this world.

The question is not what you look at but what you see. Henry David Thoreau quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON	 What we need is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out. Bertrand Russell quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONAccepting things the way that they are, and wishing them to be otherwise, is the tenth of an inch between heaven and hell. Zen saying SPIRITUAL BUTTON

	 Expect Miracles SPIRITUAL BUTTONEven on the road to hell, flowers can make you smile. Deng Ming-Dao quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONGot Hope SPIRITUAL BUTTON

What we see depends mainly on what we look for. John Lubbock quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONEverything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves --Carl Jung quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON	 If Have No Peace Because Forgotten Belong to One Another--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

PEACE QUOTE: My Humanity Bound Up in Yours--PEACE SIGN BUTTONYou are more important than you realize SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Please feel free to browse other Top Pun designs regarding spiritual practices for peace-loving and joy filled living.

POEM: Technicolored Jesus

Is it time for one of those
Come to Jesus moments
Wear there is skin in the game
Beyond black and white
Word
And what surrounds
Words
Becoming flesh
Another flood
In a see of
Red between the lyin’s
More than throwing the book
At smacking
Of the full lips of won’s savor
A forgiving fodder
All the wile preying too
Knowing not what due
Holy discriminating
No the color of blood
Know more
Technicolored Jesus
A mine blowing Palestinian Jew
Borne and razed
As soul
Property of another religion
Slaves to shedding
That which is
Indistinguishable from their own
Pooring into the world
Seedlings multifariously soiled
Converted to a cross
Saved fore Christ
Only knot
Apprehending
With due convictions
Buy red letter Christians
Drinking from rose colored glasses
As white as know
Giving him hail
King of the Jews
As a sign of the tines
In tongues speaking
Reportedly above cross
As fallower remains
Intent disciples
Paving the highway to hell
Trod by poor soles
Back in black
And who
Suspects
In America
As when roamin’ umpire
If a man is hung from a tree
He’s black
N conceivably
Some thing other

This poem is about a Jesus for all, black and white, boringly straight and fabulously technicolor.  This poem is about the violence and racism present in American Christianity.  If Christians must be black and white, the evidence points more to a Black Jesus than a White Jesus.  A nation built on slavery still undergirds contemporary lynching, parently paling in comparison in present-day whitewashed White supremacy.  Of course, America has ambitious rule beyond its boarders.  The imperial American rule of the world and its concomitant violence has been condoned, even blessed, by American Christianity.  A Palestinian Jew is inconceivable to most.  Perhaps this explains the prevalence of virgin birth doctrine.  We are all pink inside, and for some strange reason, the fruit of this seems to only be conceive Abel by shedding won an other’s blood.  May we reach a stage of enlightenment where we can live together as one humanity, or at least not use the crucifixion of one as rationale for the crucifixion of an other.

POEM: Divine Picking A Friend’s Knows

Buy God
They had
Catalogued
Immeasurable weighs
Too knot believe
Wholly haunted
Bye sum divine coupling
Or just won more
Each picking
Their favorite knows
Inexplicably
Their own
If only
They had
A greed
Too sell nothing

This poem is an ode to the infinite reasons to knot believe in God, the most preeminent being sold a build of goods buy brand name religion.  The holy inconvenient truth is that the incarnation of God’s spirit into awe that matters can only be brought about by giving it away through our generous and grace filled actions.  Trying to sell others on our own particular understanding of God is inescapably tainted by picking our favorite knows, and others rightfully peer upon us as bogeymen.  In the end, just words are of limited help, even a misnomer.  Talk is cheep.  And a religion of talk, talk, talk is for the birds.  Many observers of religion can’t help but focus on the do, do and what is still, lacking.  My we find a greed too sell nothing and in this find God given away.

POEM: Flowing Inevitably Threw Us

Our hearts were broke
A cache sow, well, spent
In solvent
In life
Long
Yearnings
Teaming tsunamis of solidarity
Of the largesse kind
Poor
Over us
Torn as under
A heavy wait
Pre-seeding
A compelling yield
As if
Some bank erupt
Reigning
The affluence
Of won another
In tsunamis of serendipity
Having pre-pared us
Seeing in owed daze
As broke
Open
As chambers and vessels
Suited fore rivers of love
Flowing inevitably
Threw us

This poem is about what seems to be a necessary heart-rendering process of our hearts breaking before they can fully pour love out into the world.  I strongly suspect that this is the way our heart of hearts is built.  Much like soil, our hearts are tilled til compassion gives root to patience and grace-filled kindness.  This too fold process is upending to our less mature and superficially romantic fields of dreams.  Real Miracle to Walk on Earth--PEACE QUOTE BUTTONThe hard edges of injustice cleave us as surely as the serendipitous realities of unmerited kindness and generosity.  While the specific injustices and grace that we each experience is unique, our heart of hearts flourishes in solidarity with others.  The companionship and mutual support that flows through those who recognize themselves as being in the same boat binds us in one accord and harmonizes our souls so we can walk together as won people.  Only when our love pours out into the world, not bound and limited to vain vessels of our own, do our hearts function at full — nay overfull! — capacity.  OCCUPY EVERYTHING (Heart) - OCCUPY WALL STREET POLITICAL BUTTONWith love flowing through us, we are never broke; we have become holy, awe together, and udderly teeming with plenty.  In the process, our mortal hearts, like many earthen vessels, are thrown for a loop, only to be torn as under.  And for awe that, our heart of hearts is fashioned for sow much more.  Hearts united beat more than blood could ever dictate.  May our hearts never brake, pouring into the world with awe of our untamed hopes.

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: Another Martyr Bides The Dust

Another martyr bides the dust
And I was a stray
Beside myself
In the fog
Of yet another mourning
The missed over my heart
Feeling only that ephemeral beaten
The wait on my brain
Fueled into thinking of the dread only
And the little I no
Of what remains
As the truth is bared
In ash holes with names
Temping to soil
Won an other’s life work
Un-till arising from hour grounding
Ready ourselves for a human race
Wear blood is thicker then water
Tearing at our soles
And water thicker than heir
The salt of the earth bides
It’s time
Too clear the weigh
Of what thou dust
Ahead razed for awe
As be holding the sons rays
Bringing a bout of sunshine
An enduring lightness
Out shining
Any faux
How ever clan destine
In efface of such shrouding allowed
In countering any illicit clout
Ever looming
Whatever we’ve
Got together
With standing any in thralling strayin’
Rapping up awe that is frayed
For whatever may seam
Know longer

I wrote this poem a while back, but I’m publishing it now to honor the passing of Father Daniel Berrigan who died over the weekend at age 94.  Father Daniel Berrigan was the first priest arrested for peace and anti-war civil disobedience — or holy obedience.  As recounted in the National Catholic Review:

Berrigan undoubtedly stands among the most influential American Jesuits of the past century…

A literary giant in his own right, Berrigan was best known for his dramatic acts of civil disobedience against the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons. He burned draft files with homemade napalm and later hammered on nuclear weapons to enact the Isaiah prophecy to “beat swords into plowshares.” His actions challenged Americans and Catholics to reexamine their relationship with the state and reject militarism. He constantly asked himself and others: What does the Gospel demand of us?

“For me, Father Daniel Berrigan is Jesus as a poet,” Kurt Vonnegut wrote. “If this be heresy, make the most of it.”

“Dorothy Day taught me more than all the theologians,” Berrigan told The Nation in 2008. “She awakened me to connections I had not thought of or been instructed in—the equation of human misery and poverty with warmaking. She had a basic hope that God created the world with enough for everyone, but there was not enough for everyone and warmaking.”

In 1963, Berrigan embarked on a year of travel, spending time in France, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rome, South Africa and the Soviet Union. He encountered despair among French Jesuits related to the situation of Indochina, as the United States ramped up military involvement in Vietnam.

Berrigan returned home in 1964 convinced that the war in Vietnam “could only grow worse.” So he began, he later wrote, “as loudly as I could, to say ‘no’ to the war…. There would be simply no turning back.”

He co-founded the Catholic Peace Fellowship and the interfaith group Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam…

In Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1966), Merton described Berrigan as “an altogether winning and warm intelligence and a man who, I think, has more than anyone I have ever met the true wide-ranging and simple heart of the Jesuit: zeal, compassion, understanding, and uninhibited religious freedom. Just seeing him restores one’s hope in the Church.”

A dramatic year of assassinations and protests that shook the conscience of America, 1968 also proved to be a watershed year for Berrigan. In February, he flew to Hanoi, North Vietnam, with the historian Howard Zinn and assisted in the release of three captured U.S. pilots. On their first night in Hanoi, they awoke to an air-raid siren and U.S. bombs and had to find shelter.

As the United States continued to escalate the war, Berrigan worried that conventional protests had little chance of influencing government policy. His brother, Philip, then a Josephite priest, had already taken a much greater risk: In October 1967, he broke into a draft board office in Baltimore and poured blood on the draft files.

Undeterred at the looming legal consequences, Philip planned another draft board action and invited his younger brother to join him. Daniel agreed.

On May 17, 1968, the Berrigan brothers joined seven other Catholic peace activists in Catonsville, Md., where they took several hundreds of draft files from the local draft board and set them on fire in a nearby parking lot, using homemade napalm. Napalm is a flammable liquid that was used extensively by the United States in Vietnam.

Daniel said in a statement, “Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise.”

Berrigan was tried and convicted for the action. When it came time for sentencing, however, he went underground and evaded the Federal Bureau of Investigation for four months.

“I knew I would be apprehended eventually,” he told America in an interview in 2009, “but I wanted to draw attention for as long as possible to the Vietnam War and to Nixon’s ordering military action in Cambodia.”

The F.B.I. finally apprehended him on Block Island, R.I., at the home of theologian William Stringfellow, in August 1970. He spent 18 months in Danbury federal prison, during which he and Philip appeared on the cover of Time magazine.

The brothers, lifelong recidivists, were far from finished.

Swords Into Plowshares, Isaiah 2:4 PEACE BUTTONOn Sept. 9, 1980, Daniel and Philip joined seven others in busting into the General Electric missile plant in King of Prussia, Pa., where they hammered on an unarmed nuclear weapon—the first Plowshares action. They faced 10 years in prison for the action but were sentenced to time served.

In his courtroom testimony at the Plowshares trial, Berrigan described his daily confrontation with death as he accompanied the dying at St. Rose Cancer Home in New York City. He said the Plowshares action was connected with this ministry of facing death and struggling against it. In 1984, he began working at St. Vincent’s Hospital, New York City, where he ministered to men and women with H.I.V.-AIDS.

“It’s terrible for me to live in a time where I have nothing to say to human beings except, ‘Stop killing,’” he explained at the Plowshares trial. “There are other beautiful things that I would love to be saying to people.”

In 1997 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Berrigan’s later years were devoted to Scripture study, writing, giving retreats, correspondence with friends and admirers, mentorship of young Jesuits and peace activists, and being an uncle to two generations of Berrigans. He published several biblical commentaries that blended scholarship with pastoral reflection and poetic wit.

“Berrigan is evidently incapable of writing a prosaic sentence,” biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann wrote in a review of Berrigan’s Genesis (2006). “He imitates his creator with his generative word that calls forth linkages and incongruities and opens spaces that bewilder and dazzle and summon the reader.”

Even as an octogenarian, Berrigan continued to protest, turning his attention to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the prison in Guantánamo Bay and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Friends remember Berrigan as courageous and creative in love, a person of integrity who was willing to pay the price, a beacon of hope and a sensitive and caring friend.

While technically, Fr. Berrigan is not a martyr, he sacrificed much and lived courageously in the belly of the beast called the United States of America of which he called its militarism and imperialism.

While I wrote this poem with a male character, this may not be truly representative of the martyrs in this world.  Soon after penning this poem, Berta Caceres, whose activism reverberated around the world, was assassinated by a Honduran death squad, shot in her own home.  This poem is dedicated to her as well, a well of hope deeper than any dam corporations.  As recounted from Alternet:

On March 3, assassins entered the home of Berta Caceres, leader of Honduras’ environmental and indigenous movement. They shot her friend Gustavo Castro Soto, the director of Friends of the Earth Mexico. He pretended to be dead, and so is the only witness of what came next. The assassins found Berta Caceres in another room and shot her in the chest, the stomach and the arms. When the assassins left the house, Castro went to Berta Caceres, who died in his arms.

Investigation into the death of Berta Caceres is unlikely to be conducted with seriousness. The Honduran government suggested swiftly that it was likely that Castro had killed Berta Caceres and made false statements about assassins. That he had no motive to kill his friend and political ally seemed irrelevant. Castro has taken refuge in the Mexican embassy in Honduras’ capital, Tegucigalpa. He continues to fear for his life.

Berta Caceres led the Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH), one of the most important critics of government and corporate power in her country. Most recently, she and COPINH had taken a strong stand against the construction of the Agua Zarca dam on a river sacred to the indigenous Lenca community. This dam had occupied her work. It was not merely a fight against an energy company, it was a fight against the entire Honduran elite.

Desarrollos Energeticos, SA (DESA) is owned by the Atala family, whose most famous member is Camilo Atala, who heads Honduras’ largest bank, Banco Ficohsa. By all indications, the Atala family is very close to the government. When the military moved against the democratically elected government of Manuel Zelaya Rosales in 2009, the Atala family, among others, supported the coup with their means. They can cut all the flowers, but they can never stop the spring -- Pablo Neruda quote POLITICAL BUTTONThe Honduran sociologist Leticia Salomon listed this family among others as the enablers of the coup. They backed the conservative National Party, which now holds the reins of power alongside the military. Berta Caceres’ fight against the Agua Zarca dam, then, was not merely a fight against one dam. It was a battle against the entire Honduran oligarchy. Her assassination had, as her family contends, been long overdue.

May we be inspired and encouraged by the fearless lives of those who have gone before us.

POEM: The Iconoclassism of Godliness

She was in
A class by her self
Staring at her teacher
In a too room school hows
By two mirror subjects taut
Assure as three
Bound by know
Student lones
Only that body
Of know ledge
From the school of hard knocks
And missing class

This is a poem about the necessarily eccentric and lonely aspect of life in relation to the unique set of experiences we each have and the personal, subjective experiences we each have with the mystery of mysteries sometimes called God.  Each person’s unique place in life bids a certain iconoclastic attitude.  Every class room we are placed in is constricting in some fashion or another.  Any body of knowledge we amass is ever facing a ledged uncertainty.  Staring into the abyss or the eyes of a loving God is subject to doubt.  Learning is a humbling enterprise, requiring perpetual re-righting of our ideology of any given day.  The spaciousness of our souls bids us forward and outward into necessary uncertainty.  This may very well be the built in adventure of life, both exhilarating and exasperating, inspirational and overwhelming, profoundly satisfying and deeply unnerving.  Whatever hope we may have for a common humanity is bound up in each of our unique, irreducibly ineffable, and inescapably iconoclastic take on life.  There is no formula that works for awe.  The joy full life cannot dance mirrorly to an algorithm.

The line in this poem, “Assure as three,” is a somewhat obscure reference to the Christian concept of the Holy Spirit, the third person in the Trinity, the counselor and comforter.  The reference is from Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT), amidst sacred text extolling the advantages of companionship and the futility of political power: “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”  The Holy Spirit is more resistant to rigid theologies and ideologies than The Father and The Son.  The Holy Spirit is more of a wild card, unpredictably navigating us through the apparent vagaries of life, ever shifting yet creating life anew.  More secular folks may refer to such as conscience, some gestalt of awe that we are, accessing something profound yet palpable to those open to its guidance.  The iconoclastic nature of conscience is informed by the direct experience of our deepest realities, which often doesn’t neatly match where others before us, or society as a whole, happens to be at in any given moment.  I see this as the deepest life force itself, making evolution, and when needed, revolution, possible.  We are in this holy mess together.  I strongly suspect that a deep appreciation for each others’ iconoclasm and eccentricities is a necessary foundation for a good life which grows awe the better.

May you find a lucid relationship with that small, still voice, your conscience open to the deepest rhythms of life.  May you find blessed companionship in your sojourn through this holy mess.

POEM: Slow Mo’ Bettor Blues

Is it awe
A gambol
Sometimes you git
Their faster
In slow motion
More rarefied
Then a tortoise and its hair
Relegated to children
Of God
Knowing nothing
In the phase of fabled
Head weigh
Breeding like
Rabbits
Countering undeniable cullings
Sow cruel
Hour nature spurning perpetuity
As if
Life is
Allegory mess
And too the victors
Come the spoileds
Certifiable
That the hole
Whirled
Plodding against them
Wading for ascendancy
As not see
Wee are just
Critters in the for us
Peering as equals
On the wrong aside
Of hasty formulas
And breakneck algorithms
As mirrorly xenophobic creeps
Seeing what
Formerly cannot be
Seeing
And hearing what
In the passed
Was beyond what was winced imagined
And in deed
Awe
The more
As silence speaks
Volumes
To those slow enough
To listen

This poem is an ode to the adage that sometimes you get there faster in slow motion.  It is a sad lot who careen through life hanging on to the notion that you succeed by getting there faster than the next guy — and yes, it’s usually a guy.  As Gandhi so aptly noted, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

Speed is close kin to efficiency, that typically impersonal and depersonalizing practice that produces alienation with grate efficiency.  Modern, capitalistic, consumer culture cons us into trading manufactured goods for the perennial goods understood and revered by most cultures through most of human history.  Xenophobic nationalism icons us into perpetual war.  You can’t buy authentic, healthy human relationships.  Alienation from our own human nature and one another arise from buying the better part of employees lives and buying off minions and masses to bolster won’s usurious interests.  Earning friendship and offering radical hospitality to all has little kin to urning enemies and sending radicals to the hospital.

Overrunning natural boundaries is almost the definition of modern civilization.  There are natural processes that can only be ignored at one’s own peril.  Things take time.  If we don’t take time, then things will take us.  Buy weigh of example, baking a loaf of bread or growing a seedling takes a certain amount of time and follows a distinct order.  Baking a loaf of bread by only letting it rise half the time or baking it at twice the temperature does not result in either a speedier or even satisfactory outcome.  The final state of a seedling is more related to the nature of the seed than even the earth in which it is planted.  A seed may die prematurely, but a tomato seed will never grow into a rose bush.  Western civilization seems in deep denial about a natural pace of human life or a prudent ordering of manufactured goods over perennial goods.  SLAVERY Is The Legal Fiction That A Person Is Property - CORPORATE PERSONHOOD Is The Legal Fiction That Property Is A Person POLITICAL BUTTONPerhaps the most illustrious example of this is our equating, or even favoring, corporate persons over actual human persons.  When things are of equal or greater importance than people then the sphere of human life will be locked into the equivalent of a flat earthers worldview, or worse yet, relegated to subterranean living, with social sanctions for humanity raising its beautiful head.

Deeply listening and keenly observing are hallmarks of both the material sciences and the spiritual sciences.  Such noble ventures, discovering truths about the natural world and human nature, take both time as well as respect for the guidance of the accumulated wisdom of the ages.  Silence itself is considered by many as the language of God, reality experienced directly and unmediated by the handicaps of human language.  Words will always fail to completely embody such experience.  Material sciences have the advantage of studying a sum-what less-elusive “dead” world of things and impersonal (objective) forces.  Spiritual sciences aren’t sow lucky, tempting to elucidate the nature of humans (subjective) and even more daring to mumble of God (Subjective, with a capital S), that most precarious of places, where awe may be said and knot holy done.

May you find a pace of life that gives you a supple foundation for participating fully in the perennial goods of humanity and the awesome world in which we live.

This poem’s title includes a reference to mo’ better, a slang term for making passionate love to the point of exhaustion with someone who wants you as badly as you want them.  Of course, the better is transformed to the pun bettor to allude to the precarious reality that passionate love for another person, a loving creation, or loving God, will entail risks that the risk managers will most certainly recommend that you manage.  Perhaps the only mortal sin in postmodern existence is to be out of control — as if we are in control of much anyway!  Are you willing to bet on the seductiveness and elusiveness of love, to live a life beyond others’ sensibility of control?

May you find loving passions that spill out uncontrollably over the whole world.  And as in any great lovemaking, may it be long and slow…

POEM: To Abettor Portion: Owed To Math You 5:21-48

The shepherd pays dear
Attention to his sheep
As the sheep due
Not follow suits
But accompany prophets
In ways safe from a peril
That compound interest in the whirled
As you have herd
It said
You shall not murder
But now this is tolled
Do not bill bloodsheds
To finance your palatial manner
Or liquidate nations
In the name of kicking assets
Do not except life
And its costly knock offs
Anyone who pro claims
Your life is feudal
Or you fuel
Will end up burning oneself
And anyone bastardizing my word
Is an executer of my state
Do not purchase good will
Wile others out lay
Make it rite personally
Without gaudy talk
Before just us
Decent upon you
Rather forced to pain
Fore every debt sentence
Sow all can make cents
You have herd
It said
You shall not commit adultery
But now this is tolled
Any man dishonoring the source
Of human life on earth
Wood be better off
Had he never been borne
Any man divorcing himself
From what is a parent
Is not fit for a womb of his owin’
You have herd
It said
Long a go
Do not brake your promise
But now this is tolled
Do not sow your wiled oaths
At awe
Your promise on heaven unearth
From here on ahead
This simply know
And yes
Any more sow
Is from the evil won
You have herd
It said
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
But now this is tolled
As eye tooth sow telling
Bring to light every bone picked
Sow not striking in efface
As a retainer of humanity
And if won from beyond
What is fare comes
Barren suits
Down on you
Make just us naked
XXX-posing
Shame on them
Farcing won too walk a mile
Sow trying
To catch up with your smiles
Only wanting them
To borrow
Awe that you have
And if knot
Make no’ing to all
You have herd
It said
Love your neighbor
And hate your enemy
But now this is tolled
Love awe
Before you
De-spite those who prey
Wile publicly prosecuting
You as their enema
Knowing full well
Sons rise
And reigns fall
As surly as won nose
Effacing such loathsome fishiness
Too tax a verse
Getting more than you put in
As children of ungaudiness
Seeking abettor
Sow much better
Than that which they are used
To have
Being
Holy one’s own
Reflecting awe
Given freely

This poem is a punny paraphrase of Matthew 5:21-48, the middle portion of The Sermon on The Mount.  The Sermon on The Mount is considered the core of Jesus’ teachings, his stump speech.  The title alludes to one of my stock concepts in my poems, the notion of humans being reduced to math, mere calculations in an oppressive algorithm, and its lowest common dominator, conventional wisdom.  This central litany of Jesus’ “You have heard it said, but I tell you” razes the bar and builds a whole, new worldview.  Jesus’ message transcends the traditional message of religionists and secular conventional wisdom.  This culminates in the proclamation that God rains on the just and the unjust.  This indiscriminate love is the unending ideology that Jesus is found rooting, nurtured by such reign as is God’s.  Jesus incarnated the reality that we are at our best when we are fully our self and fully God’s.  Accepting and giving freely is the deepest nature of God that we can reflect in our lives.  Jesus was such the juggernaut of grace whose designs were to overthrow the weighs of the whirled.  Jesus did not desire to be some historical pinnacle set up on an untouchable pedestal and worshiped.  Jesus lived to tear down the very notion of untouchable, the bedrock of dominating class.  Anyone accessing the indiscriminate love that Jesus accessed, that is, asking for anything in Jesus’ name/character will surpass even Jesus’ accomplishments during his life: “Anyone who believes in me, will do the same works I do, and even greater works.” (John 14:12)  Of course, indiscriminate love is a lousy foundation to rule over others, totally in sync with the instruction by Jesus to be servant leaders, not masters.  Religion, committed to such a precept, will find itself at the heart of human needs, as the oppressed and dispossessed will be attracted like a magnet to non-judgment and working solidarity and service — awe without a needs assessment!  Of course, you will find an enemy in the powers that be which depend of dividing and conquering for their dehumanizing weigh of life.  I find great joy and solace in the summary (variously attributed)  that Jesus only promised us three things: to be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.  May it be so!

POEM: A Ledged Fall

The leaf let go
Releasing awe that had given it life
In what could have bin
A swan dive
Or a butterfly prancing
But it was doing its own thing
Lining up for know one
Little did it no
But more than enough
That more than one eye
Was watching this spare row
To unseen shores
A boat
To sale free
From cosmic banks
Or goaled claims
And if sow temp
To try land
Wee may very well
Witness yet another
Perfect forum
And only those dolefully miss taken
Call
The fall

This poem is in honor of Fall, and the beautiful seasoning Fall affords.  This poem as a tribute to the perfection of nature and that which gives rise to life.  As might be expected, this poem also slams ingratitude in the face of such awesome and good graces.  Nature revels in itself and God sublimely desires to be holy full of oneself. Witnessing such goings-on strikes me as perhaps the primary purpose of consciousness.  The supreme blessing of consciousness is often overrun by negativity, falling short, the vain grasping of ephemeral realities.  Some of this falling out of the oneness of consciousness is poored in concrete, wanting to secure solid stuff, which also tends to be the most lifeless aspects of creation.  Merely collecting bits and pieces of reality often represents a very poor showing — showing being the complement of witnessing.  The division of conscious experience tends to be an imbalance between the inner and outer life aspects of life.  Some of this falling out of the oneness of consciousness is confining ourselves to our mind, making life academic, hoarding theories and ideologies, dissecting life until life disappears — though much less mysteriously than life peering.  If, instead of witnessing the passing beauty of a butterfly, you prefer collecting their carcasses pinned to specimen cases, then you may fall into this category — being the unchange you want to see in the world.  I strongly suspect that God desires us to experience the fullness of life, not to merely attempt to dutifully collect and accurately describe life’s moving and unmoving parts. Nonetheless, in theology-acide, I would say that the fall is beautiful.

POEM: Are You A Friend of Dorothy?

As a friend of Dorothy Day
I wood ax
More than won quest in
A bout
Her call
As a tenet in passable saint hood
As if a priest to nun
Or mirror lay person
Aborting gaiety
As an infallible sign of God’s presents
Kneaded, sow kneaded
As abandon plays on
The Catholic work her
Inn to their starting lyin’ up
With little roam for others
As prize winning dogmas
For sake others
Worshiping sons of bitches
Of average Joes and Mary not
Engendering grace
Threw con genital souls
Full of wholes
As if litter
Miss carrion
Never coming to term
Without a hitch
Only finding one self
One to an other
Side by side
Fitting awe
For lives filled with scant do
An offering more than
Sum well
Published comic marvel
As if conceivable in a man’s world
A loan
To the wrest of us
She could never look down to prey
And yet sow much
Heaven unearth
Her whole life sew true
And in those untolled smiles spanning eternity
She most lovingly waives
It just
Saint so
What
Ever you due
Don’t save
Awe of the gory
Fore God
As will only
In yore wildest dreams
Hand it
Back to you
With teeming interest
As got yours
And every body ails

This poem was inspired by the occasion of Pope Franky coming to America and highlighting the possibility of Dorothy Day becoming a saint.  This is deeply ironic, since Dorothy Day explicitly did not want to be written off as a saint, but cast her lot with the poor and dispossessed of the world.  As a former atheist who lost the earthly love of her life by converting to Catholicism, which he rejected holy, she was familiar with heartache.  As a women who had an abortion, I find her consideration for sainthood more intriguing.  Her founding role in the Catholic Worker movement challenged and vexed religious folks — and people of faith as well.  Her living with the poor and downtrodden is a model of solidarity.  This poem posits questions of elite status, which she resoundingly rejected, as holy separate from her understanding of Jesus, the spirit of God incarnate.  The title of the poem — Are You A Friend of Dorothy? — is both a question and a reference to the cultural necessity of gay folks needing code words and phrases to navigate in a culture where they are rejected.  Dorothy Day, about as keenly aware of class as possible sought to transcend it.  She was an itinerant peace-monger, ever-seeking creating those sacred spaces where one side fits all. She knew that salvation was not far off, but right in front of us, in awe its gory details.  She knew what second-class citizenship was, not simply by being a woman in a man’s world or a man’s church, but by daring to embrace the poverty of more than one class and bring a bout wealth, and the privilege to serve.  Her rightness with God is dishonored by trying to capture that spirit in the form of graven images, mere token substitutes for her authentically beautiful and unique, but totally accessible life.  I don’t suspect that Dorothy would approve of a title of sainthood.  I do suspect that she would want us to walk with her.  And in this case, that would be walking among the dead and the living, and everywhere in between.

POEM: Innocence — An Owed In A Sense

Her innocence
Was immune to their dis ease
As be wilder
And a tempt
However tempered
Only to be
Dis missed
As just
A guile

His innocence
Deified awe bravery
In the face
Of accusations summoned
As subdude
As never a cur to them
Posing the quest in
Guise will
Be guise

Her bosom leaped
Skipping to a beat
As sir passingly chaste
Giving birth in maternal rapture
Nun the lass
Put out
By those racking up
Scorn points
Holy to be allayed

His heart sang
As here the music
Faced
Temporal forces
Craven reseeding
To proper gate the race
Certifiably birthed
In a heil of ballads
Or castrating scores
Of bullet points
Writing
Him off
In tom foolery or gaiety

Sow
There it is
In a sense
Light as it may be
Worth the wait
Up till
Abated breath

This poem, an ode to innocence, addresses the default cynicism and mistrust in contemporary modern culture.  Innocence is suspect.  Original sin has much more effective branding than original blessing. The unguarded are as likely to be blamed for violations as violators.  Plus, passionate living is often viewed as potentially dangerous.  Freely following one’s passions can often be inconvenient or unnerving to others who might prefer a more staid, predictable environment.  Exercising freedom, by definition, limits the predictability available to those who live alongside you.  Exercise freedom enough to challenge the socializing forces of any given culture and you can expect these forces to provide sanctions designed to exorcise your freedom.  Shame and punishment is a poor trade for the inevitable vagaries of free and passionate living.

This poem, with alternating female and male subjects, also confronts gender roles and their over-sexualization, particularly of women.  Hyper-sexualization is a major means of reducing free human beings to controllable objects, for the proper gating of the race.  Viewing others as free subjects in a shared humanity rather than objects in a controlled environment is essential to the evolution of humanity.

Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of innocence is the shame-free liberation it unleashes.  As a child responds freshly to the world unfolding before them, harmony and positive change become more accessible.  The maturity of experience can bring a disciplined freedom committed to an innocent wildness and natural generosity, even in the face of powerful shaming and sanctions bidding us to sell our freedom for a slice of the take.  May you successfully dance circles around the forces of shaming and punishment, ever inviting others to joyfully join the dance of freedom.

POEM: Wee Lives

Wee live
In a whirled
Determined
To be
Or not to be
Making head weigh
At an impassable gait
In effable hustle
A jeer of our peers
That hurry can knock us down
Or give momentary flights
Holding out that portentous raze
And awe that can be done
As one
Sounds off
Within
The I of the storm
Effacing hail from above
Heavin’ from bellow
It’s awe too big
Wee
Can’t hold it
In feudal urgency
To pee or not to pee
Is not the quest in
Prefiguring some wiz in the sky
Or spitting into the tempest of all
Expect or rating too much
As how many angles can you fit in a pinhead
And still idol minds alike
Sow ponderous
As wee plot a long
Master-full ark
Buoying our grave undertakings
Measured in feat (customarily half-dozin’)
Oar how many pee-wee leagues under the see
As wee under go
The vicious cycle a loan
And presumed raging above
Wile all else
Holy beneath me
Hour lonely consolation prize
An unending stream
Of I cons and effigies
From mobile chimeras
Re-cording virtually everything
Still life un-more
As colored in millions of weighs
Marooned, blue, and doggedly yellow
Leaking buckets of stout meanings
Full only of those flipping angry birds
As we pass on
And piss off
As a gust in this fare whirled
In league with one an other
In choir
How won might
Myth the point
A mist being
Sprayed and neutered
Engendering duplicity
And obscure human rites
From witch
Sow many
Must ultimately depart
A reluctant re-treat
In urgently having to go
And having flailed
In countering a wind wind situation
Must still
Go
Won on won
With our spitting image
Convinced that in what is wasted
Is a 95% solution
Worthy of imbibing
And mirrorly a tad yellow
Satisfied in its reigning from above

This poem juxtaposes many common yet seemingly incongruous themes.  This poem may be prototypical in melding daily life with divine ponderings and cheap jokes related to urination.  I delight in the interplay between such themes, ultimately pointing to the paradoxical reverence of irreverence.  I have little interest in a God distant from everyday life.  I have more interest in the plight of creatures vainly trying to escape their wee lot in life. I root for creatures to find their truest roots.  For me, I find this as a decidedly spiritual project tempered by kicking the buckets of piss and vinegar I find so abundantly.  Go deep or go home…but I repeat myself.

POEM: Paying In Attention – Owed To Mind Fullness

I under stand
You are on
Some kind of in
Stall meant plan
As long
As you still
Pay attention
In do time
I’ll pay for such in deference
Hopefully not the final time
Having been
Pre-disposed
In the passed
And per severe
Beyond just us
And awe claims
Sow gossamer a ledge
Holy prone
Sacred out of my wits
With that owed time religion
Bard none
U of life
Won
As in daze of your
Still
In the hear and now
As I right
A tone
Sublime volume
For all too here
It is
My willing
As well
For give
The ineffable scene
Wear knot all is destined
And only that be
Which under stood
Hear after
That awe in life
Sir passing the grave
Life meeting its maker
Coming a cross
In attention
Out pacing
Thought fullness
Fated to outstrip
Getting just desserts
And given
The wrest is history
To whatever extant
I am
Sow
Inclined
End lessly
App’ed
Too think
For what is mind
For what is yores
In-during-ly
A where-ness
Bequeathing real eyes

This poem is about mindfulness.  This poem is about acceptance, seeing things as they truly are, with a minimum of preconceived notions.  This poem is about intimacy, vulnerability, living openly and freely in a whirled that often runs one over unconsciously, even at the hands of those with good intents.  More specifically, this poem is informed and inspired by my experiences over recent months as a regular bicyclist, since I became car-less.  It has dawned on me that riding my bike amidst distracted and unaware drivers of huge masses of metal, glass, and plastic — formerly known as cars — is a powerful metaphor for my worldview.  Even if highly aware, the power differential possessed by unaware car drivers reliably results in them imposing the cost of their lack of awareness on those less powerful; in this case, a biker.  They are insulated from the feedback, the costs, of their own mindlessness.  I see such mindless, abusive power differentials wreaking havoc on our world most anywhere I look. Only Thing Necessary for Triumph of Evil is for Good Men to do Nothing -- Edmund Burke quote At best, these mindless abuses of privilege (privilege as being on the stronger side of a power differential) are maladaptive.  At worst, these mindless abuses of privilege are the foundation upon which evil can successfully manipulate the unconscious aspects of humanity to its own ends.  In regard to intimacy, I would say that in the car-bicyclist relationship the car-driver represents the antithesis of vulnerability, literally protected by a huge wall of metal, glass, and plastic.  To which the bicyclist offers their bare skin and an oft-ill-fitting plastic helmet for one’s consciousness-bearing noggin.  You can draw your own particular picture of the implications of this larger dynamic played out in our social and political life together.  In the world of urban cycling, let it suffice to say that good intent is not sufficient.  Most drivers who violate your legal right-of-way are palpably repentant after they realize what they have done.  I take great pride in offering my existence as a biker to drivers to help them learn about the existence of other people who are made vulnerable by their mindlessness.  Still, it is I who pays the greater price for this potential evolutionary relationship.  Thus, this poem.

If I am to be run over and killed by a mindless driver, please read this poem at my funeral, and offer this poem to the manslaughterer.  Similarly, I offer myself up in the path of mindless (and mindful) political forces, in hopes of expanding humanity’s potential for evolution.  If I should be run over and killed by some overtly political force, I am sure their are plenty of my other poems appropriate to be read at my memorial.  In any case, wish me luck — if you believe in such things.

I view consciousness, or mindfulness, as the primary force and indicator of human evolution.  I view most of the bad things in this world as a byproduct of a mindfulness deficiency.  Quantitatively, having no one at the wheel allows many, many bad things to happen.  Qualitatively, having people who are aware of their destructive choices and yet still choose them — one definition of sin — is a scary situation because mindfulness alone is insufficient for self-correction.  This is an active disease of the will.  Still, the passivity of the will, of active mindfulness, carries most of the day in most of our everyday lives.  I see that our lives are lived for us, as passive beings, to a larger degree than we live our lives consciously, mindfully.  The epic showdowns between conscious evil and conscious good make for great, even necessary, storytelling, but does not reflect the less sexy, more mundane bulk of our own struggles for increasing consciousness, the prerequisite for any life truly lived.

In the order of consciousness, self-awareness is a prerequisite for any fruitful other-awareness.  Without self-awareness, we will be mired in unending unconscious, biased projections of our self onto the world of other people and things that make up our shared reality.  My love of science is congruent with a desire to have an accurate understanding of our shared reality.  Still, science falls disturbingly silent in addressing one’s inner life, and the ultimate, inescapable assumptions or projections onto other people.  My working assumptions, based on my experience of my own inner life, is that people want to be accepted for who they are, positively appreciated, and want to contribute to a better world, our shared reality.  I willingly project empathy and lovingkindness into the world, in hopes of a better world for all of us.  If this is not what you want, feel free to let me know.    	 Better To be Slapped With The Truth Than Kissed With A Lie -- Russian ProverbIf I stray from these working assumptions, feel free to gently remind me of my deepest commitments.  If I stand clearly apart from these working assumptions, feel free to tell me like it is in no uncertain terms.  As the Russian proverb goes: “Better to be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie.”