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: US Attorney General Jeff Sessions Putting The Zero In Tolerance

The racist and zero tolerant U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is now gearing up to prosecute, imprison, and separate children from their mothers, any refugee seeking asylum from criminal violence in their own country. Perhaps Mr. Sessions, at home with such violence, thinks this will help them feel at home?!  It is perfectly legal to present yourself at the border and request asylum. Sessions is a bully just like his boss. His perverse hope is that by threatening legal asylum seekers he can come closer to his xenophobic wet dream of a wholesale stop to immigrants and refugees. He sees an existential threat from Latin American immigrants and refugees seeking the American dream. Of course, if he can make the American dream a nightmare, problem solved. I guess the flow of Latin Americans into the United States is not his dream of the south rising again…

In response to General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions’ quest to be the swamp he wants in the world, I offer you this FREE POLITICAL POSTER: US Attorney General Jeff Sessions Putting The Zero In Tolerance.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: US Attorney General Jeff Sessions Putting The Zero In Tolerance

Feel free to browse my immigration, refugee and criminal justice system designs.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Trump Calls For Death of Drug Dealers – Pharmaceutical Companies As Corporate Persons?

Prez Donald Trump has called for death to drug dealers. He has been inspired by the war on drugs in the Philippines and China, where drug dealers are executed. I am opposed to the death penalty for anyone, except for corporate persons. Perhaps we should consider revoking the corporate charters of pharmaceutical companies when their drugs kill thousands of people. Killing “corporate persons” was a common practice earlier in American history, when corporations did not meet the public good enshrined in their corporate charter, which allowed for their existence as legal entities. Currently, the opioid epidemic kills tens of thousands of Americans each year and this can be traced directly back to corporate malfeasance.

Our public health would be much better served by nonjudgmental and easily accessible drug treatment for addicts than by returning to failed drug war policies which criminalize and militarize drug war policies. Huge profits in both the legal and illegal drug markets drive the death and destruction wreaked by drug use. Holding pharmaceutical companies accountable for their malfeasance would be a good start, since legal drugs drive the killing of far more Americans than illegal drugs. Then, legalizing drug use, in conjunction with widely available addiction treatment, would be best way to undercut the destructive profit motives in illicit drug markets. Such an approach has proven effective in other countries, and is our best hope for minimizing the ill effects of drug addiction wrought by both legal and illegal drug dealing.  If we are going to kill drug dealers, make it the corporate persons and illegal cartels pushing destruction to reap huge profits.

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FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Republican Leaders Gather To Celebrate Their Tax Scam

Those Who Ignore History Are Doomed To Vote Republican POLITICAL BUTTONThe coalition of deplorables known as the Republican leadership are celebrating the careening success of their ill-considered, hypocritical, and mean-spirited tax scam.  Now, perhaps the only hope for sane Americans is that GOP leaders will stumble over themselves in their greedy sprint to tax giveaways to the wealthiest corporations and richest Americans.  Normally, evil and incompetence are bad things, but my hope is that congressional Republicans and Prez Donald Trump serendipitously meld their evil and incompetence into a glorious failure. In honor of this con of a tax plan, I have created a free anti-Republican poster for your enjoyment and sharing pleasure: Republican Leaders Gather To Celebrate Their Tax Scam. Pay no attention to the elephant in the room.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Republican Leaders Gather To Celebrate Their Tax Scam

Frank Clemente from Huffington Post gets it right with his commentary, The Five Worst Features Of Trump’s New Tax Plan:

Donald Trump’s bad ideas come so fast and furiously it’s sometimes hard to keep track of them all. So in case you missed the release of his revised tax plan earlier this month, below is a quick primer on its five most objectionable features.

If Liberals Hated America, We Would Vote Republican POLITICAL BUTTONAll of the proposals are demonstrably bad for the country, as they would widen income and wealth gaps while risking the funding for important public services. Some of them are, in true Trump style, very lucrative for him and his family. (These proposed tax breaks to him and his family are highlighted in bold italics.) Trump’s plan:

1. Gives multinational corporations with profits stashed offshore a tax cut of up to 550 billion. Big American corporations hold 2.4 trillion in earnings overseas on which they owe up to 700 billion in U.S. taxes. GOP - Greed Over People - POLITICAL BUTTONTrump would cut the tax rate on those offshored profits from 35% to just 10%, raising only about 150 billion. This would hand tax-dodging multinational corporations an undeserved tax break of more than half a trillion dollars.

2. Cuts taxes on hedge funds and other wealthy partnerships by billions of dollars–personally benefitting Trump. Many Wall Street partnerships, private equity firms, real estate and law firms and other big-money outfits choose to incorporate as business partnerships. That lets them pay taxes as individuals not corporations. Trump’s tax plan cuts the tax rate on these so-called “pass-through” entities from currently as high as 40% to just 15%. These businesses already dodge hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. taxes by exploiting the pass-through loophole intended for small businesses. Trump’s tax cut will help them avoid billions more. The owner of several hundred pass-through entities himself, Trump will personally benefit from a massive tax giveaway that’s been appropriately dubbed the “Trump Loophole.”

Support Organized Crime - Vote Republican - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTON3. Slashes the corporate tax rate by nearly 60%. Corporations are already dodging their fair share of taxes at a time when they are enjoying record profits. Only one in ten dollars of federal revenue now comes from corporate taxes, compared to one in three dollars 65 years ago. Rather than fix the problem of rampant corporate tax dodging, Trump’s plan would make it worse by cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to just 15%. This would lose 2.4 trillion over the next decade.

4. Reduces individual income tax rates on the wealthy. Trump adopts a House GOP proposal to cut the top tax rate to 33% (from about 40%), as part of a general lowering and consolidation of tax brackets. Take any conservative position on a social or economic issue and boil away all the rhetoric and what you have left is 'I got mine, screw you' -- Justin Rosario POLITICAL BUTTONEven the conservative Tax Foundation estimates these overall rate reductions will lose almost 2 trillion in revenue over 10 years. And since richer people pay a higher share of their income under the current tax system, a good chunk of that 2 trillion will go to them. If Trump is as wealthy as he says he is, he could benefit handsomely from this big tax cut.

5. Eliminates the estate tax to boost the inheritances of millionaires and billionaires–which will give his heirs a 7 billion tax break. Trump would eliminate the federal estate tax, which is only paid by very wealthy families. Just one in 500 estates is affected today, those worth at least 5.5 million. The estate tax is a small curb on the accumulation of dynastic wealth, and is a key tool in reducing economic inequality. Eliminating the estate tax would lose 270 billion over the next decade. Assuming Trump is worth 10 billion and allowing for expected growth of that fortune, his heirs could gain 7 billion if the estate tax is repealed.

99 percent of Republicans give the rest a bad name POLITICAL BUTTONLike so many of his other ideas, Trump’s tax plan is unjust, ill-informed, and dangerous. It gives more to those who already have a lot, squandering resources we could use to strengthen our communities through public investments in safer roads, better schools, new medical cures and more secure retirements.

Trump’s tax plan ignores the well-established evidence that trickle-down tax policies like he proposes have failed to raise working families’ stalled incomes and have instead increased economic inequality over the past 35 years.

Americans’ patience with public policy that benefits those at the top at the expense of all the rest of us is exhausted. By pushing an extreme example of such policy, Trump once again threatens the social cohesion of our nation.

Please feel free to browse my political designs on hypocritical and mean-spirited Republican leadership.

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…

POLITICAL POEM: Trump Pulls Out As Partners Dumb Found

Trump Pulls Out As Partners Dumb Found

Sow culpable
Too due nothing
President Trump pulls out
What little hand
He had in Mother Earth’s
Safe guarding
His oily and gassy mates
Coal for everyone!
It’s like Christmas!!
And stocks sore
In the after math
Of this unbelievable savior
As he
Really nailed this won
Portending every faux
In ascension into heavin’
His big short
His wee altitude toward clime
Single digit approval
Or not
As what gives
Chump change
In loo of climate change

At Least The War on the Environment is Going Well POLITICAL BUTTONThis poem is in response to President (sic) Donald Trump’s pulling out of the Paris climate change accord.  For badder or worse, this clear signal of climate insanity may provide the best united front yet for international resistance to American hegemony; plus, American abdication of global leadership offers opportunities to forge more sane efforts at worldwide solidarity.

This article says it well, In praise of Trump pulling out of the Paris climate pact:

“To the dismay of our allies, the White House could any day announce the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. But as a patriot and climate activist, I’m not dismayed. I actually want to pull out.Do Not Worry About The Environment - It Will Go Away POLITICAL BUTTON

The value of the Paris Agreement is in its aspirational goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, not in its implementation mechanisms, which are voluntary, insufficient, and impossible to monitor. But that modest goal will be breached shortly, which makes the agreement a kind of fig leaf, offering political cover to those who would soft-pedal the runaway climate crisis a while longer.

The U.N. Conference of the Parties is certainly not the organization to constrain powerful, retrenched fossil fuel interests and other bad climate actors and rogue climate states. The Paris agreement affords oil, gas and coal companies a globally visible platform through which to peddle influence and appear engaged on climate change while lobbying for business as usual. That won’t save the climate.
At what point do we give up wishful, incremental thinking — that reason will prevail, the free market will adjust, the president’s daughter and son-in-law will dissuade him from the worst climaticide, the Democratic Party will do something, or prior policies which tinker on the margins like the Clean Power Plan won’t be totally obliterated?

I’d argue we’ve reached that point. If Trump withdraws from the Paris Agreement, at least we will have clarity instead of false hope.

Who wanted to keep the U.S. in the Paris agreement anyway? People around the world, a majority of Americans, environmentalists and other coastal elites — constituencies for which Trump has shown indifference and/or contempt. Staying in was also favored by Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Peabody coal, eBay, HP, General Mills, Kellogg, Tesla and other multinationals the Trump administration would have preferred to keep happy. But let’s face it, they won’t be all that mad the U.S. is pulling out, and the political impact won’t be all that great.

Neither will the environmental impact. In fact, since the agreement lacks teeth, breaking it won’t have any effect on the climate in the short term. But in the longer term, the shock and rethinking it will cause in some circles just might precipitate political and cultural changes we need to stave off climate cataclysm.

Pulling out of Paris will also give the president a political boost. It gives Breitbart and Fox something to crow about and The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN something that’s not Russia-gate to fret over.

Earth First - We'll Rape the Other Planets Later - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTONDon’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to justify or abet Trump and his supporters in climate denial, and I’m not thinking climate activists and the Trump administration will end up in some the kind of strange-bedfellows embrace. Personally, I loathe this administration and find the president’s actions mean, maleficent, and mendacious, though it’s nothing personal. On my very best days I can eke out a couple minutes of meta loving-kindness meditation for the president as a person, but it’s a struggle.

I welcome pulling out of the Paris agreement because it will disrupt our complacency and strengthen the most vigorous avenues of climate action left to us, which are through the courts and direct citizen action. It lends much more credence to the Our Children’s Trust legal argument that the federal government has utterly failed in its responsibility to consider the long-term impact of carbon emissions. It advances the arguments of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund in their federal lawsuit for the right to a livable climate. And it strengthens the case for climate activists attempting to raise the “necessity defense” as a justification for citizen climate action, as I and my fellow “valve turners” are doing as we face criminal charges for shutting off emergency valves on oil sands pipelines.

I Can't Afford To Be a Republican (neither can the planet!) POLITICAL BUTTONIt’s also true that withdrawal from Paris deprives mainstream environmental organizations and the foundations and funders that guide them of a key deliverable, and that could risk eroding support for them. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. Many of them have pursued an utterly bankrupt strategy of understating the climate problem, negotiating with the fossil fuel industry, and cherry-picking small victories to showcase organizational accomplishments at the expense of a functional movement strategy.

Pulling out of Paris takes false hopes off the table, and opens the way for building an effective climate movement. So as committed climate activist who knows we’re running out of time, I say, let’s get on with it.”

The false propriety of incremental change is being smashed.  Let’s join together as one planet, one humanity, to build a lasting consensus that Mother Earth deserves our love and undying respect.

HOPE POEM: Hope Can Be

Hope can be
Like an animal cornered by a predator
Fighting for life
Hope can be
Like a wisp of smoke
Wafting through the claws of enemies
Hope can be
Like adore number three
A seeding that grand prize of a lifetime
Byway of a constellation prize
Cheep in hand
Not enough to beguile
A way from blazing stars twinkling upon us
Sow far a weigh
Invisible during daze
Soully to serve
That first class purpose
Best suited
Naked to the night
And inextinguishable light

Hope is a common thread in my poems, even in those that deal with brutal injustices.  This poem offers several facets of hope.  Got Hope SPIRITUAL BUTTONHope Trumps Despair PEACE BUTTONFirst, hope can come in the invigorating immediacy of a direct threat where life is literally at stake.  The awakening of purpose in such situations offers a clarity that is often lost in the muddled vagaries of life.  I see hope in this.  Second, hope can appear as a calm, centered, and artfully wise bypassing of confrontations where violence has the upper hand.  This kind of hope lives within a set of rules not dictated by one’s enemies.  Thirdly, this poem lifts up hope rooted soully in undying truths that can fuel patience for life and fearless courage in efface of death.  As hope wends through our lives, and life itself, may we be bound as won accord as we experience hope’s many threads.

POLITICAL POEM: Fighting Exclusively

It was his thing
Fighting exclusively
Battles he could win
His crowning I deal
Never finding himself
On-the-cide of losers
Whirled why’d
Naught ails
But win
Filling his sales
Whatever
He could bye
A captain of destiny
In habiting the same owed ship
Where awe is lost
Save hope
For another class

The modern conservative is engaged in man's oldest exercise in moral philosophy: the search for a moral justification for selfishness -- John Kenneth Galbraith POLITICAL BUTTONTake any conservative position on a social or economic issue and boil away all the rhetoric and what you have left is 'I got mine, screw you' -- Justin Rosario POLITICAL BUTTONThis poem is about doing most anything to win, and where pragmatism provides cover for sociopathy.  What one will not do, that sacred “NO”, defines the boundaries and character of one’s ethical system and ultimate values.  Without “no,” there is only sociopathy, boundless amorality.  This is synonymous with “winning is everything.”  The ability to lose, suffering loss, making sacrifices for a greater good, is at the heart of any mature system of values.  This is not saying that suffering is intrinsically good, but some suffering is a necessary part of any process which seeks to trade up to greater goods.   Our capitalistic culture provides easy cover for amorality, a mysterious “invisible hand” that will turn our selfishness, shortsightedness, and greed into durable goods.  This makes nonsense of literally any system of ethics and human values.  Capitalism is a meat-grinder of all that is human and humane.

In our contemporary context, Donald Trump is the consummate example of “winning is everything,” willing to trample anything and anyone to satisfy his rapacious appetite and infantile desires.  I DON'T ALWAYS LIE, BUT WHEN I DO, I AM DRUNK ON POWER POLITICAL BUTTONHis staggering indifference to coherency is perhaps the best testament to his sociopathy and megalomania.  As his collection of infantile desires churn about from crying to be fed by others, being lulled by the prospect of absolute security, and to poop and have others clean it up, momentary contradictions are twittered away.  During his campaign, Donald Trump illustrated well the height of his foolishness by claiming that he would regulate himself when he was president, even though he considered it his sociopathic duty to behave with no self-regulation in his shady business dealings, his defining “success.”  The fact that so many Americans ate up this pablum attests to the worshipful status of the mythical “invisible hand” at the center of capitalism that will magically fix our bad behavior while encouraging bad behavior (sic).

Though it is any easy target to point out Donald Trump’s extraordinary stockpile of character defects, “winning is everything” is essentially a corollary of electoral politics.  Losers don’t govern.  The threat of apparent helplessness induced by electoral defeat is enough for most politically active human beings to habitually subjugate their highest ideals and dreams.  Ideals and dreams are easy prey in the capitalistic meat-grinder of democracy for sale and ensuing plutocracy/oligarchy/kleptocracy.  The nonnegotiable principals of “losers” are better served outside electoral politics where this different class of human (“losers”) can demonstrate the true winds of change needed for equality and justice for all.  Losers, in terms of electoral politics, are simply those whose basic needs and human rights are not met by the governance of the current rulers in power.  The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings -- Albert Schweitzer quote POLITICAL BUTTONThere are a lot of losers!  When the many “losers” unite in solidarity against the fewer privileged elites, the electoral “winners,” justice is expanded.  You may correctly note that in this equation the truest source and force for justice for all resides with the “losers.”  Truth is on the side of the oppressed. Malcolm X quote POLITICAL BUTTONWhen people with “skin in the game,” whether from involuntary disenfranchisement or in voluntary solidarity, confront those with soothing privilege, truth and justice favor the side off the oppressed.  May all of the “losers” of the world unite!

POLITICAL POEM: Trump U Verses Screw U

O pose
The establishment
Of his style
Outside is in
Down with up
As drive in reveres
“I love sow and sow more than anyone”
And awe
That is
Con men
Selling Brooklyn bridges
To no where
That is good
The big apple buying the farm
As if
Building no hows
With less than for walls
One card to trump them all
A big hand
In no need
To play with a full deck
Holding his own
Against women and labor
And everything in between
Winner loose
Screw U

Washington And Wall Street Have All The Money And Power, The Media, The Courts And The Police -- All We Have is 300 Million People -- Do The Math POLITICAL BUTTONAs Donald Trump moves from his many business scams such as Trump University to his latest and biggest scam, running the U.S. government into fiscal and moral bankruptcy, he will take the American people to school concerning authoritarianism and oligarchy with massive xenophobia.  Trump’s vacuous grandiosity may fool a few desperate for change, but his histrionic casino regime will produce many losers and few winners — a rich man here, a fascist there.  His parochial nationalism, riddled with partisan policies and incoherent rants, will chop this nation into ever smaller pieces.  The one hope to overcome such sectarianism is a unified opposition resisting in solidarity with one another, having each other’s back.  A love of the planet and the rest of humanity wouldn’t hurt either!  A longshot would be that running American empire into the ground might be the most practicable route to a better world.  People Before Profits POLITICAL BUTTONTrump loves creating chaos, betting that power and privilege can profit off crisis and uncertainty.  While this approach may seem new, and perhaps ripe for change, in contrast to the stultifying certainty and fixation on calculable security of traditional elites, it is simply the other favorite tool of power and privilege, though typically reserved for widespread use in imperial rule outside the U.S.  Bringing chaos and crisis home as the preferred governing mode is dangerous to civil society and democracy.  We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools -- Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONThe answer to such a challenge wrests in the creativity and unflagging unity of those subject to such an assault.  Creativity trumps chaos.  Solidarity trumps divide and conquer strategies.  May we revel in creative resistance and overwhelming solidarity!

POLITICAL POEM: Unite In The Write

Poets of the world unite
Delivering a bill of writes
To the regressive elite
And overcompensating narcissists
May the love of word in deed
Translate into a raging river of love
Pounding against that professed shore thing
Strait from the art
Sailing that authorship of see change
For good
Wresting in the hearts and hands
Of awe around US
For wee
Will
Make it
Sow

Non Violent Revolutionaries Raze Hell -- POLITICAL BUTTONThis poem is a call to all poets, writers, musicians, artists, and all creative human beings to put their lives and work on the line for justice for all.  Artists Make Lousy Slaves POLITICAL BUTTONCreating a beautifully compassionate and life-affirming world is the greatest work of heart that creative people can embark upon.  Art is pivotal in expressing sumptuous resistance and inspiring hope and sustained action.  As the saying goes, “I won’t join any revolution that I can’t dance to!”  Weather your most cherished struggle is smashing patriarchy, overthrowing oligarchy, routing racism, or pioneering peace, we should join won another in an unstoppable dance party of solidarity and mutual support.  Be the beautiful revolutionary that will yearn the weigh in the triumph of humanity.

rEVOLution is the Solution (LOVE) - POLITICAL BUTTONLearn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist -- Pablo Picasso quote POLITICAL BUTTONNice Day For A Revolution POLITICAL BUTTON

POLITICAL POEM: In Daze Not To Follow

The plantation had fallen
Into this repair
As fore many
Present
Work
Over and above
The well, known
Used
Too deep scars
And familiar ditches dug
Subject to an other privilege
However bound
Too knew found freedom
And worldwide travails
In daze not to follow
As anew master
What is foremost if not awe
As the perennial struggle
Only partially one
Pregnant with possibility
Poised as a new virgin of reality
Offering womb to grow
And inescapably bringing labor wince again
As tender feat must come to terms
With maturity
Of awe that is
Never still
Borne
So exceptionally sow

While I wrote this poem long before Donald Trump’s election, I am offering this poem as an inauguration poem.  This poem addresses two major realities which are often met with conflicting attitudes.  The first reality is that we live in a nation and a world far from justice for all.  Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere--Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONThere are endemic, chronic injustices which bear heavily on the daily realities of countless millions of people.  This can be dreadfully depressing and diabolically disheartening.  The second reality is that every disappointing condition can be met with our higher, better selves and serve as an invitation to build solidarity with others experiencing injustice to create a better future.  Also, there is hope in the fact that persons who have experienced chronic injustice, for years or generations, have developed hardy and hearty abilities to cope and combat protracted injustice.  This reservoir of collective experience, skills, and hope for a better future may very well be the most positive force on earth.  This poem’s opening line alludes to the centuries-long battle for racial justice fought by the descendants of slaves against virulent racism and ever-morphing Jim Crow laws.  The Black Lives Matter movement is yet another creative continuation of this ongoing struggle.   Truth is on the side of the oppressed. Malcolm X quote POLITICAL BUTTONIn the short run, those living by the short run seem to have the advantage.  However, in the long run, those committed to the long haul, transgenerational justice, are greatly advantaged in bringing about better answers to the eternal human questions.  The apparent reality that eternal human questions can not be fully and finally solved on this earth is not an adequate excuse for cynicism.  Better is better and worse is worse.  Apologists preying on divisions in humanity for their own easy profit are as shortsighted as they are inhumane.  Donald Trump may be the king of profiting off of easy-to-divide scenarios where the well-heeled are well suited to make a killing from the ensuing chaos and trauma.  Globalize THIS - RESISTANCE [earth graphic] POLITICAL BUTTONThe answer to the stupid question that is Donald Trump is unyielding solidarity with the whole of humanity and transform the cowardly profits of injustice through the courageous cost of justice borne by all people of good will.  May we find the courage to put whatever skin is necessary into the game to assure overwhelmingly abundant opportunities for justice to prevail.  May our labors give berth to wondrous new realities.

POEM: Colloquial He

1. He lived
2. In a particular time
3. In a particular place
And one
Of his many editors
Proferred the generic claim
Putting fourth
That he rote
Colloquially
And to this brand of righting
He gave his highest, a word
Possible
And thank you awe
For such an empyreal suggestion
And complimentary red pen

This poem harkens back to a comment I had from an editor of my college newspaper, of which I was a columnist.  She noted that “I wrote colloquially.”  I think that this was meant as a negative critique.  I noted that I like to write colloquially.  How quaint.

One thing I find funny about this exchange is that to in order say that I wrote using regional language or the expressions of a particular time and place, she had to use, what in the vernacular might be said to be a “two-dollar word,” a word like “colloquial.”  I use two-dollar words frequently, and even fashion new priceless words as I seize fits.  Though, for awe of these two-dollar words and priceless locution locution locution, like Forrest Gump observed, I haven’t seen any of that money.

Another thing funny about this exchange was that she made this comment from across the great inland sea known as Lake Michigan, she studying in an off-campus internship in Chicago, and I in Holland, Michigan, on the Hope College campus.  To many of us hackneyed Midwesterners, we can drum up little reverence for the cosmopolitan weighs of metropolitan elites, of which she may have come under their sway.  We inherently trust real people and are casually suspicious of wannabes, who more often than not are going no place better, but much faster.

As a recovering abstract intellectual, I can relate to the quest for universality.  Nonetheless, I have found that this often degrades beautiful local realities and majestically loco characters.  Wherever we live, we live in local circumstances.  Live and Let Live SPIRITUAL BUTTONI seek to live into my singular circumstances without any particular imperial ambitions.  I will not insist that you misunderstand me in a certain way.  Still, I am open to empyreal suggestions…

POEM: Hell In A Handbasket

I would rather live…
In a trailer
That proverbial mobile homme
Seeing stars when roofs are razed
And nothing but realty at my back
As awe of creation is present
As I am
Looked down upon
Wading patiently fore that noonday star
When every real Job calls it a day
…Than exist
In a fool length feature
That mansion of a handbasket
With mirror interior decorating
Magnificent all the same
In funhouse pleasures
Overlooking up
In efface of the bottom of men’s soles
Knowing not what frees us

Foolishness and wisdom look different and produce different results.  Better to have a life well spent than merely saved.  Conventional wisdom often mistakes comfort for happiness, a grand foolishness.  High success and high status are virtually indistinguishable.  As the addled adage goes: winning is everything.  Wise souls are far too ardent and awe encompassing to abide only within the rules defined by one culture and one generation, one place and time.  Faith Trumps Skepticism PEACE BUTTONWisdom is necessarily counterculture, precisely because it seeks to move that culture, any culture, to a greater wisdom.  Acting within such a greater wisdom, not yet carrying the day, perhaps even amid night, often appears foolish.  Acting “as if” something is true is an existential conundrum we all face if we want to be more than what we are now, if we want the world and the rules by which it acts to be more than what they are at any given time.  Suspending disbelief is part and parcel for acting to perform its human artistry, and all of the world is a stage.  There are great truths in stories that never happened.  There are great truths in lives whose stories are bigger than one soul can live.  Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase. MLK QUOTE BUTTONAbout now, the postmodern brain must choose between serving only that within its reach or venturing to awe that the heart compasses.  Fools are conventionally portrayed as having an addled brain, which is infinitely better than having an addled heart.  This poem compares wholehearted living with merely existing — whatever the sum of our daze.  A willingness to be viewed as a fool by the conventionally wise may very well be the difference between heaven and hell.  Fools invite others into a better possible world, however improbable, not a theater of the absurd.  Typically, others are busy doing something else, absurdly similar to those around them.

In contemporary times, live theater has largely been replaced by movies [dead theater?].  This poem compares living, in a movie trailer, to merely existing “In a fool length feature.”  And as we all know, movie trailers are quite reliably better than the full-length feature.

FAITH is greater than FEAR SPIRITUAL BUTTONOne of the great dramas on life’s sufferings, unfulfilled longings, and doubt versus suspending disbelief is the story of Job in the Bible.  As the ever-hopeful person that I am, I was reminded of Job 11:17 “Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning.”  Such poetry!  Here is the whole chapter, as the lineup of doubters mock Job’s enduring faith:

Are all these words to go unanswered?
   Is this talker to be vindicated?
Will your idle talk reduce others to silence?
   Will no one rebuke you when you mock?
You say to God, ‘My beliefs are flawless
   and I am pure in your sight.’
Oh, how I wish that God would speak,
   that he would open his lips against you
and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom,
   for true wisdom has two sides.
   Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.
Can you fathom the mysteries of God?
   Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
They are higher than the heavens above — what can you do?
   They are deeper than the depths below — what can you know?
Their measure is longer than the earth
   and wider than the sea.
If he comes along and confines you in prison
   and convenes a court, who can oppose him?
Surely he recognizes deceivers;
   and when he sees evil, does he not take note?
But the witless can no more become wise
   than a wild donkey’s colt can be born tame.
Yet if you devote your heart to him
   and stretch out your hands to him,
if you put away the sin that is in your handYou will not enter paradise until you have faith, and you will not complete your faith until you love one another. Muhammad quote PEACE BUTTON
   and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,
then, free of fault, you will lift up your face;
   you will stand firm and without fear.
You will surely forget your trouble,
   recalling it only as waters gone by.
Life will be brighter than noonday,
   and darkness will become like morning.
You will be secure, because there is hope;
   you will look about you and take your rest in safety.
You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid,
   and many will court your favor.
But the eyes of the wicked will fail,
   and escape will elude them;
   their hope will become a dying gasp.

May we awe find, life during whatever daze might be present.

POEM: Just Dew It

Round
Mid night
Countless drops
Fall free
In to the loving alms
Of Mother Earth
Making a mud pact
With trees, meadow, and flower
To dew wet sow ever
They thirst for

Life has an incredible capacity for renewal.  As the snows begin falling in this winter season, this poem can serve as a reminder that we are one day closer to spring.  They can cut all the flowers, but they can never stop the spring -- Pablo Neruda quote POLITICAL BUTTONEven spring in awe of its glory is not my favorite season, due primarily to its muckiness.  I, as most humans, have an incredible capacity to see what I don’t like about something.  As winners of discontent, it is easy to see the parent flaws in creation, weather it be subzero temps or mucky life springing forth.  Nonetheless, in life’s absences or parent death, summer in due course rounds the coroner transcending hour brutal figurings.  Even fall has a frolicsome way of upstaging the looming death weave awe faced.  Still, the con founding cycles of loss and renewal, life and death, seem to fallow us through life.  After witnessing countless of these cycles, how many more must we witness to deem them reliable, trustworthy?

I am a fan of the simple comic genius of the movie, Being There, a more spare forerunner to Forrest Gump.  This movie is a conflagration of innocent naivete and mighty inanity.  In Being There, starring peter Sellers, as Even on the road to hell, flowers can make you smile. Deng Ming-Dao quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON“a simple-minded gardener named Chance has spent all his life in the Washington D.C. house of an old man. When the man dies, Chance is put out on the street with no knowledge of the world except what he has learned from television. After a run in with a limousine, he ends up a guest of a woman (Eve) and her husband Ben, an influential but sickly businessman. Now called Chauncey Gardner, Chance becomes friend and confidante to Ben, and an unlikely political insider.”  A signature dialogue in the movie juxtaposes the simple experience of a gardener, naive in the ways of the world, with the dinnertime musings of Washington power brokers:

President “Bobby”: Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?
[Long pause]
Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
President “Bobby”: In the garden.Raise your words, not voice; it is rain that grows flowers, not thunder -- Rumi quote POLITICAL BUTTON
Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
President “Bobby”: Spring and summer.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
President “Bobby”: Then fall and winter.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the seasons of our economy.
Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
Benjamin Rand: Hmm!
Chance the Gardener: Hmm!
President “Bobby”: Hmm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I’ve heard in a very, very long time.
[Benjamin Rand applauds]
President “Bobby”: I admire your good, solid sense. That’s precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.

God reigns on…the just and the unjust.  It is hours to thirst for righteousness and feed the dewy dreams of one another:  To dew wet sow ever/They thirst for.

POEM: Unforgettable

She was a spark
Spanning but instant generations
Clothed in stardust
Naked to that place before birth and after death
As thought of God
Less of a dream
More of a smile
Merging within that space-time continuum
On the face of awe that is
A hopeful fuel
In the tinderest of worlds
As an owed flame
Meeting for the first time
Caught up
Not in making memories
Sow much as the unforgettable

This poem is about human life lived in the presents of our mystical or divine nature which is both immediate and ceaseless.   To love another person is to see the face of God. Victor Hugo, Les Miserables quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONThe joy and assurance of ever-fresh possibilities and abiding, sublime companionship sets the bar much higher for what a full life encompasses.  A full life is leavened by unforgettable experiences more sow than a mere collection of memories.  Life is more fully characterized by lively experiences than sheer existence.  This poem seeks to present a daringly dual encounter of both first love and oldest friend, the simultaneous experience of the freshness of emerging love and the comfort of a steadfast confidant.  May your life be steeped in such marvelous moments.

Being A hopeful fuel/In the tinderest of worlds speaks to the vulnerability of unabashed hope and irrepressible joy in a world that is far too fixated on command and control, and is busied with armor more than amour.  May love overwhelm your every defense.  May your life be less about getting and more about un-forgetting.

Got Joy SPIRITUAL BUTTON

HOPE POEM: Why God Invented Dark

God invented dark
As a respite
From high noon
That searing sun
Of which mortal men are made
To see
Sow much more
Innumerable lofty stars
Unseen in mere day dreams
Beyond won’s highest hopes
Awe at once
A mist unbelievably rare life
Thou dust hold together
Awe that matters
When noonday returns

Here is yet another poem about hope, just in case you may need to re-stock, or stock up.  Life is replete with cycles.  Only in the darkness can you see the stars. MLK QUOTE BUTTONDay and night, sleep and wakefulness.  Opposites teem in a paradox packed reality.  Belief and skepticism are life-long dance partners.  Our quest for unity requires acceptance of diversity.  The immeasurable value of life is most evident in the face of death.

Taoists seem to have the keenest awareness of the importance of opposites and their complimentary nature.  That the nature of something is inextricably bound to its opposite, or even comes from its opposite, is mind-boggling.  The mind reaches one of its natural limits when it comes to logical contradictions.  Of course, the Taoists’ purpose is not to jar the mind, but un-jar the mind — and free up the heart.

Hope is the purview of the heart.  Hope may not make cents for those demanding a foolproof return on their investment.  Delving into the vital depths of paradoxes and life’s necessary contradictions is not for the fainthearted.  Wholehearted living demands assent and even gusto in the thralls of uncertainty and unpredictability in order to make the most of life.  Hope is the life-blood of an entrepreneurial life spirit.  The attachment to conventional power — those well-known levers of control — and the insistence on dominion over others, is the nemesis of hope.  Hope arises from a place beyond mere control.  Hope, awash in possibility, is an existential reality ever-present on the threshold of human life.

For many, the contemporary context for this poem is a looming Donald Trump presidency.  Many fear that their existence may be taxed beyond bearing.  This is undoubtedly true for some.  Still, the contrasting values brought forth by the Don’s cartel will as surely offer high relief.  Once Game Over King and Pawn Go Back in Same Box -- PEACE QUOTE BUTTONStarker choices can favor moral humans as much or more than amoral or immoral humans.  If you want presumed victory, take the sociopath, limiting the struggle to the well-worn levers of control.  If you want more, let your heart take hope, take time to see the light amidst the darkness, and listen intently to whatever maybe herd for the duration of human game.

POEM: Unleashed

As anger and grief morphs
Into the habits and vagaries of daily life
The heart is circled by its waggin’s
In loo of revolutions more roil
As if
Too be stuck
In
The mettle
Only to be
Haunted by cursory echoes
Of lives a custom to be frayed
Of what might be
Stranded
Into the unbreakable
Accord
As knot the tear or stricken
And still
The heart fastens
Awe that grows
Unleashed

This poem addresses the challenges of palpable anger and grief “normalizing” as time goes on.  The necessities and sheer habits of everyday living bear down on overflowing passions, often sublimating such powerful emotions into more comfortable or familiar patterns.  This can tamp down more revolutionary impulses for changes in life.  Such coping is commonplace.

Such a process causes me to reflect on the current post-election era.  The System Was Never Broken It Was BUILT That Way - POLITICAL BUTTONI remember the outrage when Baby Bush beat Al Gore only with the intervention of the Supreme Court, in the face of a popular vote loss and electoral college squeaker fraught with voting irregularities and inadequacies.  I noted how the un-sexy issue of the mechanics of voting and elections receded from consciousness in due course within a matter of months.  Multiple presidential election down the road, many of these election and voting deficiencies continue largely unfixed.  The electoral college has taken US to school again!  Plus, the striking down of key elements of the Voting Rights Act has left state-level shenanigans with voter suppression to run rampant.  Add in the increasingly surreal gerrymandering of voting districts and the democratic process is literally moot for most of America in national elections.

While our national democracy stays the course on being massively dysfunctional at so many levels, this election cycle, a vicious cycle, is a quantum leap in dangerous effect.  Stop Hate STOP Sign -- POLITICAL BUTTONThe sexism, racism, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant xenophobia reached for new heights and historic lows during the campaign.  Women, people of color, Muslims, and immigrants have legitimate reasons to worry on both a daily basis and what looms in the future.  Misogyny, white supremacy, and xenophobic nationalism are being baked into the Donald Trump regime.  While in many ways this is nothing new to disenfranchised folks, the stunning respectability of sexual assault braggadocio, scorn of Black Lives Matter, collusion with white supremacists, and a national fortress mentality could easily converge into the most authoritarian presidential administration in our lifetimes, if not ever, in America.

This poem is a warning of the dangers of “normalization,” and a call to the difficult, lifelong, trans-generational work that needs to be done.  Courage Trumps Fear PEACE BUTTONI don’t believe that such work can be done unless it is equipped with hope.  This poem culminates in the hope that by reaching deep and going long the solidarity of wholehearted people will supply needed power to resolute minds and steadfast hands to further incarnate seemingly impossible justice for all.

Dealing with endemic injustices calls for a demanding balance between daily coping and cultivating a long-haul way of life that shrewdly generates and regenerates, creates and recreates, produces and reproduces just and heartening habits of behavior and ways of being in the world.  Will the better side of America prevail over the genocide of America?  We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools--Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONAll I can say is that when sides are drawn, I know which side I hope and plan to be on.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. so plainly observed and prophesied, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”  Though I would update this a bit and expect to see sisters steadfastly leading this fight.  Some things don’t change.  This can be a good thing.

 

SHIFT HAPPENS POLITICAL BUTTONThe Ones Who Are Crazy Enough To Think They Can Change The World Are The Ones Who Do POLITICAL BUTTONAll the darkness in the world could not put out the light of one small candle. Jewish Holocaust victim's epitaph POLITICAL BUTTON

The Enemy Is Fear. We Think It Is Hate, But It is Fear -- Gandhi quote POLITICAL BUTTONFear does not prevent death; it prevents life --Nagub Mahfouz quote POLITICAL BUTTONLife shrinks or expands according to one's courage --Anais Nin quote POLITICAL BUTTON

POEM: That Arguable Grip

He argued
Fore cynicism
Farced to choose between
What’s left
What is right
And he one handily
With won hand tied behind his back
Soundly
Like the slow clap
With the only hope
That he is not contagious
And that joy can be found in abandon
In the grip of whatever he comes up with

This poem continues in my perpetual theme of cynicism versus hope, with a tip of the hat to the post-election ennui experienced by much of the American electorate and non-electorate.  Like I have been known to say: cynicism is its own reward.  Got Cynicism SPIRITUAL BUTTONThis poem awards cynicism with one of my favorite insulting critiques: cynicism is like masturbation, except without the short-term pleasures or long-term benefits.  While experiencing the grip of cynicism qualifies as normal, cynicism strikes me as a profoundly maladaptive response to building a long-term, hope-filled relationship with reality.  If you argue for cynicism, on whose side are you on?  Of course, misery loves company.  Incorporate that company in your worldview and you win amputated possibilities and learned helplessness.  Cynicism is locked in lamentable necessity and wretched necessities.  The cynic says, 'One man can't do anything.' I say, 'Only one man can do anything.' John W. Gardner quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONHope lives in possibility and possibilities ordered by our deepest dreams.  Hope accepts the hard work of recognizing that our stymied yearnings are more of a reflection of the depth of our longings than mirror confirmation of our foes’ oafishness.  Cynicism is fueled by the easy focus on others’ shortcomings.  Hope is fed by the steadfast convergence of dreams and dreamers.  It is easy to fall for seasons of cynicism and its many accomplices; I only ask that we keep the spring of hope in the lineup and work to swell the list of usual suspects…

Enthusiasm Trumps Cynicism PEACE BUTTONThe first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings -- Albert Schweitzer quote POLITICAL BUTTON

POEM: Gordian Knot — Owed To Mother Hope

Reality can be a mother
Halving given
Cynicism wide berth
Big brother
Too hope
A mist
Crying incessantly
And the crapping of won’s pants
Entrapped
Flanked by sterility and fertility
Fenced buy utility and futility
Until something
Something all inspiring
Ever knew
But barely seed
Shh
It happens
As springing from dis illusion
And groan together
From that exasperating brood
In awe
That kin be done
And what might be
A parent
Or knot

This poem arose this day from the comment of a friend who did not see hope where I saw some, and yet he still hopes.  As a poet, I often see humanity in an epic struggle between cynicism and hope.  Idealists Raze Hell -- POLITICAL BUTTONHell is where hope is abandoned, to allude to Dante.  Heaven is where hope flourishes.  Hope Trumps Despair PEACE BUTTONAs John Paul Sartre, the existentialist philosopher and author, wrote famously in his play, No Exit, “Hell is other people.”  Know argument here.  Of course, I wholed to the other half of truth, as well: Heaven is other people.  Solidarity trumps alienation.  Hope is the better portion of reality, that mother that teaches us sow much.  Those caught in the mine of this earth may argue quite rationally that hope is the leanest in the efface of the meanest.  Still, hope strikes me as both the lightest and most profound portion in the efface of darkness.  Life and death.  Heaven and Hell.  Hope and cynicism.  The thin line between genius and insanity is less of a border than a union. Stuart Hayes quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONWho dares dance in their mist?  Many people at most times choose to fight over merely what they halve — that is given.  Fortunately, we don’t have to live in most times.  We only have to live in the present.  Let hope be the present.

As I am prone to obscure references, I must note the meaning of Gordian knot, though you may myth the point with or without it.  A Gordian knot is often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem (disentangling an “impossible” knot) solved easily by loophole or “thinking outside the box” (“cutting the Gordian knot”):

In Greek and Roman mythology, the Gordian knot was an extremely complicated knot tied by Gordius, the king of Phrygia in Asia Minor. Located in the city of Gordium, the knot came to symbolize a difficult problem that was almost impossible to solve.

According to legend, Gordius was a peasant who married the fertility goddess Cybele. When Gordius became king of Phrygia, he dedicated his chariot to Zeus and fastened it to a pole with the Gordian knot. Although the knot was supposedly impossible to unravel, an oracle predicted that it would be untied by the future king of Asia.

Many individuals came to Gordium to try to undo the knot, but they all failed. Then, according to tradition, the Greek conqueror Alexander the Great visited the city in 333 B . C . After searching unsuccessfully for the hidden ends of the Gordian knot, Alexander became impatient. In an unexpected move, he took out his sword and cut through the knot. Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them. Albert Einstein quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONAlexander then went on to conquer Asia, thus fulfilling the oracle’s prophecy. Alexander’s solution to the problem led to the saying, “cutting the Gordian knot,” which means solving a complicated problem through bold action.

May you live in the won reality where everything is knot as it seams.