FREE Gun Control POSTER: Prez Donald Trump and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions – We will enforce existing gun laws with the same gusto we have to repeal those same gun laws

In keeping with the great American political tradition of hypocrisy, Prez Donald Trump and Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions took a play right out of the NRA playbook in calling for enforcement of existing gun laws, all the wile trying to repeal every gun law they can. Of course, this NRA complicity fits perfectly with the Republican practice of putting wolves in charge of the chicken coop, even regularly appointing people who want to eliminate the very agency they are supposed to administer. While in most cases, this is like euthanasia, in the case of gun laws, it’s more like mass murder.

To this deathly end, I give you today’s free political poster: Prez Donald Trump and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions – We will enforce existing gun laws with the same gusto we have to repeal those same gun laws.

FREE Gun Control POSTER: Prez Donald Trump and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions - We will enforce existing gun laws with the same gusto we have to repeal those same gun laws.ai

Please feel free to browse my sensible gun laws designs.

RAMBO JESUS: Taking U.S. To School – Salvation is in Hand – This Time You’ll Pay For Your Own Sins

In surreal fashion, I await for the U.S. followers of The Prince of Peace to provide moral leadership in fighting the unrelenting epidemic of mass shootings carried out with military-style guns. Perhaps U.S. Christians are too busy making plans to escort their children to school in tactical gear and scheduling armed posses to patrol school grounds. Of course, Jesus will be by their side, to the end of time. In times of prayers and preyers, perhaps they are asking, “Which assault rifle would Jesus use?” Right-wing American Christians seem comfortable relying on supreme military might and households full of guns to deal with neighbors both nearby and afar. Their one crucifixion to rule them all seems to offer carte blanche to kill whichever chosen people their tribe sees unfit. Gee, that couldn’t backfire at all [insert sarcasm here]. Of course, if sacrificial love to the point of death was easy, then everybody would be doing it. I’m not surprised that people are afraid and want their guns, or hired mercenary guns, to protect their interests, just let U.S. stop pretending that it’s Christian. This hypocrisy just adds insult to injury. Such lethal hypocrisy is worthy of mocking. In that spirit, please feel free to meditate upon this political cartoon: RAMBO JESUS: Taking U.S. To School – Salvation is in Hand – This Time You’ll Pay For Your Own Sins.

RAMBO JESUS: Taking the U.S. To School - Salvation is in Hand - This Time You'll Pay For Your Own Sins

Also, please feel free to browse my peace and gun violence prevention designs.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Donald Trump Swamped With Taxing Situations, Declares MOST UNDRAINING EVER!

Donald Trump’s promise to “Drain the swamp” from Washington, DC, is perhaps his most surreal promise of all. Today, President Donald Trump is campaigning for Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been facing mounting credible evidence of his predatory sexual behavior, especially against teen girls. Roy Moore has proven himself a liar, not that The Don has a problem with that.  With Roy Moore, Donald Trump wants to fill the swamp, officially bringing pedophilia to the Senate. Of course, Trump’s cabinet and advisers are replete with long-time corporate and political insiders. Trumpcare and the Republican tax scam were literally written by corporate tools and lobbyists.  To top it off, the Trump administration is on course to be the most corrupt Washington administration in history.  The Don may make Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon look like an amateur criminal.  As Prez Donald Trump becomes increasingly unhinged, swamped with taxing situations, he arrogantly declares, “MOST UNDRAINING. EVER.” Thus, I have created a free political poster: Donald Trump Swamped With Taxing Situations, Declares MOST UNDRAINING EVER!  Please enjoy and feel free to share with friends and enemies.FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Donald Trump Swamped With Taxing Situations, Declares MOST UNDRAINING EVER!

For another perspective on the “drain the swamp” landscape, try this commentary, Trump Made the Swamp Worse. Here’s How to Drain It:

Donald Trump’s pledges to “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington attest to his genius for unintentional irony. Nepotism, egregious conflicts of interest, flights on the public dime to see Wimbledon and the eclipse — the Beltway wetlands are now wilder and murkier than ever.

It would be a mistake, though, to dismiss the swamp metaphor on account of Mr. Trump’s hypocrisy. You can’t make sense of his shocking victory last year without reference to the downward spiral of public faith in governing elites and established institutions. Years of stagnating incomes, combined with dimming prospects for the future, have primed voters for the message that the system is “rigged” and that only an outsider not beholden to the corrupt establishment can clean it up.

In other words, one key to this populist moment in American politics is the link in the public mind between dysfunction in Washington and the economic malaise of the 21st century. An effective political response to this perilous moment begins with the recognition that this link is real — and that key changes in the policymaking process, supported by a major push from organized philanthropy, will be needed to turn things around.

The image of the swamp conveys a profound truth about the American economy. Our predicament of slow growth and sky-high inequality has many causes, but one important factor is the capture of the American political system by powerful insiders — big businesses, elite professionals, wealthy homeowners — that use it to entrench their own economic power. In so doing, they protect themselves from competition, fatten their bank accounts with diverted wealth and slow the creative destruction that drives economic growth.

Four key policy areas shed light on the growth of this political-economic swamp — financial regulation, intellectual property, occupational licensing and zoning. They show that the swamp isn’t confined to Washington; it can also be found in 50 state capitals and countless local jurisdictions.

Continue reading the main story
In the financial sector, a web of regulatory subsidies sustains financial institutions’ unhealthy reliance on extremely high levels of debt. These subsidies, including policies that strongly encourage mortgage securitization as well as the implicit promise to bail out “too big to fail” institutions, swell profits in the near term while increasing the systemic risk of a catastrophic meltdown in the long run. The result is a financial sector much bigger than the economy needs, chronic misallocation of capital and the diversion of some of the country’s top talent into counterproductive work. Luring people into excessive debt, draining their savings with hidden fees, inflating the next asset bubble — these and other dubious “contributions” by finance to the economy need to be curtailed.

Intellectual property laws are supposed to encourage innovation by granting temporary monopolies to copyright and patent holders. But if those monopolies get too broad and too onerous, innovation takes a hit — and that is precisely what has happened, at the urging and for the benefit of Hollywood, Big Pharma and some interests in Silicon Valley.

Occupational licensing rules at the state level help explain why professionals in the United States are paid so much more than their peers in other countries. Primary care physicians, for example, make 50 percent more in the United States than in other advanced countries, and specialists do even better. State regulations protect the incomes of doctors, dentists, undertakers and optometrists — not to mention makeup artists and auctioneers — while also stifling innovation.

Increasingly severe constraints on building in high-income coastal cities inflate the asset values of affluent homeowners, contributing significantly to rising disparities in wealth. And by making housing unaffordable, they prevent the less well-off from moving to where the good-paying jobs are, reducing geographic and social mobility.

This regressive regulatory swamp isn’t a natural landscape; it grows because of forces in our political environment. The beneficiaries of upward redistribution are always far more organized than those who pay the costs. They can divert some of their artificially high profits into lobbying and policy research that bestow a patina of the public interest on schemes that are, in practice, legalized robbery. Drugmakers, for example, portray even the most modest retrenchment of patent law as catastrophic for American innovation, while financiers warn that any restraint on subsidized risk-taking (through higher capital requirements, for example) will starve American industry of the capital it needs to invest and grow.

This unequal battle for the minds of policymakers is particularly damaging at a time when the resources that Congress and the bureaucracy have for independent research have been systematically dismantled. In finance, in particular, Congress has a difficult time hiring and retaining staff with the technical knowledge and experience to assess the impact of new regulations, leaving them dependent on the abundant resources of the industry itself.

In addition, many regressive regulations are made in obscure places with limited participation, such as state licensing boards and town councils in charge of approving new housing. Insiders with narrow interests, whether self-serving professional groups or Nimby neighbors, have the motivation and resources to show up at poorly attended meetings and work the system, often at odds with the general public’s interest in low prices and economic opportunity.

Really draining the swamp means changing the policymaking process to shield it against insider takeover and manipulation. For starters, congressional staffs need to be expanded, upgraded and professionalized. Legislators would then be better able to make their own assessments of complex regulatory issues without having to depend on the biased expertise of industry lobbyists.

Philanthropists need to put their dollars behind a network of organizations to counter the organizational presence of the forces of upward redistribution. The Ford Foundation did this in the 1970s by investing in a network of environmental law firms like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund. More recently, the Eli and Edythe Broad, Walton Family, Robertson and other charitable foundations have made similar investments in educational reforms.

Whatever you think of the merits of these causes, the new interest groups funded by sustained philanthropy changed the political landscape in these issue areas, forcing policymakers to recognize that there were, in fact, two sides to be considered. A network of new organizations with the resources and expertise to compete with big banks, the medical lobby and other industry groups could have a similar impact today. Activist groups could show up regularly in all the obscure places where rules are set and make sure that someone speaks up for the public interest.

State and local governments need to institute regulatory review procedures that expose back-room deals to objective scrutiny. While cost-benefit analysis by the Office of Management and Budget is standard for new federal regulations, no such reviews are conducted when states propose to license new occupations or cities stymie new housing construction.

Courts at all levels need to be less deferential to regulatory schemes that — in contrast to environmental or labor regulation — have no justification other than the protection of incumbent interests. For example, courts could force legislatures to explicitly approve expansions in the scope of occupational licensing, depriving licensing boards of the power to do so in shadowy obscurity.

In the political arena, the issues of regressive regulation cut across the usual partisan and ideological battle lines, and so tend to be kept off the agenda by legislative leaders who emphasize issues that hold their caucus together. Libertarian-leaning conservatives and egalitarian liberals need to forge strange-bedfellows coalitions to tackle policies that are simultaneously bad for growth and inequality. In recent years, cross-party coalitions in the states have started to make progress on criminal justice reform. Opposition to upward redistribution can galvanize support for similar alliances on regulatory issues.

The administration of Donald Trump has shown no interest in draining the real swamp that is drowning America’s economy and corrupting its politics. If public-spirited Democrats and Republicans fail to do so, trust in democracy will continue to erode. And the next demagogue who cashes in by saying he alone can fix things is likely to be more disciplined and focused than Mr. Trump — and hence even more dangerous.

FREE POSTER: GOP Greedy Old Perverts Sexual Predator-in-Chief Donald Trump and Roy Moore

Dirty old men, predominantly dirty old white men, are running rampant throughout our culture and politics. A long overdue push back is underway as many powerful sexual predators are finally being held to some account.  The cutting edge of this push back against patriarchy and hypermasculinity will likely be best measured by whether Prez Donald Trump, Sexual Predator-in-Chief, and Roy Moore, Senate candidate and former Alabama state supreme court justice, will continue with impunity. While sexual assault and sexual predation are not limited to any political party, Republicans manage to ascend to new heights of hypocrisy in the quests to maintain and grow their political power.  In their honor, I unveil my latest free poster: GOP Greedy Old Perverts Sexual Predator-in-Chief Donald Trump and Roy Moore. Please feel free to share with friends and enemies.

FREE POSTER: GOP Greedy Old Perverts Sexual Predator-in-Chief Donald Trump and Roy Moore

Sexual harassment and assault is only one form of abuse of power. This op-ed, How Donald Trump Opened the Door to Roy Moore, connects the underlying political dynamics that Donald Trump and Roy Moore serve in prefiguring authoritarian or fascist politics:

In 2002, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling in a child custody battle between a lesbian mother and an allegedly abusive father. The parents had originally lived in Los Angeles, and when they divorced in 1992, the mother received primary physical custody. But she was an alcoholic, and in 1996, she sent her three children to live with her ex-husband, who’d since moved to Alabama, while she went to rehab. Her lawyer, Wendy Brooks Crew, told me they had an understanding that the kids would stay with their dad for a year, but he refused to return them to their mother because she was living with a woman.

There was evidence that the father was abusing the kids, who by 2002 were teenagers. He acknowledged whipping them with a belt and forcing them to sit with paper bags over their heads. He refused to send the younger children to summer school, even though their grades were bad. When the kids called their mother, their father taped the conversations. By the time the case got to the Alabama Supreme Court, a lower court had ruled in the mother’s favor. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed the ruling, with then Chief Justice Roy Moore writing in a concurring opinion that a gay person couldn’t be a fit parent.

“Homosexual conduct is, and has been, considered abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God upon which this nation and our laws are predicated,” wrote Moore. He added, “The state carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle.”

The man who wrote those words is now the Republican candidate for the United States Senate from Alabama. In some ways, this is an embarrassment for Donald Trump, who heeded establishment advice to support Moore’s opponent, sitting Senator Luther Strange, in the primary. But Moore’s victory is also a victory for Trumpism, a populist movement that has eroded normal limits on political behavior.

GOP - Greedy Old Perverts - POLITICAL BUTTONOn the surface, Trump and Moore couldn’t be more different. The president is a thrice-married former casino owner who let Howard Stern call his own daughter a “piece of ass.” Moore is a fundamentalist Southern Baptist who writes rhyming verse denouncing wanton sex. “Your children wander aimlessly poisoned by cocaine/Choosing to indulge their lusts, when God has said abstain,” he wrote in his sarcastically titled poem “America the Beautiful.” Trump described himself, during his campaign, as a “real friend” of the L.G.B.T. community, even if he hasn’t behaved like one in office. Moore has said that gay sex should be illegal.

But read the rest of “America the Beautiful,” and you start to see where Trump and Moore’s worldviews overlap. Both see a nation in apocalyptic decline, desperate for redemption. Whereas Trump spoke of “American carnage” in his dystopian inauguration speech, Moore calls the country a “moral slum” awaiting God’s judgment. Like the president, Moore is a conspiracy theorist who demonizes religious minorities; he once wrote that Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, should not be allowed to serve in the House of Representatives because he is Muslim.

I met Moore over a decade ago, when I was researching my first book, “Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism.” By then, Moore had been forced off the bench for refusing a federal judge’s order to remove a 2.6-ton Ten Commandments monument he’d installed in the state judicial building. This martyrdom made him a cult figure on the religious right. A group of retired military men had taken the monument on tour, holding over 150 viewings and rallies; at an event in Austin, Tex., one of them spoke bitterly to me about the outsized power of American Jews. (Moore would later be re-elected to his seat, only to be suspended for the rest of his term in 2016 for ordering judges not to comply with the Supreme Court decision overturning bans on gay marriage.)

In trying to understand the movement I was reporting on, I turned to scholars of authoritarianism and fascism. If their words seemed relevant then, they’re even more so now. Fritz Stern, a historian who fled Nazi Germany, described the “conservative revolution” that prefigured National Socialism: “The movement did embody a paradox: its followers sought to destroy the despised present in order to recapture an idealized past in an imaginary future.”

His formulation helps explain the overlapping appeal of Trump and Moore, who thrill their supporters with their distinctly un-conservative eagerness to destroy legal and political norms. What Moore’s critics see as lawlessness, his fans see as insurgent valor. Trump’s most prominent nationalist supporters, including Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, lined up behind Moore, describing him as part of the Trumpian revolution. Nigel Farage, a right-wing British politician and Trump ally, flew to Fairhope, Ala., to speak at a rally for Moore, saying on stage, “It is getting someone like him elected that will rejuvenate the movement that led to Trump and Brexit.”

Whether or not that’s true, the movement that led to Trump has brought us to a place where Moore will probably soon sit in the United States Senate, something I could hardly have imagined when I first encountered him. Back then, anti-gay prejudice was far more acceptable than it is today, but Moore’s messianic denunciation of a lesbian mother was still shocking. Trump is not a pious man, but by destroying informal restraints on reactionary rhetoric, he’s made his party hospitable to the cruelest of theocrats. Moore’s success is bound to encourage more candidates like him. The Republican establishment’s borders have been breached. Its leaders should have built a wall.

Anti Donald Trump POEM: Wear The Truth of Donald Trump Lies

For Mexico
Donald Trump lies to the north and south
For North Korea
Donald Trump lies to the east and west
For Venezuela
Donald Trump lies to the north and south
For Iran
Donald Trump lies to the east and west
Yada, yada, yada
Etc., etc., etc.
Who can boast of that place
Where Donald Trump does not lie?
Is the site of that third eye monster ever astray?
Possessed of a super power
Engendering division
Dealing humanity into different specious
Of coarse
He thinks not
Before utter clap trap
And the buzz of confederates
As the bull of America
As in China shop
Sow much for America thirst!

This poem is owed to Donald Trump, the Liar-in-Chief.  As the Republican Party fumbles in rebuking The Don in debasing America and Americans, the chicken-hawk that is Donald Trump has come home to roost in the frighteningly apt “White” House.  As The Don, a boorish bully, shamelessly unleashes his Donald First branding scheme, he piles up countless firsts, not the least of which is, as Ta-Nehisi Coates put it, being the First White President.  As The One character vainly tries to expand beyond his erudition to 144 characters, his incoherency is exceeded only by his hypocrisy.  His orange-faced lies, his signature leer, blends his red and yellow temper in strange perfection.  Perhaps beneath his rusty grimace he is truly just an orange supremacist, a buttress for the totality of all that rhymes with orange.  Any weigh, the question remains, “Who will ever no?!”

Stand Up For Democracy, Sen. Portman

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is a key figure in the Senate Republican health care legislation, now being drafted in secret.  He has so far refused to have any face-to-face town hall meeting with his constituents over any issues.  He may very well vote on a massive health care bill with NO public hearings.  When it comes to democratic processes, how low are you willing to go, Sen. Portman?  When Obamacare was passed there were many public hearings stretching out over a year and the Democrats accepted more than 160 Republican amendments to the bill.  Back then, the Republicans considered this an outrage, an apparent shortage of democracy. Now, congressional Republicans want bills to pass in the House and Senate in a small fraction of that time, with NO public hearings, and NO Democratic amendments even considered.  The hypocrisy is palpable.  Sen. Robert Portman, refuse to vote on any health care bill that does not have public hearings.  Sen. Robert Portman, refuse to vote on any health care bill that does not have a full CBO score indicating the health and budget effects.   Sen. Robert Portman, refuse to vote on any health care bill that doesn’t improve the overall health of Americans.

Below are two posters graphically depicting Sen. Portman as missing in action.  I gave these posters to his staff with the stipulation that as long as there is not parity of democracy among his constituents there will be parody.  Please feel free to share or print out these posters.

 

MISSING: Where is Senator Portman?

 

Wanted Poster: Senator Rob Portman

 

 

 

 

POEM: Nazi Murder Trials, 1963

Courting the truth
Their stories were tolled
Not simply for just us
But for awe of them
Beyond monumental
To re-member
A broken body politic

http://toppun.com/Political/A-Nation-of-Sheep-Soon-Beget-a-Government-of-Wolves-Edward-R-Murrow-Quote.gifThis poem was inspired by the 2015 German movie, Labyrinth of Lies, about a young and idealistic public prosecutor in post World War II Germany learning about Nazi war crimes and their endemic impunity.  As one reviewer summarizes:

“Powerful and haunting, Labyrinth of Lies turns over a rock and watches the vermin crawl out in a disturbing and rarely talked about footnote to German (and world) history. The rock is Germany’s massive effort to forget the past under National Socialism and move on. Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies - POLITICAL BUTTONThe rats are the former Nazis who, after the war, found acceptance and protection in comfortable positions of importance in the German government at a time when the country was on its way to reconstruction and cultural renaissance. The movie centers on the handful of brave men and women who dedicated themselves to an uncompromising search for the truth in the investigation that led to the Auschwitz trials from 1963 to 1965 in which Germans prosecuted Germans at last. It’s one of the most important and revelatory films of the year.”

got fascism? POLITICAL BUTTONThe first line in this poem, Courting the truth, has multiple references and meanings.  The movie is a prosecutorial investigation leading to the 1963 trial of Nazi war criminals for murder (which doesn’t have a statute of limitations) which was the largest trial in German history and considered the pivotal event in Germany coming to terms with its haunting past of Hitler’s reign and the tsunami of obedience by the overwhelming proportion of German citizens.  “Courting” refers to the culminating courtroom drama which the story preludes.  “Courting” also refers to the courtship of the truth and of the love affair portrayed in the movie between the lead character, the lead prosecutor, and his wife-to-be.  The courtship of the truth, which reveals reams of human ugliness, stands in sharp contrast to the love affair.  Or does it?  The love affair is romantic, even magical, until in drunken despair the prosecutor confronts his wife with the reality of her own drunken father who fought with the Nazis in Poland: “Ask him why he drinks?”  She tells her husband to get out, for good.  The allusion is that she continues in denial about her father.  The full-circle carnage is complete as the drunken despair was triggered by the idealistic prosecutor’s daring to look at his own father’s war records, only to find out that he was a member of the Nazi Party.  Resistance Trumps Fascism [Royal Flush] POLITICAL BUTTONThe literal image of his father, a picture inscribed to him with the implied command, “Always do the right thing,” was now only an idol hypocrisy.  The merciless truth of endemic Nazi collaboration couldn’t be clearer.  Or could it?  Among other revelations, he learns that the activist journalistic pushing for the Auschwitz investigation was, in fact, a guard at Auschwitz, making a somewhat-late and partially-muddled attempt at amends for his own presumed war crimes.  Courting the truth offers unsatisfying justice as the original horrific injustices and decimation of humanity could never be fully restored.

The second line in the poem, Their stories were tolled, is the best answer offered to such overwhelming tragedy and criminality.  Simply to have some of the countless untold stories of uncounted victims was the only path to honor the murdered and begin the healing of a war-ravaged nation.  The damning awe of the truth cannot be successfully covered up by however neat or sterilizing monuments over which the dead are encrypted from the light of day.  The terrible truth must be tolled — exacting unpayable pries.  Good People Disobey Bad Laws POLITICAL BUTTONThe river of denial must give weigh to the river of blood teeming underneath “A broken body politic.”  That a broken body politic can re-member at all is the only redemption realizable.

May we never forget the lessens of war and its many patriotic and cowardly crimes against humanity.  May we have the necessary courage and bounding love for humanity to empower us to defeat the scourges of nationalism and that bastard of patriotism: fascism.

POEM: Ferry Tales

Buy politicians
We have been tolled
Ferry tales
From bank to bank
Holding no water
Liquidating assets
Left and right
Sow gully able
As they desperately wanton
US to believe
The chosen few, the elect
As top down
Driving in convertible submarines
Celling down the river
As whatever
Thou dust
Having already
Drunk
The KoolAid™
In effacing endless boos
As given the owed college try
And in curable desperation
Quipped to say
Bottom up
As no need to take any ship
From any won
Upright
Nor bail
For yawl

Here is an election day themed poem for Ohio’s presidential primary elections today.  While it’s easy to be cynical about politics, the adage, follow the money, is a powerful tool for understanding politics and power.  The political class, overpopulated by the aristocracy, has well developed strategies and tactics to appeal to the notion that they are on your side.  Inevitably, moneyed folks have a way of perpetuating their economic interests over less economically endowed folks.  These strategies and tactics are built into our everyday life — appealing to crass celebrity as distraction and chasing money (and its attendant addictive cycles of debt and over-consumption) as the unquestioned path to the good life — but during campaign season the high rhetoric typically pushes the limits of hypocrisy.  Unfortunately, the United States electorate is the most uniformed electorate among so-called advanced industrial democracies.  Plus, with brazen gerrymandering, corrupt party politics, lack of universal voter registration, and a whole host of practices degrading voter participation rather than enhancing it, our democracy has been bought and sold.  Our so-called democracy would be more aptly described as an oligarchy, plutocracy, or even kleptocracy.  Voter turnout in the U.S. is the lowest among so-called developed countries.  While increased voter turnout could offer modestly better results, a poorly informed electorate does not have the essential immunization against propaganda and manipulation that would make for a functioning democracy.  I strongly suspect the the bulk of effort needed to revitalize our democracy must occur outside of electoral politics, with social movements that force changes in our political system alongside cultivating positive changes toward a more just culture that respects human rights and dignity for all.  Voting matters, but if we rely primarily on voting, whatever is left of our democracy will matter little.  Vote with your feet and hit the streets; organize; and be the change you want to see in the world.

FREE CHRISTMAS POSTER: Homeless Refugee Nativity

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…with all of those homeless Middle Eastern families.  This free poster offers my take on the hypocrisy of Christians in a co-called “Christian” nation worshiping xenophobia and fear rather than the radical hospitality and unconditional love that Jesus modeled from his birth.  The widespread and sniveling calls to limit refugee immigration and brand all Muslims as a threat to national security is a national shame and a profound shrinking of our humanity.

Homeless Refugee Nativity Christmas -- FREE POSTERPlease feel free to download and/or share widely this Christmas poster to help launch conversations about what it truly means to have love and compassion for all of our neighbors around the world.  We might want to stop arming and bombing the Middle East for a start…

POEM: Constipated Destiny

He knew knot
Exactly where
He was going
As fate would have it
Seized by easy convictions
Big house
Auto, pilot
And every won else’s
Re-guard
Of one self full
Filled
Buy in
And sell out
In humanity
A sure thing
The gold
In rule
A void
Apprehensions
Of vassal late
Making one’s self
The whore of certain knowledge
The john of dreams undared
Unfailing in his coarse
Fining himself
Scared to dearth
Of his constipated destiny meting

This poem deals with the vanity and danger of pursuing material success and cashing in on conventional wisdom.  The good life is all too often pawned off as having fine possessions or relishing in status or celebrity.  Possessions have a way of possessing us.  In a world where so many have so little, fine possessions can be devilish.  Status or celebrity has a way of simply highlighting our own emptiness or hypocrisy in a pressurized or scrutinized existence.  Fine possessions and status are typically acquired through the successful use (and misuse) of conventional wisdom, or simply through unmerited privilege.  Albeit, celebrity sometimes comes through more notorious means.  Still, we all know where this leads: the well-worn hierarchies of winners and losers.  In a constipated destiny, everyone knows their place.  Predictability (sometimes better known as ‘security’) and fatalism serve as poor substitutes for true daring and bold hope.  Well-worn rules (and rulers) of the game leave little but cheap thrills and expensive highs to assuage our stultified lives.  The bulk of our lives are leased for weekends.  Passionate vocations are bartered for passing vacations.  Awe sold for certainty.  Dreams pimped for fear of being a sucker, or worse.  May you live a life where you are not scared to dearth, settling for mere material finery or tranquilizing status, a constipated destiny, or hellish blandness.  May you follow your dreams in a way that literally scares the hell out of others!

 

POEM: Seriously?!

The Zen master was nearly
Finished with his instruction
When he got to non-seriousness
I was greatly relieved
For I was taking nothing
He was saying
Seriously

This short poem gets at one of the great paradoxes of enlightened spirituality: serious playfulness.  Zen Buddhists have a rare reputation among spiritual-religious folks as having a sense of humor inherent in their spiritual practice.  They refer to this as nonseriousness.  Theologians and philosophers are poorly equipped to adequately describe humor in their systems of thought.  This is not an accident.  First of all, there is a seemingly built in seriousness and rigorousness in philosophy and theology that doesn’t play well with humor.  Trying to capture humor in a system of thought leads to our own imprisonment in humor-free zones.  This is analogous to the self-limiting trap of trying to capture spirituality through materialistic methods.  Materialism is literally no joke.  Taking things literally is the limit of science and the beginning of theft, stealing from ourselves as well as others.  Fundamentalism is a disease that routinely infects any ideological project, whether claiming a materialist or spiritual aim.  I have a great respect for the brevity and poetry of the Tao Te Ching as a sacred text. Taoists and Zen Buddhists have a lot in common.  First, the Tao Te Ching begins by stating its fundamental limit — and, in some sense, its blessed futility — by stating that any way which can be described is not the Way, the Tao.  Then, quite laughably, and with utter seriousness, gives its best shot at manifesting the Tao through words.  The Tao Te Ching’s singularly poetic approach to the sacred is unparalleled among major faith traditions.  Surely, other faith traditions have poetic elements, but poetry or obvious metaphor are often relegated to “mystic” subcultures within a dominant and domineering tradition.  The powerful drift toward fundamentalism or militant ideology makes a cruel joke of mystics.  Through the centuries, fundamentalists have taken the lives of mystics literally.

I view mysticism as the heart of spirituality.  Mysticism is simply a view of transcendence, seeing beyond what can be merely grasped by our hands or minds.  This is inherently dangerous to fundamentalism, and virtually any ideology.  That is, dangerous to anything which tries to put the human heart or God in a box and declare “I’ve got it!”  Humor and nonseriousness is perhaps the best way the deflate such puffed up claims.  Of course, humor is infinitely more useful than merely deflating another’s unrightful claims; humor is fun!  Fun is good in and of itself. I think it is safe to say that a life devoid of humor is a life far from fully lived. Humor is a fundamental spiritual experience, playing off the oft experienced reality that paradoxes, apparent contradictions, coexist in everyday human life.  We can wring our hands, rack our brains, and even cry at the vexing nature of this reality; or, we can laugh, recognizing that oneness underlies such fractious appearances.  This lightness of being is consonant with enlightenment and peace or wholeness of mind.  Seemingly paradoxical with such peace is its unmatched counter-cultural power.  The experience and recognition of oneness stirs into any given culture, with its myriad of rules and customs, something that it cannot fully take in.  This is mind-busting and heart expanding.  A sense of arbitrariness of any given culture’s rules can trigger a new-found freedom to exist both within and beyond those rules without being bound by those rules.  This nonseriousness about any given set of rules sets up any culture at any given moment as the “but” of a joke.  What such a transcendent attitude infuses into any human culture at any given time is nothing but life itself, the Tao if you will.

As a student of human culture, I see widespread contradictions and hypocrisy, even amidst our more sane enterprises.  I find an ability to laugh at such realities profoundly therapeutic, especially given that the leading alternative is crying.  In a tip of the hat to seriousness, crying can be a profound emotional manifestation of compassion in a broken world.  Yet, there are other ways.  Freedom is not trapped by seriousness.  Non-seriousness offers a form of salvation to both redeem our experience into something more whole, and to manifest this more whole being attained into the workings of the everyday world.

My poetry is driven by a passionate exploration of human contradictions and unfulfilled humanity.  While the veneer of my poems may seem strikingly cynical at moments, relentlessly pointing out weak spots in humanity, my intent is to juxtapose apparent hopelessness with authentic hopefulness.  To survive such an epic project, I try to remember that we are already won, a wholly laughable proposition!

POEM: Know Knead to Brink

I live at the fringes
At the boundary of what is and what could be
Sow playful a lure
At the threshold of what might not be and what should be
Seriously brewed
At the edge of the abyss
I peer
Gathering friends
And enemies
So called
Out
From the owed
Into the new
Horizons discovered
Each fresh berth
Launching unforeseen recreations
On the verge of another
Unfamiliar stretches becoming home
As novel know longer
Ridden in the margins
We find ourselves
In the bosom of creation
A rootedness so moving
We share awe freely
A steadfast revel
Dispelling fear
Looking straight in the I
With know knead to brink

This poem addresses the necessity and profound benefits from living on the cutting edges, the fringes of life, and courageously facing the abyss. The abyss, at first glance may look frightful. However, I view the abyss simply as the place where those thing beyond words reside. This is the heart of subjective reality. This is scary inasmuch as we can’t pluck our experiences in this realm and “make” others understand or experience the same. This initial sort of isolation and lack of control is often experienced as uncomfortable or anxiety-provoking. Of course, experiences in this realm can profoundly influence us. I would even go as far as saying that this part of life is inextricably part of us, and even contains and encompasses the higher parts of life. However, success in the everyday world is often about “making” things happen. The more we are focused upon and enmeshed in controlling stuff, the scarier and less “useful” this abysmal realm seems. The subjective reality of the abyss doesn’t make it any less real. In fact, this metaphysical reality is where meaning resides. Those who poo poo subjective reality find their search for meaning handicapped, and tenuously moored to meaning drift toward nihilism or amoral sociopathy. Courageously facing and delving into the subjective realm is the only way to discover the mysterious purposes of life. The nature of the subjective realm is instructive in and of itself, as uncontrolling yet highly ordered. Discovering order in the abyss is the root of meaning and purpose, a higher order in which lower order matters are organized in ways increasingly harmonious with life, and reality itself. There, that doesn’t sound so scary! However, the profound limit of subjective experience is that it can not be reduced to mere facts, easily shared in bits and pieces. In essence, subjective experience is a relationship with a larger, transcendent whole. The best we can do is integrate our subjective experiences into a whole, coherent life so others may witness to an integrity not fully explainable by the sum of the factual parts. This is the equivalent of Gandhi’s “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Or St. Francis would say that we are instruments of God’s peace. I would simply add that we are more than pieces.

The fact that we are more than just pieces is the underlying reality of why salvation lies in community. The initial isolation typically felt when staring into the abyss is either the fear that there is no meaning at all, or the equivalent of standing alone before God. Still, the nature of our subjectivity is what binds us with other people, and even Subjectivity with a capital S, God if you will. Even more so than individuals, communities of people can exhibit the integrity of higher ordered living. Perhaps most importantly, the value of reciprocity is most easily manifest and understood in community. In its simplest form, a relationship between two people, the power of love grows exponentially when present with reciprocity. Love is not unconditional in the sense that one aspect of love is reciprocity, or mutuality. One cannot overcome another with love. One can only invite another into the beautiful dance of reciprocity and mutuality that powers up love for all who participate.

An important exception to this human reciprocity is the mutuality expressed in loving our enemies, those who will not return our love, or worse yet, seek to manipulate us by threatening or destroying those with whom we have built love. The mutuality in this relationship is not dependent on the other person, a subject who chooses to engage in love-building. The mutuality here is based on our relationship with life itself, or God. Life gives without forcing payment. This is the foundational grace and gratitude that drives life-affirming ways. The only force is the chaos and disorder that comes about by not living in accord with harmonious higher order. Fighting reality itself, separating ourselves from reality is our own punishment. However, since reality is one, this punishment is shared by all. Our destinies are woven together. Writing off enemies is a misreading of reality. Not surprisingly, creating separate realities for different people creates divisions and gives birth to snobbery and hypocrisy, different standards or rules for different classes of people.

I would not rely on first impressions when staring into the abyss. Patiently and openly delving into the “inner” life of subjectivity, and the “outer” experience with communities of life-affirming folks has for millennia reliably resulted in better, more whole, human beings. Only in looking beyond ourselves do we become more whole, more fully human. The abyss awaits. And the crowd says “Woo.”

POEM: The Game of Life

One day
I realized
The game of life
And going back
In the box
Only to find
The rules had been lost
Long a go
And still
The game goes on

This short poem plays with the notion that life is a game.  Of course, there are many different types of games, each with their own set of rules.  Even if there is one monolithic set of rules that defines reality, it appears that there are countless games that can be played within that set of rules.  A wise person realizes that each of these sets of rules, for whatever game chosen (or implied in one’s actions), possesses a certain arbitrariness.  Such arbitrariness lacks a full claim in ultimate reality.  Any such partial claim, when lifted to sacred status, deserves and invites mocking.  Such playfulness and mocking delves into the wondrous paradox that irreverence can be the highest form of reverence in a given situation.  Irreverence playfully invites us to a fuller and more sacred view of reality.  And such playful invitations can harness the awesome character of pointing out high truths without the downer of overzealously demanding obedience.  Such playful invitations abide by a sacred respect for higher truths as demanding obedience in and of themselves, without contrivance or brute force.  In the games of life, there is often a negative connotation with playing in the sense of “games people play” — when we treat other players as objects in the game, not an equal or full players.  I prefer a more positive connotation, as elucidated by Zen Buddhism’s nonseriousness, apparent foolishness under-girded by wisdom:

“There is a certain quality of foolishness in a real wise man. Why? Because a real wise man contains the opposite. He is both together. He is more comprehensive. A wise man who has no foolishness in him will be dry, dead. His juice will not be flowing. He will not be green. He will not be able to laugh; he will be serious; he will be a long face. A wise man who is just wise and in whose being the fool has not been integrated will be very heavy. It will be difficult to live with such a wise man. He will be very boring. He will be boring to you and he will be boring to himself. He will not have any fun; his life will not know any joy. He will be completely unacquainted with laughter. And when laughter is missed, much is missed.

And one can never know God without laughter. One can never know God without joy. One can never know reality just by being wise.

The fool has something to contribute too — the laughter, the joy, the nonseriousness, the quality of fun, delight. The fool can dance, and the fool can dance for any reason whatsoever — any excuse will do. The fool can laugh. And the fool can laugh not only at others, he can laugh at himself.

When the wise man and the fool meet together in a consciousness, then something of tremendous value happens. There are foolish people and there are wise people. The fool is shallow; the wise man is serious. The fool does not know what truth is, and the wise man does not know what joy is. And a truth without joy is worse than a lie. And a joy without truth is not reliable. A joy without truth is momentary, cannot be of the eternal.”

Nonseriousness and humorlessness are linked to fundamentalist religious faith and militancy.  Militancy — including militarism — and violence are anathema to good humor:

The overarching difference is between the mental rigidity of religious faith and the mental flexibility of humor.

1. The first contrast is between the respect for authority in religious faith, and the questioning of authority in humor. In faith-based religions, people believe what they are told, and do they do what they are told, by a leader, typically a patriarchal leader. God himself is pictured as the ultimate patriarchal authority, the Lord, the King of the Universe.

The psychology of humor, by contrast, involves questioning authority. The humorist’s role, from the court jesters of ancient China to today’s standup comedians, has been to think critically about people’s language, about their reasoning, about their actions, and about the relations between all three. From the days of ancient Greek comedy, the creators of humor have looked for discrepancies between what political and religious leaders say and what they do. Aristophanes poked fun not only at political leaders but at intellectual leaders like Socrates, and even at the gods.

2. The second contrast is between the simple, often dualistic, conceptual schemes of religious faith and the more complex conceptual schemes of humor. Faith-based religions offer believers simple concepts with which they can classify everything they experience. Master categories include “good and evil,” and “us and them.” Osama bin Laden’s speeches and George W. Bush’s speeches are full of name-calling based on such simple dualistic categories. As Bush has admitted, he “doesn’t do nuance.”

Comic thinking, on the other hand, is more complex and messy. The world doesn’t separate neatly into a few categories. In comedy, there aren’t any all-good people, nor any all-bad people. Even the best person involved in the best kind of action is likely to be tainted by some selfishness, foolishness, and maybe even hypocrisy. When characters appear in comedy promoting simple conceptual schemes, they are often satirized as fanatics or fools.

3. The third contrast is between the militarism of religious faith and the pacifism of humor. Religions based on faith tend to feel threatened by other world views and so tend to want to eliminate the proponents of those views. And so they often justify violence against “the heathen” or “the infidel,” as General Boykin and Osama bin Laden do.

From the beginning, however, comedy has been suspicious of calls to eliminate those who think differently, and has been suspicious of violence as a way to solve problems. Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata satirized the insanity of the constant fighting between the Greek city states. In modern times, the futility of war has been the theme of dozens of comedies, which have lampooned the willingness to kill or die on command. Comic heroes are usually good at talking their way out of conflicts, and when that fails, they are not ashamed to run away. The comic attitude here is captured in the old Irish saying “You’re only a coward for a moment, but you’re dead for the rest of your life.”

4. The fourth contrast is between the single-mindedness of religious faith and the willingness to change one’s mind in humor. The person of faith treats alternative viewpoints as possible sources of doubt, and so something to be suppressed. Once they make a divinely sanctioned choice of action—as in George Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, they “stay the course” no matter what happens. They do not look for mistakes they might have made, they do not try to think of how they might proceed differently, and they tend to be defensive when they are challenged. Faith-based religions tout what Conrad Hyers (1996) calls “warrior virtues”: courage, loyalty, duty, honor, indomitable will, unquestioning obedience, stubborn determination, and uncompromising dedication.

In comedy, by contrast, the person who has an idée fixe is portrayed as foolish. Comic heroes do set courses of action, but they are adaptable after that. As situations change, they can too. Their plans are not set in stone but are contingent and reversible. Often, the comic hero has not even determined in advance what will count as success or failure.

5. The fifth contrast is between the idealism of religious faith and the pragmatism of humor. The rhetoric of faith-based religions is full of abstractions like Truth, Faith, and Freedom. On the enemy side are those who love Evil.

Comedy, on the other hand, is based not on abstractions but on concrete things, people, and situations. Comic heroes are concerned not about Truth and Freedom but about their next meal, and getting the one they love to love them in return. Not longing for some utopia, they are at home in the world as it is.

6. The sixth contrast is between the convergent thinking of faith-based religions and the divergent thinking of humor. Convergent thinking aims at reaching the correct answer. In divergent thinking there is no single correct answer, but dozens, maybe hundreds of possible good answers. A standard exercise in divergent thinking is to think of thirty uses for a building brick.

With their simple conceptual schemes and their emphasis on thinking in traditional ways, faith-based religions do not encourage creativity or cleverness. A good example is George W. Bush and his wife Laura. On a TV interview program, Laura Bush was asked if she and the President had pet names for each other. She said, “Oh Yes.” “What is your pet name for him?” the interviewer asked. “Bushie,” she answered. “What is his pet name for you?” “Bushie,” she said again.

Unlike such unimaginative plodders, people with a rich sense of humor are creative. The master skill of the comedian is to look at something familiar in a new way.

7. The seventh contrast is between seriousness and playfulness. Faith-based religious visions of life are paradigms of seriousness, and humor is a paradigm of nonseriousness. It is persons, I take it, who are serious in the basic sense of the word. Issues and problems are called “serious” because they require persons to be serious about them. For us to be serious is to be solemn and given to sustained, narrowly focused thought. It is also for us to be sincere in what we say and do. We say only what we believe, and act only according to our real intentions.

Seriousness is contrasted with playfulness. When we are playful, we are not solemn and are not given to sustained, narrowly focused thought. We are not bound to sincerity in what we say and do. We may say something outlandishly false for the mental jolt it gives us and others. We may impersonate someone, or feign some emotion, just for the fun of it.”

I suspect that an accurate reading of reality would call out for more Irreverends than Reverends.  Religion, institutionalized spirituality, must perpetually wrest with its own laughableness.  For any institution branding itself with any given set of “authoritative” creeds, must be able to laugh at itself, and accept mocking in good humor, to even hope for greater authority — an authority forever lying outside any gaming.  Yet, the show must go on!

POEM: Wolves in Elephants’ Clothing

Wolves in Elephants’ Clothing

Somewhat sheepishly
She whispered
Beware of wolves in elephants’ clothing
Lurking about
Only looking
Like they want
To kick some ass
Though you can skulk in style
If you have
A grand
Old party
Securing your plush seat
At the table
Loaded
With elephant guise
Rather incestual sycophants
At their I’m potentate parties
And if you are well, off
They will take you
To a tee
Spouting about
King George I and King George II
And unjust taxes
More dear than all the tea in England
And buy George, they’re not satisfied with a billion
Let alone a third
Perhaps some fresh prince all over
A newly-minted crime scene
Unseemly blind to any lackey of evolution
Yet there is no ruler
To measure their monkey business
Their trinity
Cheering with pomposity
Throwing monologues on the fire
And stalling
Having perfected the nationwide holdup
A three wring circus
And we are left
With what’s in the stall
The elephant dropping
All that is fertile
For phony fossils
Making evolution impossible
A lessen they never forget
With a mellifluousness Abel
To capture the common man
A cleanliness next to godlessness
Their hoods white
For shadowing their golden daze
In an urbane jungle
Leaving behind poor gramma
Spelling her downfall
GOP opposed to GOD
Having fallen
Down
And can’t get up
Leaving students
With nothing but a prayer
Leaving workers
With a free market they can’t afford
Leaving US
With life after death
And perhaps before birth
Still
All the wile between
Sent to our gloom
To be
Or not to be
Borne again
That is the quest in
Whether it is know buller
For in the mine to suffer
The blings
And ere rows
Of outrageous fortunes
Oar to take alms
Against a see of troubles
And by opposing thumb end
Overcoming any
Hitch
Hiking what’s left
As necessary
Sew much more than
Evolution
One of the scarce things
They can’t seem to buy
Their con science
Of what
They know longer nose
Inescapably figuring
Somehow elect by birth
Perpetual SNOBS
Where the N is usually silent
In their civil war
Inevitably impaled by their mortal compass
Spinning north and south
Feigning uprightness
Disavowing any revolution present
Captivated by fanciful futures
And realities passed
And still
What goes around
Comes around
A choice truth
Either buy
Ballads or bullets
We all have the write to choose
To ward off electioneer death

This poem is a thinly veiled anti-Republican party exposition.  Profoundly ironic, Republicans are as sure proof as you are going to find that evolution doesn’t exist, and, as Gandhi never said, “Be the lack of change you want to see in the world.”  The Republican party appears quite comfortable with greed as the primary human motivation.  Perhaps worse yet, and even more disingenuous, is the ease at which Republicans embrace anti-science views, of which anti-evolution and climate change skepticism are its hallmarks.  For the so-called religious expertise that Republicans claim, they certainly manage to brand religion as anti-science, which it need not be.  Even within the hallowed halls of religious territory, Republicans manage to bring hypocrisy to ever-new heights.  With their specialty Christianity, Republicans paint a picture of Jesus as if he were a white, suburban-living, English-speaking American, preaching some prosperity gospel.  For God’s sake, Jesus wasn’t even a Christian, he was a Jew, and a Palestinian Jew at that!  If such a poor, dark-skinned, Middle-eastern, non-English-speaking, peace-loving, giver of free health care showed up in America, the Republicans would have reserved seating at his crucifixion.  Of course, they would contract out the actual killing, though a carpenter driving in those nails would not likely be a member of the carpenters’ union.  Plus, the Republicans definitely wouldn’t bother paying a “living” wage for such low skilled tasks, however unpleasant.

The larger theme in this poem is about the tension between electoral and non-electoral politics.  The two-party duopoly of Republocrats offers only a narrow range of possibilities deemed politically feasible.  This leaves the electorate, barely even a majority of eligible voters in many elections, to ratify the predetermined candidates from a relatively narrow ideological pool.  In my view, this electoral desert leaves little room for the kind of robust responses that the current world begs.  Our slow and limited responses to climate change and energy use demonstrate this best.  Even a well-managed end of civilization as we know it is a poor substitute for saving humanity.  Of course, the “ballads or bullets” dichotomy is somewhat hyperbolic for effect.  Nonetheless, without nonviolent revolution, or much-speeded evolution, our current body politic will experience a much more violent demise.  I am rooting and working for a nonviolent revolution.  The driving force of this revolution will almost certainly originate outside formal electoral politics. As history teaches us, such robust change does not come without personal sacrifice, and it demands courage.  The Republicans would be well-advised to learn from Jesus, who showed us a different way.  And who better than Jesus would know that just because you are a carpenter doesn’t mean that you have to see everything as a nail!

POEM: Their Undoing

They control the levers
Of a vast machinery
Of business, politics, education
They know no equals
Fusing work and ploy
Blind to their match
Game and set
Unable even to follow their own ruse
Our future
Remains
Incalculable
Though we be out numbered
What we have they can not possess
That which we share freely
Will be their undoing

The powers that be is simply a term for what levers exist at any given time to control worldly power.  These rules of the game, like any other set of physical rules, has inertia, a predisposition to continue of the path it is headed.  Without human volition or choice outside these rules, these rules will continue on their present course.  With human choice, these rules can be changed.  Unfortunately, making choices outside the reward system present at any given time comes with costs that are not incurred by just going and getting along with the status quo.  Of course, some courses, some cultural conditions, are less stable than others, and just like a physical object running into some natural limit, cultural realities will shift even without human volition.  The widespread hypocrisy in politics and business, making one set of rules for oneself and other rules for others, make such a culture less stable, less sustainable.  In every case, the rules farther from reality will be disciplined by natural limits, even if not met with particular courage and effort from humans.  Human choice is about shaping ourselves and our culture into a desired state.  Stability and sustainability are about harmonizing ourselves and human culture with natural limits, which is basically reality.  The hypocrisy of trying to maintain or manipulate two separate realities, one to your own selfish advantage, and another reality for others, is both inherently dangerous and stupid.

This poem refers to several forms of undoing.  The cowardly choice to follow a culture’s existing rules despite evidence that it is a vote for a lesser reality, is a danger to stability and sustainability.  This sort of default non-choice is actually the easiest (laziest) to justify based on present cultural conditions, demanding no changes.  This is the first form of undoing, the sheepish version.  Of course, many actively work for their own selfish advantage, an evil which puts us all at risk for the retribution or push-back from natural limits overrun, the undoing of evil.

The positively human form of undoing is actually an intentional undoing of dangerous “unrealities” in a culture.  This involves persons freely accepting a cost or sanction (or forgone reward) to better harmonize oneself and one’s culture with natural limits, to undo the status quo.  This is in tandem with other natural limits molding lesser realities into a more harmonious whole.

Freedom is not free.  Reality is perpetually shifting, in a a dynamism that can never be fully pinned down.  Exercising freedom demands effort to assess the changing conditions of outer reality, as well as disciplined self-awareness and courage to nurture peace and harmony from within.  The powers that be has a negative connotation because it reflects an all-too-common, lazy, and biased mode of being: using inequalities in our culture simply for our own advantage, not the advantage of all, which requires much more effort and work.  Our freedom has a purpose: to harmonize ourselves and our culture with ever larger realities or natural limits.  We are free to choose to get real, in a harmonious shared reality, or fight reality for some narrower, short-term gain, selfishly carving out lesser realities as our own little fiefdoms.

As cause for hope, reality will have its way!  The higher powers present in reality are powerful allies with which to align oneself.  History is full of the high and mighty forces of any given day lining the dustbins of history.  The struggle continues but has the promise of a more sustainable and stable future built on a foundation of higher and deeper realities.

POEM: Somewhat Religious

Priscilla was born into a very religious home
She was conceived in a somewhat less religious car

This very short, funny little poem gets at several aspects of religiosity.  First, sometimes people who are “ex” anything are the most harsh and self-righteous — whether it be ex-smokers, ex-drinkers, ex-sinners, or what have you.  Of course, ex-sinners often specialize in recovery (or penance) from a particular sin or type of sin.  Unfortunately, a zealous focus on one area of shortcoming can foster a blindness to other areas of shortcoming.  This imbalance or hypocrisy is often much more obvious to others than the person experiencing it.  One interesting saying regarding the difference between religion and spirituality is this: religious people want to avoid hell; spiritual people have been to hell and don’t want to go back.  This poem points to another aspect, that is, religiosity can become particularly dangerous when it’s zeal to help others avoid a hell that they have already experienced overshadows their own growth and compassion concerning their own shortcomings in other areas.  This blindness and lack of compassion to another’s current experience, even though it’s part of one’s past experience, typically doesn’t play well to someone currently experiencing what may or may not be perceived as a problem.

This poem specifically addresses a parent-child relationship.  Parents often paint a prettier picture of their own past behavior to their children.  This poem directly addresses this thorny issue.  I suspect that fostering a certain confidence in a child’s positive view of their parents is commendable.  Nonetheless, at some point in a child’s development, they need to see that their parents sometimes dealt with issues in less than ideal ways and still turned out OK, or perhaps have to deal with enduring harm.   Keeping it real, or authenticity, is an important characteristic to model for children (and others).  While there may be developmental issues that warrant avoiding too much information, kids are rather adept at detecting phoniness.  What child has traversed through adolescence without having to seriously confront the hypocrisy of adults, parents included?

Hopefully, our pasts, with all of their shortcomings, provide valuable raw material to practice compassion with ourselves and others.

POEM: Secrets Lie

Secrets lie
At the heart of US
The endless wore
On tear
Never skipping
A beating
As time passes
US over
Looking like patients ignored
Collapsing under our own wait
For loving our animus
Is too much
To bare
The truth
Be herd
Our soul declaration
Creed is good
As we give ourselves
An invisible hand
That perplexing clap
For doing everything
That moves
US including
Our shadow
Double dealing
In securities
Trading
Peeps
As seen a phobia
Forges
Code wars
As truth is
Strangers are friction
As per jury of peers
Courting unequaled dispositions
Bring a bout
Foreboden fruit
Of the loom weave cobbled
A two-legged stool
Chock-full of deification
Portending wee are not
Number two
Preying only
There are no leaks
Which could raze a stink
Cowering in deed
Not even with standing
A rhetorical quest in
The proverbial can
Not out of the woods
Lay bear
It’s very nature
Calling out
Know shit
Sherlock
Without a hint
How ironic

This poem goes out to the NSA and all the other proprietors of secrets.  The NSA makes a bold play trying to corner the market on personal information about virtually everyone on the planet.  All the wile, the NSA lies about itself.  Thanks to the continuing Edward Snowden revelations, the NSA has had to deal with the light of day, sending them scattering like cockroaches.  The irony is deep when Americans are told that they have nothing to fear if they are law-abiding citizens.  So, what of NSA fears that their “private” data is divulged?  The spy business is fraught with hypocrisy and deception.  The so-called “intelligence” agencies cannot make credible claims about their own behavior when their very existence is incompatible with transparency.  A sound democracy cannot be built on official lies and “trust me” reassurances.  Power without powerful oversight lends itself to abuse of the common good.  Trust is perhaps the most valuable social good.  Trust cannot be earned or maintained without honesty and forthrightness. The NSA is sitting on a two-legged stool, and with every fresh revelation about its deception it wants us to believe that its shit doesn’t stink!

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

Homophobia – Now That’s a Choice!

Homophobia – Now That’s a Choice BUTTON

Homophobia - Now That's a Choice - Rainbow Pride Bar--Gay Pride Rainbow Store BUTTON

Homophobia – Now That’s a Choice – Rainbow Pride Bar – BUTTON

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

View more Anti-Homophobia Buttons.

Homophobes like to focus on the idea that sexual orientation is chosen, at least homosexual orientation!  Funny how if you ask a heterosexual person when they chose their sexual orientation it seems like a stupid question to them.  Strangely some heterosexuals think that homosexuals choose their sexual orientation.  Well, this double standard or hypocrisy is made even more surreal by focusing on what actually is a choice, that is whether to discriminate on persons based on their sexual orientation.  Discrimination is a choice.  Tolerance and acceptance is a choice.  Fear is a choice.  Sexual orientation is not a choice.  Sexual orientation is something we are born with; it is God-given, a gift.

Of course, condemning people for something for which they have no choice is cruel at best.  Nonetheless,  it seems that homophobes have to believe that being gay is a choice.   It makes no sense to speak of something as moral or immoral if there is not a choice involved!   Now, sexual behavior is a choice, but holding that persons of homosexual orientation cannot act in any way on that orientation is absurd.  First, sexual orientation and identity is way more than simply sexual acts, it  is a fundamental way in which we relate to romantic partners.  To deny this aspect for another human being is denying that human being a basic human right.  Most anti-gay bigotry comes from religious traditions.  In the United States, the anti-gay bigotry comes largely from Christianity.  All you have to do is start reading the Bible in Genesis to see that it all starts out so good, good, good, good, good!  The first thing in the Bible that is declared to not be good, is that Adam is alone.  To insist that the only way that somebody can be moral is to be alone and unable to choose a life partner violates the very first principle that God laid out in the Bible concerning how we were created for one another and how God meant for us to live in partnership.  I think the Bible got it right in Genesis.