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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BICYCLING POEM: Mother Earth And Her Cycles

Mother Earth
Has her cycles
Look out!
Respect her cycles
Don’t be a fossil fool
Ride that bike!
Powered by living humans
Not dead relics
Exorcise those fossils, fool!
Ride that bike!
Get that warm feeling
And cool breeze
The perfect combo
Of vigor and refreshment
Ride that bike!
It’s in your nature
And even if it don’t make cents
It’s in your interest
Do it!
Just cause
Your Momma
Has tolled you too

I wrote this poem at the beginning of bicycling season this year. I get great joy and satisfaction from biking around, human powered, in sync with Mother Nature. I find biking in the city a natural for practicing mindfulness, simply by virtue of the attention required to stay alive and un-maimed from motor vehicles operated by licensed zombies. I appreciate the exercise that biking affords. As I am in my fourth year without a car, my instinct that my car getting totaled was a gift has proven true. I am grateful that I can live well with the sometimes inconvenience of not having a car. I feel some solidarity with the majority of humankind that doesn’t have a motor vehicle. My love affair with Mother Earth grows deeper…

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 ANTI-TRUMP POSTER: Trump Touts Pillar of Jobs Program – Lowest black unemployment since slavery, and I promise a return to 100 percent black employment

The issue isn't just jobs. Even slaves had jobs. The issue is wages -- Jim Hightower quote POLITICAL BUTTONThis free poster melds the themes of Prez Donald Trump’s love of capital over workers and his palpable racism. The Trump tax plan is proof enough that The Don doesn’t care about increasing income inequality and that redressing Black economic disenfranchisement is not even on his radar. About 1 in 3 Black households have either zero or negative net worth. The median Black household has less than six bucks for every $100 of net worth of the median White household. Having a job with little prospect to build wealth is the new slavery, wage slavery. In recent years, ALL of the increases in productivity and wealth creation have gone to the wealthiest Americans. This is a plantation economy, where workers have little or nothing to gain from their labors, while the owners of the economy reap record profits. Let’s work together to end the plantation economy and its wage slavery.

Please share this FREE ANTI-TRUMP POSTER: Trump Touts Pillar of Jobs Program – Lowest black unemployment since slavery, and I promise a return to 100 percent black employment.

FREE ANTI-TRUMP POSTER: Trump Touts Pillar of Jobs Program - Lowest black unemployment since slavery, and I promise a return to 100 percent black employment

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: The Abominable Snowjob – DONALD TRUMP My Tax Plan Was Pulled From Heaven. I Have Star Power – TAX CUTS FOR RICH in yellow snow.

Donald Trump and the congressional Republicans announced that they have agreed upon a tax scam that will come up for a vote next week.  This tax legislation has not had a single public hearing! This tax scam has a worse public approval rating than even Donald Trump. The delusional Don even claimed that Democrats love this bill but can’t say it; bizarrely, he can’t even see the opposition. Congressional Republicans’ response to the public decrying a tax giveaway to the rich was to lower the top tax rate for the richest Americans, which neither the House or Senate even had in their original bills.  Prez Donald Trump’s wet dream of tax scam looks to the average American a lot more like being pissed on. So, in honor of congressional Republican tax scammers and their psychotic party leader, The Don, I bring you my latest parody poster: The Abominable Snowjob – DONALD TRUMP My Tax Plan Was Pulled From Heaven. I Have Star Power – TAX CUTS FOR RICH in yellow snow. Please feel free to share this poster with friends and enemies alike.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: The Abominable Snowjob DONALD TRUMP My Tax Plan Was Pulled From Heaven I Have Star Power - TAX CUTS FOR RICH yellow snow.

FREE POSTER: Jesus breaks silence on Senate candidate Roy Moore Just Saying NO Moore

What sexual predator would Jesus support to hold the keys of public trust?  It’s time to say “NO more!” In the current case of Senate candidate Roy Moore, it’s time to say “NO Moore!”

American so-called Christians have been practicing an Olympian level of moral gymnastics to justify sexual predators holding positions of great public power and high public trust, when sexual abuse is perhaps the epitome of an abuse of power and trust.  How can character matter in the face of our apparent national addiction to aberrant characters and simple lust for power?  Donald Trump, Sexual Predator-in-Chief, has lowered the bar so low that limbo seems impossible wile hell seems assure abet. Going long with Roy Moore, a serial sexual predator of teenagers, promises to come with a free handbasket on that road paved with good inattentions.

In honor of that just saying, NO Moore, I have created a free poster: Jesus breaks silence on Senate candidate Roy Moore Just Saying NO Moore. Pleas feel free to share widely with friends and enemies.

FREE POSTER: Jesus breaks silence on Senate candidate Roy Moore Just Saying NO Moore

The commentary, Roy Moore, and the GOP’s persecution complex, gets it right:

Roy Moore now has President Trump’s endorsement, support from the Republican National Committee and a reasonably strong chance of winning — all proving that the many GOP leaders who tried to stop him have little control over their party. Whatever control GOP leaders retained after the tea party movement, in fact, has been severely undermined by Trump. And Moore, who stands accused of sexual misconduct with multiple minors, is easily the best indicator of that to date.

But the reason something like Moore could happen is more complicated than just Trump. And Republicans can blame one thing that Trump stoked, with plenty of help: The party’s increasing persecution complex.

After decades of being told that the media is out to get them, the tea party took that a step further and told Republicans that the GOP establishment was also out to get them. Now Trump, with some prodding from Stephen K. Bannon, has told GOP voters that the entire political establishment and even many American institutions (law enforcement, the judiciary, the intelligence community, etc.) are out to get them. The combined effect of all of this is that Republican voters almost reflexively recoil at the perception of being told what to do, whether by The Washington Post and the New York Times, by Mitch McConnell and Paul D. Ryan, or by anyone else not named Trump. Trump’s brand of populism has turned the enemy of their enemies into the friends of all Republicans.

And nobody was primed to exploit that sense of persecution like Moore.

Much like Trump, Moore isn’t someone who Republican voters necessarily love, so much as someone that supposedly evil political forces have tried to undermine. Moore finished fourth in the 2010 Alabama governor’s race and barely won his state Supreme Court seat back in 2012. Yet just as with Trump, who started the 2016 GOP primary deeply unpopular with Republicans, here we are.

And this actually began long before the current allegations. During this year’s Senate primary, Moore seized upon his alleged persecution, arguing relentlessly and in hyperbolic terms about how Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) was out to get him. McConnell, of course, had become toxic in Republican primaries thanks in large part to Trump. So even as Trump nominally backed Moore’s primary runoff opponent, appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), voters picked Moore in the primary and then in the two-man primary runoff.

That sense of persecution only increased, of course, once a number of women came forward in The Post to say Moore had pursued them when they were teenagers — including one who accused him of unwanted sexual touching when she was 14. Since then, other accusers have come forward, most notably a woman who accused him of sexual assault when she was 16.

The more than three-decade-old allegations lend themselves to Moore’s assertions of persecution. That’s in large part because, like many accusations of years-old sexual misconduct, there is unlikely to ever be bona fide proof of them. Even as The Post and others have substantiated the women’s claims to the extent that’s possible, there is still faith and trust involved. Republicans in Alabama, it turns out, have faith in Moore and little trust in the national media — despite the severity of the accusations.

Another reason Moore has been uniquely able to hold the GOP base is his political career, which has been built upon fashioning himself as a martyr. He has effectively been kicked off the state Supreme Court twice for choosing his religious convictions over the law. Moore was almost perfectly positioned to claim persecution in this case, because he’s been claiming it for the better part of 20 years.

None of this is to suggest the GOP has a monopoly on claiming political persecution. Politics is a game that rewards finding a convincing boogeyman, and populist candidates like Trump tend to find a large supply of boogeymen and rigged systems on the path to political office. But today’s Republicans are uniquely skeptical of the things they hear from the national media, the intelligence community and even their party leaders — all of which Trump has argued don’t have their interests at heart.

It’s almost a perfect storm, and combined with the uniqueness we find in Alabama, it might soon give us Sen. Roy Moore (R-Ala.), despite GOP leaders’ best efforts.

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!

POEM: Promedica My Ass — Owed To Branding

Logos used
Too mean
Know ledge
Like that age owed ad vice
Would you jump off a bridge
If every won ails did
As in sayin’
Bye your good will
As money oozes from the non-prophet, health care (sic) system
The sores of philandering philanthropy
Well, come to PR medica
An unholy owned subsidiary
Of Tourette’s Industries
You will swear
Buy them
Weather you want to or not
Their marketing deportment is
As good as goaled
As black as poets inc
Greasing their wills
Stuck with irresistible pitch
As verbally contracted
Not worth the pay per
Printed upon
Yet this awe
Will in deed
Make it passable to live
As resistance is feudal
And being
Penned
Is what poets due
Indubitably
Sow branded
As live stock
For tolled
Too get a rise
The Tao jones
Working in our flavor
Over and over and over
Un-till bank rolled
In a dark ally
Buy and buy
Hour justifiable salivation
Attending too in trap meant anon
Agin and agin and agin
Fore the yoke is on-us
Awe the more
Fore the fire brand
Not with standing
In a flesh of genius
Is incensed
As won red scent
Becomes too
Until udderly crying out
In an unherd-of steer
I love the smell
Of nay palm
In the mourning
High noon
And too fly by night
Sullen this, sullen that
Soully worried
How irate
In some won ails size
Butt, its my skin in the game
Lonely hoping
Knot to be found
Within and without
My pants around my knees
As its only
My panties in a bunch
Over
Awe that madders
Poetic license
And corporate patronage
Some body
Has to
Pay the piper
To keep your roost ere plumbed
As upright as it comes
Why cant you
Say “uncle”
You know
Like that rich uncle
Who wants you
To sit on his lap
And tell you
Bed time
Stories
That will mark you for life
Butt kept mysteriously in a family weigh
As long
As in your genes
As in c’est la vie
Or sow, I’ve herd
As if
We are posed to be prod
Of being cattle
Scarred I’ll go
All Gandhi on you as
BE the beef
Awe the wile beating a different conundrum
Refraining that whole eat me thing
The mark of the best (sic)
Or rather sic sic sic’s
Sow fresh and hoary unholy revelations
Indulging vain wishes for dead presidents
And CEOs
Men of letters posterior to autograft
Ass-ever-rate
In playing defense
At my offense
With such propriety, proprietary and property
For my own good, posedly
Their mirror deflection
But, but, but, but, but
Except two a t
And so
I’m bare assed
And without
They’re money
You’re nothing butt
A bum
And the rush
Too be just
THAT

I am not a big fan of branding, whether it is of livestock or in corporate public relations. I was inspired to write this poem because at a regular monthly poetry reading they secured a small amount of funding to pay invited featured poets. Will Work For Universal Health Care POLITICAL BUTTONThe source of funding included local community foundations plus the nearly ubiquitous ProMedica, the largest health system within the Toledo region.  I have come to call Promedica, “PR Medica,” because of its often over-sized logo and branding in Toledo, aka ProMedica-ville, is nearly omnipresent in venues big and small.  I found its intrusion into the local poetry scene offensive, particularly because I am an iconoclastic, anti-commercial poet who specializes in addressing social justice issues.  This was a little too close to home for me.  I announced before my open mic reading that I did not want to be considered as an invited poet.  I suggested that to de-commercialize this reading, sending back the portion payed for by ProMedica, along with a strongly worded letter (might I suggest F and U), would be in order.

This is not the first time that I have unleashed my poetic visions against ProMedica.  The first time I devoted a poem to ProMedica was when they sponsored a state-wide poetry contest on the topic of anti-hunger with an honorarium to the winning poet that would befit and maintain the status of starving artist.  My unsubmitting, unremitting poem: Speaking With Spoken Sword: Owed To Hungering Fore Anew ProMedica.

Health Care is a Right Not a Privilege - PUBLIC HEALTH BUTTONSingle-Payer Health Care - Everybody In, Nobody Out POLITICAL BUTTONProMedica, if you want to combat hunger, pay all of your employees a living wage.  ProMedica, if you want to fulfill your mission and redeem your non-prophet status, devote 0.01% of your revenue toward advocating for universal health care, everybody in, nobody out.  Until then, you can bye this poet all you want.

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.

Democracy Day : 5 Minutes of Democracy

Free Speech Zone POLITICAL BUTTONToday is Democracy Day, mandated by a people’s resolution to Toledo City Council, spearheaded by Toledo Move To Amend, declaring that corporations are not people and money is not free speech.  Today’s forum in Toledo City Council chambers, albeit with only a small fraction of City Council members, gave voice to a sampling of Toledo’s own citizens.  Here is the satirical testimony that I delivered for my five sacred minutes:

Five Minutes of Democracy

Greetings rulers and subjects, the subject today is democracy.  My name is Dan Rutt.  Though, I am considering selling my naming rights to either Jeep or ProMedica, because seriously, who is Dan Rutt?!  Don't Explain Your Philosophy, Embody It POLITICAL BUTTONAnd, unfortunately, a shadowy group of local lobbyists secured the rights to “Krogering.”  So expect plenty more “Krogering”…but not from me.

Of course, plenty of naming rights are still in play.  In deference to those from that progressive demographic who love hyphenated names I might prefer selling my naming rights to Davis-Besse.  Plus, I could get a bonus for catering to the regional governance and nuclear family demographics.  But alas, Davis-Besse may very well be decommissioned.  Apparently, that whole “too cheap to meter” thing turned out to be a lie, after all these decades.  And in this era of tight budgets, there is only enough political capital to afford one last billion dollar bailout to bury this mistake.  But sleep tight fellow citizens and helpless ratepayers!  Rest assured that there will be a special glow for you and a thousand generations from the heart of this beloved nuclear reactor…But I digress…keep your eye on…well…pretty much anything else.

Welcome to Democracy Day — presided over by the finest government money can buy.  Of course, our fine government might be different than those “other” governments.  Today, I am asking that we keep an open mind that our government might not actually be the best that money can buy.

Democracy: Some Assembly Required - POLITICAL BUTTONSo, what does democracy look like?  I have a long view of democracy, that looks something like making decisions based on how it affects people seven generations from now, that noble concept brought to us by fine native peoples who we so conveniently committed genocide against to occupy this land.  But I have been charged to ask “What does five minutes of democracy look like?”  This brief view is something more of a commercial.  So, if any of you need to go to the bathroom or need a snack, now would be a good time for that.

Besides dreaming of bigger cages and longer chains, I have three proposals:

Proposal 1:  I am asking City Council to commission a study to determine how much money it would take to get money out of politics.

Might I suggest a consultant that is not too cheap, so as to appear unworthy of listening to, or a consultant that is too pricey, so as to appear extravagant.

What do we want?  Another study.  When do we want it?  When we can afford it.

Frankly, I am much more interested in the stuff we can’t afford not to do.

My second proposal is to establish a democracy museum, to preserve whatever vestiges of democracy that remain.  This could be a public-private partnership that would reflect the share of democracy that is controlled by the public and private sectors, say 10% public and 90% private.  To honor the vital 10% of democracy that is publicly controlled, we could have that reflected in the naming rights, which, of course, are necessary to fund such ventures.  For instance, we would not have the 5/3 Democracy Museum, but rather the 4.5/3 Democracy Museum to preserve that sacred public trust.

Democracy: Some Assembly Required--POLITICAL BUTTONThis democracy museum could offer many opportunities to safeguard our notion of democracy.  For instance, we could preserve uncounted provisional ballots, for the posterity that they are worth.  We could display the many rubber stamps used to approve the corporatist agenda.

Being the Glass City, I’d suggest another glass museum.  But, while we may be able to afford to do the same thing over and over again, I suspect that “democracy” might not be able to afford the transparency of a glass museum.  Either way, we should have lots of windows to accommodate all of those beloved window dressings of which our politicians are so fond.

Well, you get the picture…well, OK, in museums you can’t get the actual picture.  But…I trust that there will be a reasonable facsimile available for sale in the gift shop.  And remember, there are only 365 shopping days until next democracy day.  But be patient, very patient in this sick political system.

Oh victims of oligarchy, be patient, I have come to save the day!

Oh victims of corporatocracy, be patient, I have come to save the day!

Oh victims of plutocracy, be patient, I have come to save the day!

Oh victims of kleptocracy, be patient I have come to save the day!

I have come to save the day, I have come to save the day!

Buy saving this day, democracy day, each year for 365 years, we will have saved up enough democracy for a democracy year.  So, based on these patient patients of a sick political system, I offer my third proposal.  I ask City Council, to declare the year 2382, 365 years from now, as democracy year.  Surely, such completely incredible long-term vision will not go unrewarded!

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 BUTTONBut alas, if there are any spare seconds from my five minutes of democracy, I could ask for a moment of silence, remembering that we have the right to be silent.  But, while we have the right to remain silent, I wouldn’t recommend it.  So, in that mean time, while we wait for our rulers to rule well, let us never forget: We are what democracy looks like  — an assembly of real people, not corporate “persons”.  Power to the people.  Power to real people. THANK YOU!

Exercise the First Amendment - Use It or Lose It - POLITICAL BUTTON

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

POEM: Trash Talk

God is culpable
Of more than you can
Imagine
Your momma
Fodder unknown
Know Job
A dyslexic dog
Dissembling I’m OK, you’re KO
Unsporting
A boxer of tiny portions
And don’t get me
Going
On
That big, ugly, unmentionable cistern
You don’t no
Jacked up
As if
To win some race
In venting
All ready
Only hopping
To swear out
You’re welcome
Err flailing
Too give a peace of your mind
Brain dishing a bad as gratitude
For feigning
As mite be Abel
To kick the biggest brass of awe
At the Guardin’ of
Eatin’
Up The Big Apple™
Arboring a grudge
Match
To the hole place
As having conned him
Impotent
As a rubber
Ball
A real bouncer
Off me
Sticking it to you
How in
Sensitive too
The sores of your being
So stoned phase
Tow to tow
As without
A life less stand
Erect it awe
Wanting nothing
Except falling silent
As is
Sow miss taking
Not wresting
Till you
Accede
Punch drunk
Or even wurst
Bared neck deep
Be forgoing your sole
At the bottom of the wring
Floored affront a missive audience
Still
He lives
Fore this dream
In this verbal spar for the coarse
And dumb struck in aptitude
For all else remains
Stairing him down
Forever helled
In his hands dealt
Before any anti-up
Down with that
In a blink if an I
Never the first to given
To a choir
Such hush
Money
In a life unfare
And projecting big
However mum
However long
Too menned
As fraud eons lip
Silently psyching out
As sum unspeakable whore
With a price honor head
As taller rating a lowly art
In sending some alpha mail
Those sacred techs
And incipient twitter
Having never
Really metaphor
Sow allusive
To sum
At best semi-for
Better off
The mirrorly suggestive
Un-intimated by ancient versus
And ode records
An old man in a Jung man’s game
As if
Some ark-type
A pare before them
Where only won is going down
A know lose proposition
What madder
Is an other
Head swimming
As taut from the bottom up
As must be
Know one
Hear
Knot fallen
For that agin
And in
The tacit turn
Of events
Awe is ink or hear it
Or in mortality by a million bytes
Or the numb-er of hits
And what can won do
As trash talk
The next best thing
Too silence
And bring a bout
As know more
A self-maid man
Having a fuel
Fore a maker
As surly as
A chicken before egged on
A can o’ bull
As self effacing
Is only fare
In the whirled heavy wait
Division
Of those in the arena
Where countless I’s are fixed
On good byes
As behind
They’re back
To the wall
Outside on the billing
The name on the mark he
Can
But don’t halve two
In the singular
Word

This long poetry slam offers an energetic and frenetic take on the modern, secular resistance to our metaphysical nature.  A Conclusion Is The Place Where You Got Tired Of Thinking SPIRITUAL BUTTONThis poem employs the metaphor of a boxer trash talking his opponent before the big match, a grudge match: pure physics and impure metaphysics.  This poem intentionally juxtaposes in-your-face physicality, profane language and plenty of attitude with the stereotypically staid and academic stance of philosophical discourse and theological erudition.  This poem mocks the scorn often evident on both sides of the theism-atheism, materialist-metaphysical debate, that fracas awe, aka the no master versus the master debates.  Don't let your victories go to your head, or your failures go to your heart. SPIRITUAL BUTTONMy love of parodies reflects a sense of lightheartedness in a chord with the soul and doing a body good.  For the main event, we all love a parity of parodies.  There is little satisfaction in a blowout.  There is a nagging root for the underdog — whoever that, may be.  What ever weigh, the show goes on.  And the truth lies somewhere between showing up and showing up.

POLITICAL POEM: You Don’t Say, And Ever Prey

To every American
YES
The president no’s stuff
That wee don’t
Real lies
Pinocchio without puppeteers
Cyrano’s muzzle sow credible
Undisclosed pickings of boogie men
Obscuring a lode of crop
Not too be shared
Impolite company
Helled as rue’d or over-sullen
Too reefer or a lude
As in appropriate cons piracy
Of the public goods
In farced buy their whored of privates
Free speeches and hush money
At our ever be quest
Only in the service of
Gag hors d’oeuvres
Wading for good ciao
As if
The qualm before the stormin’
Reading between the lies
You don’t say
And ever prey
An American
Yes

This poem is about the president and commander-in-chief enshrined in a web of secrecy and power, and the commensurate lies and inevitable compromising of the public trust.  The timing of the publication of this poem may allude specifically to Donald Trump, but I wrote this poem long ago about EVERY president.  Of coarse, the particulars on Donald Trump exemplify the harsh eternal truths that this poem dares udder.  Governments Lie POLITICAL BUTTONGovernments and politicians, the human agents of government, lie (to others and themselves) for the benefit of powerful interests other than the public good.  Some presidents squeak out more or less public good than others, but power is as power does — ask anyone living daily on the short end of power.  Speaking truth to power is not the natural habit of the powerful.  Speaking about, talking about, truth is a prerequisite for politicians in civilized societies.  Unfortunately, politicians’ rhetoric is, more often than not, directed at tutoring and propagandizing the masses rather than challenging the powerful few.  Cow-towing to powerful elites eviscerates the very power that truth offers: power for all.

Elites disparage the vulgar “mob” as a danger to democracy rather than a danger of democracy.  The masses are disposed to mistake the occasional rituals of voting as democracy.  Whereas, real democracy is derived directly from the lives and actions of the people.  I Don't Agree With President Vader's Policies, But I Still Think We Should Support Our Storm Troopers POLITICAL BUTTONThis is the truth revealed by the statement that the people get the government that they deserve.  What else could be expected?  If we can or will not govern ourselves, then what will fill that vacuum of governance?  In this disrespect, Donald Trump offers himself as a striking poser, claiming that when he is running the government he will regulate himself in a better way than when he was not.  The sorry truth is that Donald trump cannot lead himself, let alone others — which he will not!  Of course, in the same disrespect that a traffic crash or celebrity captures our undisciplined attention, Donald Trump will have inordinate influence on our lives.  We must pry our eyes from the vagaries of disaster capitalism and disaster democracy and keep our eyes on the prize.

“Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” is a folk song made most popular during the civil rights struggles of the 50’s and 60’s.  The journey and the prize are inscrutably bound, exercising our freedom of body and soul for ever more freedom of body and soul.  Here are the lyrics:

Paul and Silas bound in jail
Had no money for to go their bail
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on, hold on

Paul and Silas thought they was lost 
Dungeon shook and the chains fell off 
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

Hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

The only thing that we did was wrong 
Was staying’ in the wilderness too long 
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

The only thing we did was right 
Was the day we begun to fight 
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

Hold on, hold on
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

Freedom’s name is mighty sweet 
One day soon we’re gonna meet 
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

Got my hand on the gospel plow 
Won’t take nothing for my journey now 
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

Hold on, hold on 
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

And some possible alternative verses:

We Are The People We Have Been Waiting For - POLITICAL BUTTONOnly chain that a man can stand 
Is that chain o’hand on hand
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

 We’re gonna board that big Greyhound,
Carryin’ love from town to town.
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on 

We’re gonna ride for civil rights,
We’re gonna ride both black and white.
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on 

We’ve met jail and violence too,
But God’s love has seen us through.
Keep your eyes on the prize 
Hold on, hold on

The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings -- Albert Schweitzer quote POLITICAL BUTTONTruth is on the side of the oppressed. Malcolm X quote POLITICAL BUTTONIf we are looking for presidents or other so-called great men to save us, then we will continue to be bamboozled by distant rulers over those within arms reach.  We are the people we have been waiting for.  And for just us, we must discover where the truth lies.

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

POEM: As Far As One Kin See

As far as one kin see
It is a sin to crush some one’s body
And infinitely greater sow to crush some one’s spirit
In sum vain temped too raze awe questions
Can God
A-bridge
Between infinitude and soully you
Make piece with that which is wholly
Eternally now and to marrow
Not trading
In sin
As just
Some won
Violence
To that which is ardor
Too due
And infinitely greater

This poem is a tribute to the oneness of humanity, body and soul.  This poem recognizes the brutality of crushing one’s body through violence — whether through weapons or crushing needs.  This poem also posits that crushing one’s hope and dreams is udderly worse, steeling one’s soul.  This poem is an ode to those who accept that the hard work of creating justice on earth, here and now, is in seamless alignment with practices of the spirit in seeking evolution and enlightenment.  The inward and outward journeys must find some parity, or ails be subject to earned cynicism or learned helplessness.  The hopeful, those fuels for justice, must join up with awe those down in the trenches, those on the margins of cagey and fuel of street whys. Humanity has a shared destiny, and the key lies, not to cell, each other out.  For won humanity, there must be won love.  Sow let’s get together, body and soul, and cut to the chaise!

POLITICAL POEM: Buy Partisan Ship

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

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

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

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

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

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

POEM: Gone, For Good

He is gone
For good
A martyr defined
Not buy his death
Rather buy living
Not confined by what is left
Rather liberated by what is right
That singular question
What heir will you breath
After being
Punched in the chest
Unfettering
Treasures never sought
Breathless moments
Inevitably followed
By deep inspirations
And that which was labored
Becomes awe
The ardor
As love requieted
Returns as naturally
As breath abides

This poem is nominally about death.  Nonetheless, this poem is much more about living, and living well.  The real question is not whether life exists after death - The real question is whether you are alive before death -- Osho quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONThis poem hints at the possibility of life after death, but focuses on the here and now of living that very well may echo into eternity.  This poem alludes to the transcendence of left-right politics.  This poem speaks to the victory and treasures unfettered of one being punched in the chest followed reliably by inspiration.  This poem is a reflection on the sublime triumph of love through both the gritty battles of life and quiet, tender surrender.  May our love for life and each other echo far beyond the deaths we experience.

The good life is a happy life. I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy; I mean that if you are happy you will be good. Bertrand Russell quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONLife shrinks or expands according to one's courage -- Anais Nin quote POLITICAL BUTTON

TOLEDO POEM: The Glass City Is Refillable

Have empty
Have full
Pundit prognosticating
Weather tea town, big gulp, whine, or throwback
After work
All a buzz
A bout how well suited politicians
Re-billed a city of denim
Putting out hope
In efface of houses emptied
And streets full
Of potholes
Teeming with orange barrels
And every fuel for Toledo
Ever wandering, “Will we be Jeeped or not?”
For what’s frog town without croaking?
That looming will
We be relegated community?
Wholly Toledo, some kind of perfect zoo
And a world class heart museum
Where boosters must incurably cry out
I think not!
Know!
This is the biggest little town in America
And those a little too full of it
Head for the Hills
As if
They due butter
When you can’t beat the accost of living
Of those in the no
If have full, drink up
If have empty, just wait a round
The Glass City is refillable

I was hoping to win thirst prize with this Toledo poem, as my singular entry into the 2016 annual Poetry and Fiction contest of the Toledo City Paper: Half Full or Half Empty.  But, alas, I am truly settle for placement in a category called Dishonorable Mention.  This poem, about my beloved Toledo, reflects the self-deprecating, love-hate relationship that many Toledoans have with our esteemed town and occasionally reviled city.  The editor only had one question about my seriously playful, pun-filled wordplay: Was “A bout” my intended spelling.  As most often is the case when someone is confused about how to read my poems, the answer is: “Yes.”  There are many takes on the half-full/half-empty question.  I find that the glass being refillable is the most appropriate and truly hopeful answer.  I consider Toledo as the hidden gem of the Midwest, perhaps of the whole country.  But, please, keep this on the down-low.  We don’t want a bunch of Toledo wannabes cluttering up the city.