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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Toledo Democracy Day Testimony: Focus on Racism, White Supremacy

Below is the testimony I delivered today before Toledo City Council, or rather the three council members who showed up.  The mayor also showed up for part of the testimony.

Democracy Day Testimony

March 5, 2018

Hi, my name is Dan Rutt.  Today, I want to focus on one thing: that is, racism, or more precisely, white supremacy.

I am trained professionally in public health and I can attest to the effects of racial disparities across a sweeping array of health issues.  It is key to note that these racial disparities cannot be explained away by differences in income, education or the like.  Racism and white supremacy are baked into our system.  Less than two weeks ago, the Center for Investigative Journalism released a massive, nationwide study of access to housing finance, for home mortgages and home improvement loans.  Blacks were 2.7 times more likely to be denied loans than whites.  Again, this is comparing loans for people with the same credit scores, financial ability to pay, and even for loans in the same neighborhoods.  Of particular concern, this racial disparity is larger than during the Jim Crow era.  Racism is not receding into the distance.

Today, I would like to further focus on the criminal justice system, which is perhaps the most palpable manifestation of racism in our society.  At every stage of the criminal justice system, people of color are more likely than whites to be harassed by police, arrested by police, subject to bail or larger bail by judges, given harsher prison sentences by judges, and less likely to get parole.  And please note again, that this is comparing for the same crimes.  The treatment of people of color by the criminal justice system raises inescapable questions of what is criminal, what is justice, and what is the true nature of the system.

Within the last couple of weeks, Danny Brown, who was wrongly convicted of a murder in 1982, exhausted perhaps his last legal recourse to exoneration and access to just compensation for his nearly two decades in prison.  As he enters his fourth decade of this criminally just nightmare, Julia Bates, the county prosecutor, continues her intransigence, in keeping Danny on a suspect list, so he cannot be cleared.  The illusory case that she has held open for so many years denies Danny his chance at justice.  The last time I saw Julia Bates on TV about Danny’s case she spoke about her concern for the money he might get if he is fully exonerated — speaking of valuing money over human life.  Is anyone surprised that Danny Brown is a black man?  Is anyone surprised that a hugely disproportionate amount of people across the country in similar situations are black men?  Today, I call, again, for Julia Bates to close the case on Danny Brown or retry him.

Last year, U.S. Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, visited our fine city and had a meeting closed to the media and the public, securing an entire block to keep him safe from looming democratic forces.  He came promoting his initiative, unfunded initiative, to ramp up the failed drug war and get prosecutors to charge defendants with the maximum charges they can. This initiative is in direct opposition to an ongoing effort by our criminal justice system to seek ways to minimize sentences, particularly for nonviolent offenses.  This Sessions initiative has been plagued by secrecy, including foremost, by our own Chief-of-Police, George Kral, who has been less than forthcoming about how Toledo got roped into this initiative, and what exactly does this initiative mean for Toledo.  Does Chief Kral really expect that this hard-edged, law-and-order Sessions initiative won’t magnify existing racial disparities in our criminal justice system?

I am here today because I witness again and again evidence from top to bottom in our community that white supremacy is, at a minimum, poorly understood, and more importantly, in practice, widespread.

A view from the top may be most illustrative.  During the recent mayoral race, CSRN, The Community Solidarity Response Network, our local Black Lives Matter group, held a mayoral candidates forum. The first question was, “How do you define white supremacy?” None of the four candidates defined white supremacy as institutional racism or society-wide systems of injustice against persons of color.  This included our former mayor and our new mayor.  The answers touched on white supremacy as neo-Nazis or the like — the worst of the worst.  There were several versions of “a few bad apples” within society and some of our public institutions.  And there was the issue of implicit bias, a polite term for subconscious racism.

All in all, I was left with the distinct impression that racism was a peripheral issue, largely something in the past, that the still-existing remnants needed some sweeping up; though, alas, there was plenty of regret for the occasional but rare racist that still managed to survive into our largely post-racial society.  I was struck by the seeming apologetics around implicit bias, as if not intending to be racist largely mitigated the real-life effects of racism.  I was left with the impression that racism was more about impropriety than injustice.  Please remember that their answers were at a mayoral candidates forum within the specific context of the sponsoring group being an anti-racism group.  I am hard-pressed to believe that they were caught unprepared to answer such questions, and I strongly suspect that their weak answers came close to their best effort.

I must confess that I was particularly struck by such a weak response of our then-Mayor, the African-American holding the highest elected office in our city.  Yet, on further reflection this seemed less as some personal failure of hers than, in fact, as a rather apt example of how the powers that be, the status quo, is better characterized by the strictures and limits set by white supremacy in our body politic than by the life experiences of any given politician with a black body.

Our community is currently in the process of planning how to rehab our county jail.  I have heard much about location, dominated by “not-in-my-backyard” attitudes, and about cost — not the disproportionate human cost borne by communities of color, but money, money, money.  This is the present nexus and test regarding our true valuing of human persons over money.  We may not have confederate statues to remind us of our racist heritage, yet, if a new jail is built without a bold plan to combat the racism inherent in our criminal justice system, then the new jail will be a very expensive monument to our racism.  This is the $100 million question of the day.  Many of us may take some comfort, even pride, in areas where Toledo may do better than other communities, but let us assure that this in no way dampens a bold resolve to end white supremacy in Toledo.

To that end, I call upon our mayor, Toledo City Council, and the Lucas County Commissioners to come up with a comprehensive plan to eliminate racism from our criminal justice system.  THANK YOU.

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

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

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

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

Please feel free to browse my sensible gun laws designs.

POEM: Nazi Murder Trials, 1963

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

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

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

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

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

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

POEM: Weepin of Choice

His unwillingness to be a victim
Soully exceeded
Buy his willfulness to be a perpetrator
Better to have
Willed a gun
Than mirrorly get
A ballad in ahead
That imminently natural selection
Of hapless pray
Re: in force
Such patriotic cant
And simp-ly a parent of chorus you can
Too the tear of awe
Weepin’s helled in our hands
Sow a verse
That thin red line
In the thick of
The deference
In the seaminess
Of oppressor and oppressed
The enigmatic quest in
Of weather you can
Have won
Without the other
To shed more hate than light
In discriminating prism
Only to con serve
Cell preservation
Or wherever egos
Fallowing death
A firm life
In mortality
A test too
They’re weepin of choice

This poem is a dramatic ode to the thin line between victim and perpetrator.  There is a horror in both estates of being.  The truism that hurt people hurt people begs for a broken chain, often presenting itself to beat the hell out of others or take it as unjust a beating.  Is there a fare-mined weigh to go on, strike?

The horrific picture in my mind is that of children in war zones enforced into soldiering, specifically by being forced to kill someone else, typically someone they know, as an initiation into the invading forces.  Or be killed themselves.  The ensuing trauma, and the desperate promise of survival as a perpetrator rather than death or indigency as a victim, often seals one’s fate in a choice beyond most adults, let alone children.  Such a display of soul murder is perhaps the most dramatic, even as an epic cautionary tale far removed from the real or contemplated lives of most adults in this world.  Nonetheless, the daily bred of the victim-perpetrator cycle is mostly much more subtle and insidious.  The routinized bargains most of us make are well fed by seamless self-serving rationalizations and hermetically sealed worldviews safely partitioning good and evil.  We are grateful, even thank God, that we happen to be, well, on the good side. Our own cultural in-groups are neatly washed in the wringer of what we typically call civilization, a convenient euphemism for “us” — now, even 25% cleaner; progress you know!  Our dark sides are projected on others, safely sequestered in “them” — the looming barbarous hordes, who mostly want to take our way of life (or jobs) — equally progressive and precarious — but will take the life of our hired mercenaries, peace officers, or even ourselves if we let our guard down.

What I hope this poem inspires is some contemplation about what might be that thin chalk line around your soul that defines what you would not do to save your bodily life.  What would you not do, even if a gun was pointed at your head?  Such a boundary quite starkly outlines that which you re-guard as sacred, worthy of the sacrifice of your bodily life.  If your skin in the game is only to protect your own skin (or kin), then the cycle of perpetrator-victim will be incarnated perpetually.  Protect your own or sell your kind?  What kind of quest in is that?  Won of kindness — your own kind and every other kind.  Dramatic examples can be highly instructive in contemplating the demarcations of our soul.  Still, my hope is to provoke a more thorough deconstruction of our lives, as our lives are sow much more than bodily existence.  What in your life would you be willing to lose for a higher purpose?  My favorite definition of sacrifice is giving up something of value for something of greater value.  I view this trading up as the primary vehicle for living up to our highest values.  What material/bodily stuff are you willing to trade up for that which is higher?  What parts of your life are you willing to sacrifice for a greater whole?  We all end up in a hole; not all become whole or make their fare share of the whole.  Of course, the hierarchy of goodness is not simply some binary division of material and spiritual.  Our bodies and material goods are gifts to be purposed and re-purposed in the progressive filling and fulfilling of our souls, shared humanity, and awe of creation.  If there is anything that all spiritual and religious traditions lift up, it is that our purpose wrests in that beyond our self.  Next in line would probably be that we each have a soul responsibility that cannot be contracted to others.  As you confront the many weepins in life, may your soul purpose find itself bigger and better, not simply at a loss.

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

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

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

POEM: A We Occupation

I get deeply cared away
Buy you being
On the same side as me
Conveniently not paying
A tension
To the under
Lying fact
That there is but
Won side
Which wee occupy

This short poem addresses a theme that underlies much of my poetry, that, in ultimate reality, we are one.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently stated: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”  The ego, wed to its own independence, over and above interdependence, resists a shared destiny, routinely seeking to carve out its own apparent advantage over larger realities.  After experiencing one’s fair share of unpleasant events, and witnessing the sheer pervasiveness of such events in life, competing to rise above such a fray seems eminently natural — eat or be eaten, kill or be killed.  Only a deep humility and an unbound love for life can transform destruction of selves into self-realization.

Must life feed on life?  Of course, as one, what else could one feed upon?  As a literal example, our food comes from living beings.  Now, some meat-eaters employ this fact as a convenient rationalization that killing is normal, or at least a “necessary” evil, and lazily leap to a mode of thinking (and eating) where killing is of little consequence.  I see enlightenment of living beings gently resting on that thin line between eating and being eaten.  If life must feed on life, is there a way of feeding upon life that enhances life not diminish it?  I believe that life can get bigger or smaller, as a whole, and as a self within the whole.  How big or how small I’m not sure.  Nonetheless, that thin line, our consciousness, is where the expansion or contraction rests.  Is our consciousness, and conscientiousness, confined to our self, our family, our tribe, our species, our planet, or what?  Consciousness may very well be the heart of life itself.  In this case, increasing consciousness increases life and decreasing consciousness decreases life.

One construct of evil would be feeding on death, a level of (un)consciousness that does not recognize or share consciousness with other beings.  Evil consumes consciousness.  In a sense, what evil does share is unconsciousness or contracted consciousness.  Functioning with a shared unconsciousness reduces humans to mere billiard balls, a set, albeit complex set, of cause and effect relationships guided by causes (including others’ wills) outside our self.  In essence, “choosing” unconsciousness or declining to expand consciousness takes us out of the game (the game being enhancing consciousness, life).  Contracted consciousness is a set of relationships (a “contract”) created and maintained by our wills, consciously chosen.  It is these contracts that form the substance and style of our culture, ethical debates, and political fights.  Still, consciousness, and its creative existential force, the will, lies outside any particular set of relationships (material conditions) that can be chosen.  Expanding consciousness will necessarily run into this awareness, that any particular culture, set of social conditions, or ideology, cannot control our conscious free will.  The seemingly obvious exception to this is death, or more specifically, killing, presumably ending conscious free will.  Justified killing is included in most contracts among humans today.  What this often overlooks is that killing particular expressions of conscious free will does not eliminate conscious free will; most bluntly illustrated by the fact that this would require suicide (thus, the fascination of murder-suicide by existentialist writers).  No doubt, killing is a very blunt way of trying to reign in conscious free will.  Of course, many contracted belief systems include an afterlife, the survival of conscious free will.  If this is true, this radically alters the effectiveness of killing.  Unfortunately, sometimes the belief in an afterlife, rather than simply leading to bold living, serves in the rationalization of killing (e.g., “kill them all and let God sort them out”).

Conjoining our consciousnesses seems best served by the most profound precept: love your enemies.  That which is not you — or more aptly put, that which you do not want to be you — must be both transcended and entered into.  Each of us and all of us are best served by manifesting the courage to confront and reconcile both our own inner dark side and the darkness manifest in others.  Back to the eat or be eaten metaphor, the question is begged: what if you were the pray.  The more gently profound precept, have compassion on all living beings, spurs us to walk in another’s shoes and no what it is like for shoeless souls laid bare to the world.  May we all be grounded, and laid to rest, with such compassionate and conscious living.  I deeply appreciate the Zen story of the man encountering another man somewhat boasting in tales about his great relationship and love of animals, to which he interjects, “A fish once saved my life.”  The boaster’s curiosity was peaked to hear such a tale.  To which he was told: “Once I was lost in the woods and perilously hungry.  I found a fish in the stream, and I ate him.”  This signature Zen approach is transcendentally funny and, not coincidentally, enlightening.   He deflated pomposity.  Lauded the fish which saved his life.  Plus, he outflanked even the most compassionate ideology, witnessing to the mystery of mysteries needed to instill life into any chosen ideology.  The Christian take on dietary ideologies is less clever but makes a similar point: “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Matthew 15:11)

All great philosophies and the mysticism at the heart of all religions recognizes the irreducible, creative freedom present in humans.  The mystery of creation parallels the making of humans in God’s image as co-creators, romping around the created universe.  Creation focuses on the will, the power present in human consciousness, and presumably God’s consciousness.  However, consciousness is the prerequisite to experience itself, whereby meaning arises, even made possible. Consciousness gives rise to (the experience of) the other, the myriad of things, including our body and mind.  Consciousness, sometimes called “The third eye,” is the seat of all seeing, even able to see our mind from a vantage point other than the mind itself, the true “I.”  Consciousness enlivens existence with experience and we can meaningfully participate in the myriad of things (the created world) through our will.  I strongly suspect that the foundational importance of relationships, sharing, and creation spring out of the nature of God.  As I see it, God consciousness and will give rise (create) to the other so it can share the experience of an other.  Maybe God just got tired of self-consciousness (see my poem: An Answer to the Problem of Evil, which is much more playful than the weighty title might connote).  Giving/creating seems to be the foundational nature of sharing present in enlightened beings, which cements the centrality of relationships among others.  I am struck by the tripartite truth of consciousness of self, the palpable created reality in which we experience, and the irascibly creative will from which we add our own touches.  Granted, I may be touched.  Still, there is a spirit within me that will not rest until our created reality is won size fits awe.

 

POEM: Insane Asylum Patience

Whose violence is worse
They argued
The insane asylum patience
Condemning barbarism
As the strongest barbarians
Write history
And write makes right
Or sow it might
As cartoonish caricatures
Capture humanities
A tension
Leaving those under
Lying causes
Uniformly camouflaged
Amid academic renditions
In citing violence
Abel to question
God and neighbor
And a religion that means
Peace
For know One
Con fronting
The insanity
Of necessary evil

This poem, universally condemning violence, was inspired in the wake of the murders of 12 cartoonists and journalists in France.  The perpetrators of this violence were apparently Islamic extremists, in contrast to other extremists such as those perpetrating violence in a secular, Christian, Hindu, or Jewish variety.  Violence is an evil to be rejected.  Violence should be rejected whether it is a lone assailant or with the official sponsorship of some nation-state or religious sect.  Still, there is a special place in hell reserved for those who sponsor hell-on-earth by heaping violence upon violence in some official capacity.  If you believe that violence is a moral imperative, or in some amoral way necessary, I would suggest exploring a bigger God or worldview.  Perpetrators of violence are self-fulfilling prophets.  If we don’t transcend the notion that violence is necessary, we will be rewarded with the perpetual struggle to dominate one another.  We are all recovering from the effects of violence.  This experience of hurt and loss feeds a reciprocal response with violence.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  This is a powerful law of both physics and metaphysics.  This law should not be taken flippantly; just look at the havoc perpetuating itself through the action of this law!  However, while this law has profound ramifications on human life, a palpable sign of the divine order of the created universe, humans are not bound only by this law.  Human free will, moral agency, can choose other options besides tit for tat.  Free will is a supernatural aspect of reality in the sense that it transcends mere physics; it adds stuff to the mix of nature and its rolling out of the cause and effect world.  As Gandhi so profoundly put forth, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Of course, you don’t “have to” be nonviolent, just as you don’t “have to” be violent.  This may be the most profoundly beautiful aspects of human life, that each of us get to add our chosen reality to the mix of our shared reality.  And these choices will echo in eternity.

POEM: Not Buying Heaven or Hell

Being not tempted
Buy heaven or hell
I yearn my keep
From the love unearth

I like epic themes, such as heaven and hell.  Nonetheless, I find the carrot of heaven or the stick of hell to be a distraction from good living on earth.  Love strikes me as what melds the good life on earth.  Love is a good in itself, reflecting the grace of our Creator.  Love is the way.  Love puts hell in the refuse category, rejecting the cynical notion that redemption is a dead end street.  Hell implies that God gives up on us, and that God’s will can only overcome us with some sort of eternal prison.  More insidiously, hell accepts that human will is somehow supreme, even trumping God.  Death itself seems a more than adequate fail-safe for limiting any human’s will! If there is a heaven, it would prove consistent with God’s pattern of surprising me with good things, taking me beyond my limited intellect, experience, or even imagination.  My conception of how God operates is much more like a parent raising a young child, or in my more mature states, like a lover wooing me into even greater ways of being.  My siblings in this big, strange human family may behave badly at times, but we are still family and need to have each others back, and at least not kill each other!  Cain murdering Abel was all the more outrageous because they were brothers.  It is no different today — we are all brothers and sisters.  We should not forget such things.  This is not simply a metaphor.  Evolutionary biology indicates that all modern humans descended from a common ancestor on the continent of Africa.  Humanity would be better served to remember our African mother and know that we are one race, the human race. Love of family is our greatest inheritance. Let this love bring us together, not tear us apart.

POEM: Silver Bullets

Beware of cellars of silver bullets
Proffering too for won buys
As wear wolves clothing
In the face
Of murder-suicide
Know if, and, or butt
Totally transmogrifying
In a fool moon rising
A dark knight
A bastard sun
Offering kool aid
As a final solution
A straw man choosing
Short cut
Or going long
Whether thirst or lust
The buyer be ware
As passably souled
If the prize is right

This poem is about hucksters of all sorts.  There is something about human nature that leaves us vulnerable to quick fixes, the proverbial “silver bullet.”  I suspect that this has a lot to do with laziness, the resistance to exerting effort, and a commensurately lazy view of reality where if just one thing were fixed then all would be right with the world.  Impatience is a cousin of laziness, as patience is the mother of all virtues.  Also, humans seem attracted to the clever, often at the expense of intelligence.  Even the apparently novel can beguile us to bypass ancient wisdom or just plain common sense.  Wile sellers of silver bullets must be held accountable; of coarse, the buyer must be ware, willing to be sold.  A certain steeling of our souls may lead us behave shrewdly to salespeople.  Not wanting to peer a fool is often the salespersons best tool.  Exorcising wisdom as a passing fad allows us to be taken and retards us from excepting what is given.  May you be forever souled, in awe ways rooted in that beyond accost.

POEM: His Hole Life

His hole life
He refused to get carried away
Keeping his emotions in check
A promissory note
Just enough to cover his pallbearers

A noteworthy life, one that is lived wholeheartedly, is not without passion. Life: it’s all in the risk.  The point of life is not to arrive safely in your grave.  As Helen Keller so aptly declared, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”  A life reserved is a life lost.  We must loose our life in order to gain it!  In my first short story as an adult (yet to be published) a character is recounted (after his disappearance and murder) as saying “he suspected that God had little interest in us being saved, and is infinitely more interested in us being gloriously well spent.”  In the movie Steel Magnolias, the character Shelby says that “I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.” Her mother is giving her grief as she is newly pregnant and terminal.  There is always room for another baby in the world; it’s the adults that make it crowded.  In this life, may we all be newly pregnant, for we are all surely terminal.  As we are all present in this awkward period between birth and death, may our soul be bared before our body buried.

POEM: The Death of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier

He was a Baby with a capital B
A ruler by which so many would be judged
He was unjust
A child of 20
A President for life
A President for death
As so many capriciously dyin’ with a king
An entourage of automatic weapons and complimentary wine
Drunk with power
As a prince of port
Celebrating fear
Of those his pathos cross
In the company of thieves
A bout to meet their maker
In the chaos of Haiti borne
I was just
A child of 10
With a father doc of my own
Standing up like so many others
In a sense wondering
Who had come before me
And what might fallow
Only to depart so quickly
As a pre-mature baby with terminal rashness
Vainly hoping to reach ode age
Goon before we know it
And such is life
I dash to the winnow
Like a babe in the woulds
Mirrorly site seeing
Unschooled in this deathly land escape
As my mother
Without peer
Pulled me to her side
That one side that fits awe
Only hereafter to learn
In do time
With respects
To wrest in peace

I wrote this poem this morning after hearing of the death of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, a former president of Haiti, much more aptly described as a brutal dictator.  I was born in Haiti while my parents were serving there as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee.  Our family returned to visit Haiti in 1971, soon after “Baby Doc” inherited the family dictatorship from his father, “Papa Doc.” This poem recounts an incident when we were dining in a restaurant in Port-Au-Prince, the capitol of Haiti, when “Baby Doc” came in for a meal.  I was ten years old.  All of the sudden, everyone in the restaurant stood up.  And as is the etiquette in a foreign country, when everybody around you does something, follow suit.  We stood up.  “Baby Doc” and his entourage of guards armed with automatic weapons entered.  The proprietors of the restaurant quickly prepared a few tables for them directly adjacent to our table.  We were mere feet from three tables occupied by the president and his armed guards. Complimentary wine was ordered for all of the restaurant’s guests. Of course, I found all of this quite fascinating.  They ate and left rather quickly, and I scurried to the window to capture yet more of this gawk-worthy event.  My mom quickly and discreetly rounded me back up and pulled my away from the window.  Only later did she share the worry that such behavior could be viewed as suspicious and perhaps dangerous.

The death of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was experienced by countless Haitians who were murdered and disappeared.  This morning there were probably relatively few Haitians mourning the death of this one man.  May Haiti continue to recover from the death brought by his reign, among so many other troubles and challenges.  The experiences of myself and my family in Haiti continue to give me a life-long perspective from which to work for justice and wrest in peace.

POEM: What Sup? — Owed to Michael Brown and Ferguson, MO

They come with walls of armor
And arms, oh, the arms
Ever prepared to do the riot thing
Will their fear be matched
By the fire in the bellies
Of protesters
Waving conflagrations
Or hands bound
Staring down such a dear accost
As inevitably meet
Each hankering in their own weigh
For just another
Setting at the table
Inescapably found
In the porous of communities
When poach talk
Left behind
In an escaping domesticity
Beyond bred and whine
And parting shots
Dis tending question
What sup?

This one goes out to all of those in Ferguson, Missouri, dealing with the aftermath of the murder of Michael Brown by a police officer — yet another young black male killed without justification by a white police officer in America.  Michael Brown is dead and racism is alive and well in America.  Much of white America is apparently puzzled by the outrage, focusing on how they can protect themselves from the rage of their victims.  The cries for security, meaning white security, overshadow the cries for justice.

This poem reflects on the militarization of law and order, which is more consistent with the crime committed by a law enforcement officer than protecting and serving the community where that crime was committed.  You just have to look at who is dressing for a riot.  Hint: it’s not the masses of peaceful demonstrators.

The main images used in this poem center around the home as the foundation of community.  The porch and the dining rooms where lives are shared and bread is broken is a glue that holds together community.  Still, when it is not safe to walk the streets, porch talk and a good meal are not enough.  There is a time to take to the streets and reclaim one’s community.  The good people of Ferguson and America deserve an answer to the question, “What sup?”

POEM: Owed to Fort Hood Shooting(s)

Owed to Fort Hood Shooting(s)

Welcome to the hood
A fort of freedom
Billed upon violence
Up in arms
With billions in cache
Yet what remains
Unexplained
Bodies of evidence
About faces
Ambushed from deep within
Sow unlike
The enemy without
A projection of force
That no’s know end
United in states
Of con-stir-nation
And the perennial just
Plane crazy
Calling 911
After years
In the making
Veterans in abandonment
The hunters now haunted
By the whores of war
Pawned by kings (and occasional queens)
And all that is rank
Sold on commissions
As common privates beholden
Major embarrassment
Corporal punishment
All under general doody
A mirror lineup of quirks
Cockeyed foibles
And proverbial whoppers
Awe mything the point
Sow full of holes
As we are believed of command
Only hoping
To return
To our census
As children of God
Only to escape
Our brood
In a sense lost forever
Having gone
Owed school
No longer
As easy as ABCD
Coming of age in PTSD
Brain injuring and heart rendering
Equivocating murder and suicide
In such grievous measures
Of military debasement

My heart goes out to all affected by the tragedy at yesterday’s murders and suicide at Fort Hood.  Today, I’ll just let my poem speak for itself.

POEM: Less Than Eternal Question

The Rev. Medley
Had risen
To the highest position
He would ever
It was only down from there
An awe too common
Occupational hazard
Of moderate irony
And accumulating lessens
Just falling short
Of making one cross
Facing that less than eternal question
If only Jesus
Had bothered to develop
Better retirement plans

Here is a poem that I wrote before the Lenten season, and now that we are in Lent, I realize that it is an appropriate Lenten poem.  I have always admired Jesus for being “all in” this thing called life.  While Jesus’ way of being in the world raises difficult questions, his life powerfully juxtaposes finding meaning in life with finding meaning in death.  Lent is a time for Christians to reflect on such things.  For years I have often joked that I have given up Lent for Lent.  More to the truth, my ascetic tendencies and frank goals of living simply leave me in a sort of permanent Lent.  In practice, I see that Buddhists seems to model better than Christians simple living and prudently avoiding attachments to material goods. Materialism has such a powerful and normative presence in Western civilization, that Christianity, at least as practiced in Westernized communities, seems to have accommodated rampant materialism quite well.  I see the divide between serving God or wealth (worldly power) as primary in my understanding of the message of Jesus’ life and death.  The conventional wisdom of sensible retirement planning, as alluded to in this poem, seems second nature to what is considered the good life in modern times. I have witnessed way too many fear-filled discussions in church settings about more financially secure appointments, health coverage, and retirement benefits for clergy.  In sharp contrast, I have found little traction for providing a living wage to janitors, secretaries, and many other employees of churches or faith-based organizations.  Church folks are too polite to crucify you for suggesting providing a living wage to low-wage church employees, but the resounding silence kills nonetheless.

In reflecting on the often lukewarm leadership of professional Christians, often called clergy, outsiders are at little risk of ever guessing that the founder of their movement was publicly executed by the state for his revolutionary, uncompromising life.  In sharp contrast, outsiders have little difficulty understanding that religious elites were complicit in Jesus’ murder.

I admire the Buddhist spiritual practice of meditating on your own death.  This practice seems like a powerful way to elicit the value and importance of life in the context of death.  Followers of Jesus have a profound leader who made such meditations an incarnate reality.  Jesus is the way.  But the retirement plan is a killer.

POEM: The Autobiography of Tao Rex

The opening lines
Of the autobiography
Of Tao Rex
Alias Not Neil:
Neil was a man of substance
Who was not waiting
For it to come into style
If in the course of life
He should cross
Kingmakers
And Job creators
He would not settle
For being a part
As sum illumine knotty
Though some might
Say naughty
Whatever could be said
Of such calamities
Or calumnies
It is not about kneel
Or similar conventions
The rest
Rights itself

This poem is a tip of the hat to the Tao, and a hybridization of the eternally one Tao with social activism.  An appreciation of the wisdom of the Tao recognizes the unique, ineffable, and dynamic way of life.  This way does not mistake mere style with deep truth of the Tao’s reality.  Living into the unity of the Tao does not settle for being a mere part of the whole of reality, but dynamically seeks harmony of the part and whole.  The Tao’s connection to social activism springs from this unity, giving rise to human rights shared by all.  Those who would parcel out reality for their own individual gain may be clever, and even powerful in their own right, but such behavior impugns the shared character of humanity.  Kneeling, or bowing, to such powers is often considered simple, conventional wisdom.  Nonetheless, the Tao is not about kneeling to convention, but seeking the deeper spring from which all life arises in harmony, even perfection.  And from The rest/Rights itself.”  Not surprisingly, The rest is a pun, meaning both “all else” and “the state of resting.”

The rest begs a spiritual perspective, a transcendent perspective, because reality can never be fully tapped by the mind and/or heart.  This endless reserve, The rest, can be viewed as the source of all being, a higher power, or God.  East and West meet with The rest of the Tao and the sabbath of Jewish and Christian spiritual practice.  Honoring the Sabbath is the fourth of the infamous ten commandments.  The sabbath commandment is the culmination of the three commandments; they go together.  The first three commandments are about a proper relationship with the one true God, the highest and most sacred reality.  Beyond the “I am” of the first commandment, we are instructed in the second commandment to not reduce the sacred to mere images, “graven images,” daring to reduce the whole truth to a partial truth.  The third commandment is similar in that it warns of taking God’s name/character in vain, to impugn the very power of God, the sacred source of all being and moving.  Trusting, putting your faith, in this sacred source, parallel to the Tao in Taoism, is demonstrated behaviorally by respecting/honoring rest, recognizing that there are far greater powers than ourselves from which life’s bounty rests and springs forth.  To disrespect the Sabbath by trying to rely exclusively on our own power is idolatry, putting ourselves above God, The rest.  Translating the Sabbath day commandment to modern-day capitalism and its relevance to social activism is basically God calling for a work-stoppage every week.  Honoring the Sabbath witnesses to the primacy of God, The rest.  This radical act, an apparent non-act to some, is a powerful threat to capitalism’s constant assertion of perpetual busyness to grow and thrive.  Capitalism’s worldview, basic operating assumptions are idolatrous.  Capitalism is idolatrous because it regularly discounts the sacred act of honoring The rest.  In capitalism’s equation, The rest, is a barrier to maximizing profits and productivity.  Even the more sophisticated view of recognizing that rest may be needed to maximize worker productivity reduces The rest to mere utility, a means to an end, not a honoring The rest as good in itself, a gift from God.

Related to the modern fixation on utility, the practical, secularized mindset of postmodern culture usually skips to the last six commandments which deal with more easily recognizable behavioral elements (though “honoring mother and father” seems a transitional commandment for moving from a proper understanding of the order of things in heaven to earth).  The remaining commandments deal with murder, adultery, theft, lying, and greed.  Of course, focusing even only on these commandments leaves plenty of critique for capitalism, with its inevitable warring over creation’s bounty, siphoning wealth from the weak, lying to self and others to cover one’s dishonorable tracks, and perhaps most infamously and audaciously arguing that greed is good!

May you find rest in the sacred source of all being.  And may you fight restively for justice from such a bounteous place.

POEM: Smoking Guns

Smoking Guns

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

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

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

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

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

Julia Bates Retirement Party, Mock Award

Today a few dozen people descended upon the Lucas County Courthouse in downtown Toledo, Ohio, to wish Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates a happy retirement and demand justice for Danny Brown

Occupy Toledo had a cake, party hats, noisemakers, and a card to sign.  Several persons went into the courthouse to deliver the card to Julia Bates and chant, “Exonerate Now, Clear Danny Brown’s Name!”  They were escorted out of the courthouse under threat of arrest, continuing to chant.  They were joined by those outside, and soon Julia Bates, under armed escort made her way to cocktails and lunch at a nearby drinking establishment.  The crowd followed her there and protested outside chanting.  Some of the favorite chants were: “Cocktails for Julia, Justice for Danny” and “Serve Justice, Not Cocktails.”  Ms. Bates was protected by a half-dozen or so sheriffs inside the restaurant and another half-dozen or so sheriffs and Toledo police outside. She reportedly was able to stomach lunch and a couple of cocktails with approximately the same ease as she has stomached injustice for Danny Brown for many years.

Below is the script of the retirement party mock award that occurred outside the courthouse:

Retirement Party

Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates

Justice for Danny Brown

Occupy Toledo

May 1, 2012

 

 

MOCK AWARD

HABEAS B. CORPSE: Hi, my name is Habeas B. Corpse.  I am the president and founder of the National Association for the Advancement of County Persecutors.  The National Association for the Advancement of County Persecutors is proud to present the 2012 Habeas Corpus Award to Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates.

The Habeas Corpus Award recognizes outlandish success in furthering the principle of speedy justice of the criminal variety.  Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates has managed to parlay a wrongful conviction of Danny Brown for murder and rape in 1982 into an open-ended, indefinite murder case. Although Danny Brown served 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates was unfazed by such an obstacle to her success. By perpetually holding another suspicious criminal investigation over Danny Brown’s head, Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates has successfully avoided letting an innocent man clear his name. Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates has devoted the last decade to producing no evidence worthy of bringing any charges against Danny Brown.  Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates has demonstrated fantastical creativity in avoiding any exoneration or apology to Danny Brown for his 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.  Perhaps, most significantly, if Danny Brown is ever allowed to clear his name, under Ohio law, he would be eligible for compensation for his wrongful conviction resulting in 19 years in prison. This compensation could total over $900,000.  Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates has successfully postponed this indefinitely.  She has saved Lucas County taxpayers money by devoting virtually no resources to her shallow criminal investigation and by avoiding spending any resources to allow Danny Brown to have his day in court. Please note that Danny Brown is also currently suspected of being innocent of over 666 murders in Lucas County since 1982. With her unending patience in persecuting an innocent Toledo citizen, Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates has brought new meaning to the term “criminal” justice.

As part of the Habeas Corpus Award, the National Association for the Advancement of County Persecutors provides an honorarium of $30,000.

With equal speed and due diligence the National Association for the Advancement of County Persecutors realized that this 2012 Habeas Corpus Award to Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates is actually the product of 30 years of wrongful conviction, wrongful imprisonment, and open-ended, unmerited criminal investigations. Yes, we just figured this out. Thus, the National Association for the Advancement of County Persecutors has determined that Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates is entitled to the Habeas Corpus Award, not only for 2012, but for 31 years:

2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, ………………….1982

[foldout 28.4 foot certificate accordion-style for each year and have persons line up holding them].

We are awarding the Habeas Corpus Award retroactively for 31 years.  Only now do we truly realize what “speedy” justice is. Since the Habeas Corpus Award comes with an honorarium of $30,000 each year, this makes Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates’ honorarium a total of $930,000. The National Association for the Advancement of County Persecutors promises to pay this honorarium with the same speed and due diligence that Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates has so amply demonstrated.

[delivery person rushes in, holding up “RUSH DELIVERY” envelope as delivering it]

[Habeas B. Corpse opens envelope, holds up BREAKING NEWS BULLETIN for crowd to see]

HABEAS B. CORPSE: Wait, what is this? It looks like a breaking news bulletin. Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates, at this very moment, is filing for moral bankruptcy.  Well, we will just have to trust her good judgment on this one. I’m sure she has an airtight case.

[enter citizen]

Hold on, we are not done here! I am here on behalf of Lucas County citizen’s and in the good name of Danny Brown, to conduct a citizen’s arrest. I demand the arrest of Lucas County Persecutor Julia Bates. She is wanted for murder, the murder of justice for Danny Brown. Warning, Julia Bates, also goes under the aliases of “Julia Will Fool Ya” and “Bates and Switch”. She is armed with a public office and is considered a threat to justice. Her last known whereabouts are reported to be lurking about the county courthouse. We ask that any good, justice-loving citizen of Lucas County arrest her immediately upon determining the whereabouts of this fugitive. I have here “Wanted Posters” to help you identify her, apprehend her, and bring her to justice. And please hurry, rumor has it that the best practices in such matters is to wrap up such matters within 30 years, give or take a decade or so.

[handout wanted posters]

POEM: Financial Wizardry

Steal from one
You are called a thief
Steal from many
You are called a financial wizard

I like this short poem because it plays with the idea of how we interpret personal or individual acts versus impersonal and large-scale actions.  This poem fits the same format and tone as:  kill one and they call it murder, kill many and they call it foreign policy.  Each of these highlights the apparent bias that we have against individual or personal harmful acts, and our apparent bias in favor of impersonal and distance actions.  On the one hand, this makes sense since you can more easily see and connect the dots to the harmfulness of someone stealing directly from you in person, or assaulting you in person.  Yet, on the other hand, by stealing little bits from many, many people in an impersonal fashion and across great distances, Western civilization has frequently decided to term this financial wizardry or good foreign policy protecting our national interest.  It seems to me that much of the so-called success of Western civilization has been a drive toward maximizing impersonal and large-scale relationships to avoid accountability.  However, beyond avoiding accountability, such crimes actually become laudable and bring many benefits, such as wealth, control, and status.  An alternative to this facet of Western civilization would be to move toward and value more highly personal, local, and more organic human relationships.  Some of us might call this anarchism, the free association of individuals to come together and determine their common destiny.  This concept of anarchism is less about individualism than is about maintaining the ability to forge a common destiny, mediated by a shared reality.  Community is necessary since we have a shared reality.  This type of anarchism is democratic, but is skeptical of so-called representation by others, and favors direct democracy where people represent themselves.  This poem is a quick way to highlight the dangerously wrong direction that scale and impersonality or dehumanization can bring.  My own view is that if we don’t humanize so-called civilization, then so-called civilization will dehumanize us.  Most importantly, a humane world will not need a lot of financial wizards.