ANTI-TRUMP POSTER: Pornstar Stormy Daniels in Big Payoff and Nondisclosure Agreement for Short Sexual Encounter with Donald Trump

Alleged super deal-maker Donald Trump apparently has to pay for sex and pay for covering up that he paid for sex. A prurient public may be curious whether he pays by the minute or the inch, but whether his payoffs are campaign finance violations is of far more importance to the public good.  Trump’s moral character, or lack thereof, is well established, and has more to do with his “business” dealings than even his sexual dalliances and sexual predation. In tribute to the unseemly merging of his immoral business and sexual dealings, I have created this free ANTI-TRUMP POSTER: Pornstar Stormy Daniels in Big Payoff and Nondisclosure Agreement for Short Sexual Encounter with Donald Trump.

ANTI-TRUMP POSTER: Pornstar Stormy Daniels in Big Payoff and Nondisclosure Agreement for Short Sexual Encounter with Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friendly Rant: Voting FOR Jill Stein NOT Wielding “Privilege”

Oddly, with the presidential candidates from the two dominant and domineering political parties setting new records for low approval, voting for anyone else is met with bafflingly high contempt.  My friend, local activist, and Green Party Jill Stein supporter, Shannon Frye, nailed it with this recent facebook post:

Facebook friends, I don’t think I’ve been shy expressing my views on our current election cycle, but I have tried very hard to remain respectful of the decisions you might make when you step into the ballot box. Even if we have sparred, I have still maintained your ability to elect the candidate of your choice. Know that this prerogative is not born of some feigned Victorian politeness, but rather out of desire to see each of you better articulate your realpolitik and claim your stake in the building of a better future for us all.

That being said, I have not, nor will I ever, tolerate the erasure of my person, my experiences or my conviction in order to capitulate to terror, be it tangible or intangible. I will not bend my moral arc in order that you may rest easy. And if you attack my position based on any difference between us under the false assertion that in that difference lies weakness, I will turn your blunt argument into a pointy reckoning.

One such example lies below. A person, who shall henceforth be known as Mr. Charlie, asserted on Jill Stein’s Dank Meme Stash that white privilege was the driver behind her surge in popularity and would be thusly responsible should Drumpf win the presidency. He erroneously held that the Green Party was the enemy, luring POCs, LGBTQ people and the socioeconomically disadvantaged away from their true salvation, Hillary Clinton.

I lost my cool…

“Mr. Charlie, what particular variety of White Savior Complex do you suffer from to make such an ignorant and ill-informed statement?

I am a queer feminist of color and I fully endorse Jill Stein for president precisely because self-righteous idealogues like yourself have absolutely no clue as to the remedy my people desperately need in order to set in motion our uplift.

It boggles my mind how the ONLY political party willing to stand up for racial, gender, socioeconomic and environmental justice has been so maligned by white neoliberalism under the supposed banner of care. How dare you attempt to whitewash the contributions of Green POCs motivated by the grassroots organizing and solution-oriented policies that would bring us into a new era of justice based not on our social capital – of which we have very little – but upon the mettle of our conviction?

You are speaking from a place of fear. Fear of a mango-faced minstrel who shouts deplorable things. Fear of an imagined confrontation with the rage born of over 400 years of oppression reigning. Fear of losing the mask of white indignation that threatens to reveal the fragility of your baseless, store-bought identity. Fear that causes a paralysis of logic and compassion. Fear.

On the social justice platform alone I’d vote Green for life.

The Green Party advocates for the continual challenging of racism, sexism, Homo/bi/transphobia, ableism, ageism, classism and religious persecution. The DNC has at no point in this election cycle or in its history committed itself to fighting inequality on every front in the manner in which the Green Party has fearlessly undertaken. What we, the underrepresented and oft voiceless, have instead received is a piecemeal equality, which is no equality at all. Hillary Clinton and the current incarnation of the DNC has done nothing but pay lip service to creating a level playing field. Clinton’s support for her husband’s 1996 Crime Bill, which contributed to the largest surge in prison populations since the Reagan Administration , has done nothing but ensure the institutionalization and disenfranchisement of scores of POCs – this did us no favor. Clinton’s silence during her tenure as senator amid the growing body of research that proved the inherent bias and disparate impact of stop-and-frisk police tactics on communities of color perfectly ensconced her ambivalence toward the further destruction of the Black and Latinx family. Had she desired more than the occasional Harlem photo op, she would have used her considerable privilege in service to the people she so shamelessly panders to every few years.

On the subject of LGBTQ people, Clinton supported the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as First Lady; as a senator, Clinton could have been the alky she pretends to be and challenged her fellow New Yorkers to expand their definition of marriage, or at least advocate for the inclusion of domestic partnerships in benefit programs for state employees. She didn’t do this. In fact, as recently as April 2013, Clinton went onto CNN with Wolf Blitzer to assert her belief that marriage was an institution between a man and a woman; she didn’t throw her support behind marriage equality until the conclusion of several SCOTUS cases were completely forgone.

As for sexism, which the Clinton campaign loves to cry each time a reasonable critique of her ability to govern justly occurs, there is no better political organization than the Greens to address the systemic oppression of women in the US and beyond. Why would I support a white feminism that capitalizes on the rape of our natural resources, a gross, self-indulgent imposition of Western cultural norms across the globe, and the plundering of our social security net budget in order to fund an imperialist military force that does nothing but wreak havoc in Black and Brown nations in service not to democracy or liberation, but rather in service the corporate master class? Either your feminism is intersectional or its shit: And straight up, if you’re running for office and posturing aggressively against 2 nuclear powers and continuing to take money from and politically ally yourself with nations we know have direct ties to ISIS, then you are not a feminist.

Mr. Charlie, have you any idea what war DOES to women?

1. It kills the civilian population, namely women and children

2. War increases the aggressive violence against women: gang rape, genital mutilation & forced childbirth are all methods used by occupying forces to demoralize a people .

3. War restricts women’s freedom of movement: women, who wind up bearing the burden of being the sole provider for their families and often are hindered by curfews and checkpoints from gaining access to food, medicine, work opportunities and building effective social supports.

4. War forces civilian populations to flee from their homes: this displacement causes refugee surges all over the world, which only seems to respond with more aggression to those already traumatized. For the unwelcome refugee, war continues, as their labor and sexuality are often exploited due to lack of legal protections. Yes, war is a huge contributor to sex trafficking and modern human slavery.

6. War and imperialistic culture prioritizes weaponry over human services:The war machine makes victims all around. Me? I’ve gotten kicked off of Medicaid 4 times this year. But at least our military can afford to bomb the hell out of brown people in 7 nations right now.

As a feminist, I have no country. As a feminist, I want no country. As a feminist, my country is the world and I will do everything in my power to protect her. My question is, how can any woman look at Clinton’s trigger happy approach to foreign policy, her dogged pursuit of profit over the safety and well-being of our planet, and the furtherance of the destabilization of the 3rd world and actually vote to keep it going?

So again I ask, who in this conversation is wielding privilege? Certainly not my brothers and sisters in Green, who care enough about me and my continued existence to vote for the one candidate, the one party, that could help free me from this state of perpetual subjugation. Surely not Dr. Stein, whose mettle has been tested time and again and stills shines brilliantly, compassionately and with the strength of truth on her side. Surely it is not me.

Must be you.

Now take several seats, STFU, and let the grown folks discuss strategy. Your petty semantic games and sanctimonious neoliberal lies will not stop our revolution or my liberation.”

THIS.  Enough said.

POEM: Owed To Chet Chambers

His exacting integrity
Was seeded only by generosity of heart
He loved
Awe of God’s children
As well
As he kin
He planted seeds
That others would harvest
He worked side by side
Under God’s reign
And the radiance of a singular Son
Today the earth is a little less salty
Yet let our tears renew
Our taste for justice
And peace unearth

Chester “Chet” Chambers died October 4, 2016, at the age of 87.  Chet was a good man; though, like Jesus, Chet may very well have responded to such an assertion with: “Why do you call me good? “No one is good — except God alone.” [Mark 10:18]  His good works were cloaked in humility, yet any person of good will would testify to his deep and abiding faith in God and humanity, God’s precious children.

Chet was a friend, neighbor, fellow activist, and life-long United Methodist.  His life touched so many other lives.  All of our lives are better because of Chet; the fortunate are aware of this.  He will be missed by many.  His life, ministry, and example will echo into eternity.

Here is the obituary for Chester Chambers, as published in The Toledo Blade on Oct. 6, 2016:

Chester Chambers, born December 2, 1928, passed October 4, 2016. He grew up in Luckey, Ohio, where the Methodist church was the central activity of his family. He graduated from Ohio Northern University, where he took a pre-chemical engineering course of study. He was involved with the Ohio Methodist Student Movement, and following his junior year decided on ministry.

He went to Garrett Theological seminary on the campus of Northwestern University in 1949, where he gained a deep understanding of John Wesley’s theology and experience of grace. Following up on ideas and contacts gained through OMSM in undergrad, he became involved in the civil rights movement in the Chicago area.

While working as a student charge at Weston Church in the summer of 1951, he met Donna Fast, then a nurse in the Bowling Green hospital. They married a year later. He served at Mt. Blanchard five years before moving to Toledo in 1962 to pastor two inner-city parishes in the old north end.

In 1969 he was appointed Coordinator of Urban Ministries for the Toledo District of the United Methodist Church (“UMC”). In succeeding years he helped develop an “alphabet soup” of over forty local organizations from the local ACLU to Welfare Task Force, with Fair Housing Center and Personal Rights Organization among the many in between. The Levite asked, 'If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?' The Good Samaritan asked, 'If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?' MLK QUOTE BUTTONHe had particular passions for racial justice, affordable housing, and acceptance of the LGBT community. As a minister and happily married father of five, he lent great credibility to the cause of same-sex oriented persons, at a time when societal attitudes and practices were far more negative and hostile and few spoke out to change that.

Chet made many fact-finding trips in later years. The poverty he witnessed on his first, to Nicaragua in 1989, was life-altering. He would return there, as well as go to Cuba, Brazil, Mexico (maquiladoras) and Venezuela.

He retired at least twice: after serving six years as Superintendent of the Findlay District (UMC) in 1996, and again in 2003 after serving as Associate Pastor of Monroe Street UMC in Toledo. He remained active in many groups and causes long after the “retirements,” including many annual protest trips to the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning, GA. He was arrested at least three times over the years, in various locales, for civil disobedience over causes he championed.

Chet was a master card player, and avid camper with his family. He played piano, sang, and rarely missed a Toledo Symphony concert. He was a mentor and role model for many; inclusive, empowering, grass-roots. His biblical and theological knowledge was immense, and undergirded most everything he did and said. He never stopped believing in God and humanity’s capacity for good.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Fred and Audrey Chambers, and is survived by his wife, Donna; children, Mark (Susan), Nathan (Clara), Brian (Debra), Kevin (Susan), Jocelyn (John) Blaufuss, and 12 grandchildren.

A celebration of Chet’s life will take place October 15, 11 a.m. at Monroe St. United Methodist Church.

Contributions may be made to Monroe St. Neighborhood Center, Methodist Federation for Social Action, or any organization helping the most vulnerable or working for social justice.

Rest in peace, friend to all and faithful servant.

Human Rights are Universal and Inalienable, Interdependent and Indivisible, Equal and Nondiscriminatory

Human Rights Are Not Optional POLITICAL BUTTONHuman rights are inherent to all human beings. PERIOD.

Human rights are universal and inalienable, meaning that such rights cannot be taken away based on what people do.  Human rights are interdependent and indivisible, meaning that they work together as a whole, where the deprivation of anyone’s human right deprives us all, and the enhancement of anyone’s human rights enhances us all.  Human rights are equal and nondiscriminatory, meaning that they apply equally regardless of whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, gender, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status.  Finally, human rights give rise to a fundamental responsibility to protect and promote human rights both for humans and their governments.

Globalize THIS - HUMAN RIGHTS [earth graphic] POLITICAL BUTTONIn 1948, the United Nations passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration had been drafted by representatives from around the world, coming from many different legal and cultural perspectives.  Since then, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has set the world record for the document translated into the most languages: 477.

The declaration has stood up quite well across its eight decades spanning two millennia, though I would better incorporate LGBTQ rights and change the document’s pronouns to gender neutral.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Preamble

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.

(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.

(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.

(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.

(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Human Rights NOW POLITICAL BUTTONMay we each individually and collectively cherish our human rights as the foundation from which our humanity is ever more fully manifest.  One humanity.  One planet.  One love.

POEM: The Yeast Of These

Wile there is much bred
Daily preyed for
Ample for awe concerned
That seemingly still
Fomenting swell times
A mist repleting agin and agin
In dubitable motifs
Giving ascent to
That for most ingredient
A telling signature of homme
The yeast of these
Which will provide
That effervescent up
Rising
Without flail
Soully as flower and water
Well grounded
Flourishing in a rest
And taking the heat
Toward its full realization
Satiating more than just us
And peace meal gain

This poem is about hope springing eternal, utilizing the metaphor of yeast responsible for the rising of bread.  Hope often strikes me as a reality grounded firmly in both necessity and possibility.  The faith that hope is comprised of the stuff that makes for a juggernaut gives me profound comfort.  This fuels a much more joyful social activism. The subtle and permeating workings of hope inspire the artist in me.

The metaphor of yeast rising, the smallest portion of the bread — the yeast of these — responsible for the very nature of a successful outcome, speaks to the infective and catalytic role that hope plays in social transformation, in social uprisings giving results often surprisingly larger than the sum of the mere parts.  That the uplifting power of yeast is invisible to the eye is far from insignificant.  Even the penetrating scientific mind will likely lead to a disgust to our human sensibilities: the gas released by yeast that expands to rise the dough is the waste product of microbial fermentation, yeast farts if you will. To add insult to injury to some, the pockets of dough that successfully capture these farts so well is attributable to the much demonized foodstuff called gluten — be afraid, very afraid!

Beyond the world of bread-making, in the human world, the downtrodden, dispossessed, and disenfranchised are the necessary ingredient and driver in social justice movements.  The sanitized conventional wisdom that it is an elite class of intelligentsia or highly formally educated “managers” who guide social transformation is simply wrong.  In truth, such conventional forces are typically beholden to making a different kind of “bread” — or bred.  Bread Not Bombs Flour Power Its the Yeast We Can Do-FUNNY PEACE BUTTONThe lessens learned in the school of hard knocks are fertile fodder for street smarts and a built-in “skin in the game” that powers authentic personal and social transformation.  The primary purpose of so-called social success and “middle-class” living may very well be to erect a firewall between one’s own success (and kin or clan) and the milieu of the messy, grungy, and sometimes vulgar “lower” classes.  This firewall is the very barrier that creates and perpetuates social injustice.  The sanitized, impersonal, distant injustices of the board room and bedroom communities are normalized as “civilized,” even though they are responsible for far more human lost potential and suffering than the “barbaric” physical acting out of street crime and “bad” neighborhoods.  White collar crimes go unpunished or perhaps dealt with “as a cost of doing business ” — on occasion there is a slap on the wrist, more like going into the penalty box within a blood sport.  Almost without saying, waging war is a patriot duty, not a human tragedy.  “Street” crimes involving actual people — as opposed to corporate people — are an almost exclusive focus, to protect property and mostly respectable people.  People of color, those lowest on the social ladder — or any “other” — get the book thrown at them by erudite, costumed judges and enforced by less-erudite, armed, uniformed police.

This poem alludes to nonviolence, Rising/Without flail, but this is not simply a comfortable nonviolence of safe pacifists.  On the receiving end of violence by the state and the powers that be, its victims eventually realize that you can’t beat the state at its own game.  Besides being outgunned, “non-sanctioned” violence is used to discredit social movements and serves as a convenient excuse to violently suppress — in a “civilized” way of course — social revolutionaries.  When rising tides of resistance reach critical masses, violence is what the state knows best to put down resistance.  The usually unbroken veneer of civility is deeply threatened when persistent nonviolent resistance bares the brutish, overwhelming power of the state.  This is a highly effective weapon in manifesting true civility.  The solidarity needed for such a daring and dangerous venture is rooted in the shared experiences of the many disenfranchisements that the powers that be yield.  The equation of having more to gain than lose in such a venture presents the palpable opportunity and deep root for real social change.  Privilege works against such opportunity, when the status quo favors one’s own personal interests.  Plus, beyond any simple equation, the humanity gained by living in solidarity restores some measure of the humanity robbed by injustices.  Long the weigh, many realize that peace is the way, and such folks offer another way of living that doesn’t re-lie on the dehumanization of others.

May you find peace long the weigh and bare its many fruits…

POSTSCRIPT: On a somewhat more vulgar, and perhaps somewhat embarrassing, note, this poem can be red quite well as a sexual poem.  This was not my original intent.  If you read it that way, you are probably a man!  This is a fine example of how it is possible, particularly for a man, to sexual eyes most anything, any metaphor.  Hopefully, this multiple meaning will harm no one.  Enjoy!  I hope to never lose my touch…

POEM: Innocence — An Owed In A Sense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POEM: Sex Before Marriage?

He in choired
So you think people should have sex before marriage?
My straight forward rejoined her:
Hell, I think people should have sex before breakfast!

This short poem is a playful response to the straight-laced attitudes of many religious folks surrounding sexuality. The “in choired” intimates that he is speaking out of a community, most likely a religious community. Ironically, a congregation’s choir is perhaps the most likely part of a congregation to contain gay folks, often condemned by fundamentalist or conservative religionists. In some cases, a congregation’s choir may actually be more gay than happy!

The leading question implies the desired answer and is designed to put the questioned on the defensive. The whimsical answer transcends the intended course of the debate, with an unapologetic celebration of sexuality. The “straight,” “forward,” and “rejoined her” implies a straight male responder — perhaps even myself — who is not backward, perhaps straight but not narrow. Beginning the response with “Hell,” playfully mocks the judgmental implications of hegemonic religiosity. The argumentative nature of judgmental questioning betrays the very tender nature of authentically intimate sexuality. As neither a fan of orthodoxy nor the dominant Catholic version of sexuality, I will not be drawn into the narrow and unwelcoming clutches of evangelistic mass debaters.

In the end, if this poem made you laugh, it has served its purpose.

POEM: Double Oh Seven Up

Double Oh Seven Up

He bought
That violence works
Buy strong
Wield men
Where once lust
Now found
Like some secret
Agent of change
As if
Like first see’d
Bared in some virgin soil
Unable to grow any further
Only ending
With another stiff
Drink
As know other
Shaken
But not stirred

This poem melds the themes of mythologized violence, superficial sexuality, and substance abuse as ultimately ineffectual coping mechanisms to deal with narcissistic adventures that shake up others lives but are barren of inspiration.

This poems title, “Double Oh Seven Up,” is one of my poem titles that ends up… being a more integral part of the poem, elucidating further its overall meaning. The “007” pun sets up the context for the poem by appropriating all of the glorified violence and easy sexuality from the Ian Fleming James Bond mythic biopics, where a license to kill and bonding one’s jimmy to anything that moves is the order — or disorder — of the day. The pop classic of “shaken not stirred” becomes a metaphor for the impotence of alcohol or other numbing escapes to soothe the real pain of violence, leaving us with mere Seven Up, like some taunting virginal martini falling flat at that. Indulging such lower ordered ways of being in the world — e.g., live and let die — represents a form of arrested human development. Such narcissistic adventures ultimately prove unsatisfying, that is, outside the timeframe of Hollywood and its cinematic consumer products. Maybe there is a reason that the term “theater” shows up in warfare! The “Double Oh” is a passing tip of the hat, a glimpse of recognition, that the merry-go-round of addiction to violence can only be escaped by refusing to order another “007 Up,” no matter how good it feels in the short run.

Combining violence and sex in such storytelling creates a seductive world view, at least for the alpha male demographic, creating the illusion that violence solves problems and that somehow chicks are attracted to bloodshed that does not foretell life-giving commitments. Mean wile, back in the real world, we are left with another stiff, soiled innocence, and soul-numbing coping mechanisms

As a bonus pun, the secret reference is also a reference to The Secret, a book and movie that almost fetishizes personal power, downgrading communal solutions and blending narcissism and spiritual enlightenment in a near perfect tour de force, which purely coincidentally harnesses consumer success in the US self-help marketplace. HINT: Never buy any product that includes ‘secret’ in its title or description, especially if preceded by The.  Of course, as they say, if it sounds too good to be true, you may have a self-help bestseller…

POEM: A Scarecrow’s Doo

My life is very
Scuffed up
Round the edges
Hither too
Better than
A scarecrow
Keeping
Snobs a way
As they brood
Over heir dues
Wile
They are off
Making hay
Their own
Abrade
Turning straw men
Into goaled
Only for stalling
Such rumpled stilt skin
As tress up
And wig out
Combing the whirled
As eye sport
A primordial stile
Simply a tease
Even within
The realm
Of possibility
Dread locks
Or without
Mull it over
As if
Disguise a loser
Uncaptivated buy genteel waves
For going
AWW
That you are
Blowing in the wind
Air to the throne

This poem is an ode to living on the fringe, even if your life becomes somewhat scuffed up.  Living on the edge can be in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom and way of life in the dominant culture of so-called Western civilization.  Concern about status and appearance, as well as a fixation on material conveniences, drives many to trade deeper meaning for inane existence.

Many settle for a life too easily demarcated by stereotypes and oversimplifications.  I like to joke that my long hair is for the convenience of others in easily identifying me as a “hippie,” so they don’t need to spend much time really getting to know me — which is to love me!  Using the metaphor in this poem, my hair serves as a scarecrow to drive off superficial people.  Encountering stereotypes which make one uncomfortable can serve as a simple weeding out mechanism.  Of course, those that really know me, know why I have long hair, and why I pray for the day to cut my hair.  Also, those that really know me know that I don’t cringe from the label “hippie,” but it is a poor approximation of my character and life.  I am not particularly “hip,” my sexual mores are “live and let live” but hardly a free for all, and I like my consciousness unadulterated by drugs.

I try to assume that people are irreducibly eccentric and idiosyncratic.  In short, I believe that every person is infinitely interesting.  Of course, spending a great deal of our time exploring these individualities cuts into the efficiency of reducing people to shorthand stereotypes, placing them in definable little boxes, so that we can navigate people more like things and life can be more predictable.  Some of this is inescapable as we have to form an impression, however tentative or temporary, about people.  The dangerous temptation that is a threat to humanity is to solidify our views of people and discounting their unfathomable humanity for our convenience and striving for efficiency and productivity. This can blur the immeasurable difference between human lives and things.

I propose that a wise precept would be that, if in doubt, choose people over things — every time!  Perhaps the most valuable gift we can give one another is our presence.  Who wants to compete with another’s interest in inanimate matter (or inane matters) rather than have another lovingly delve into the whole of who we are?  Of course, simply being with someone, spending time with someone else, is a profound vote for how much you value them.  This is much more the currency of life than money and stuff.   We are so much more than dust in the wind, even stardust in the celestial wind; and whatever that “so much more” is is what we should pay attention to, if we want to participate in life, not simply have a life lived for us, as if we were simply complicated dirt.  We are not blowing in the wind, air to the throne…a scarecrow’s doo.

POEM: Mountain of Love

He cried out
“I would climb the highest mountain for you!”
She said
“How about doing your fair share of housework?”

This short poem goes out to all the ladies in the house.  I am a big fan of epic love.  I salute grand romantic gestures.  There is an all-to-vacant spot in our universe for such sumptuous stunts for ailing hearts.  On the other hand, the foundation of love, and all grand acts, is sharing our day-to-day lives.  This includes such mundane tasks at housework.  To be a helpmate to one another is very sexy.  So step it up fellas.  Climb that mountain of laundry.  Scale that mountain of chores.  Otherwise, she may just clean house all by herself…

POEM: Evolution of a Writer

Evolution of a Writer

You have evolved into quite a writer
Could you write something for my company?
He solicited
Presumably thinking
I was still into monkey business
Not even grasping
I was clearly out of my tree

This poem is a playful way to address some tensions between creating art and the business of selling art, in this case writing.  Many artists struggle with having the creative process compromised based on market or business realities at any given moment.  The need to materially survive can draw in sharp relief — or deep depression — the vocational viabilities of the higher creative processes and the lower needs for material survival or comfort.  Fortunately, this can actually be a great source of inspiration of one of the many tensions in life — that of surviving versus thriving.  There are good reasons for the portrait of a starving artist.  This reality speaks both to the passion and value many artists place on their work, and the relative lack of value others may derive from the artist’s products of their work.  I separate the process of creating art from the created “product.”  I have little doubt that I derive much more joy from writing poetry than any other one individual can derive from my work.  Of course, the social and commercial nature of an artistic work product can leverage its overall value much higher because many people may experience it and derive some benefit.  The artist’s tendency to value the creative process makes sense — though perhaps not cents — since the creative process itself is typically what drives even further passion and creativity.  Selling stuff is typically secondary. Of course, the relatively few artists which can make a decent living selling their art may leapfrog to another level of freedom in their creativity and expression — assuming selling stuff doesn’t compromise the height of creativity.  Many view artists as “clearly out of their tree” if their valuing of commercial viability or success doesn’t match societal expectations.  Ironically, this may be one of the main purposes that artists serve in society: to expand society’s limits and depth of experience beyond that which can be relatively easily bottled for commercial success.  Yes, life is about much more than money.  This is the nexus with evolution.

In this poem I play around and push the limits of our current understanding of evolution.  Let me be clear, I am not claiming or even insinuating that the facts of Darwin’s theory of evolution are missing or wrong; nor that the theory is inconsistent with the scientific facts.  What I am saying is that sheer survival to sexually reproduce is too narrow a framework to explain human experience or predict human behavior.  Humans have evolved to such an incredible level of flexibility and adaptability that transcendent experiences (that would include subjectivity) outside of scientific reductionism present is difficult to ignore — if we want a more complete account of humanity.  Of course, this debate and tension between “spirituality” and reductionistic “science” are not new.  In the philosophy of science, there are understood to be limits to human knowledge.  In the case of Darwin’s theory of evolution, it does a powerful job of explaining how life evolves, but it (nor the rest of science) cannot explain how life itself came to be.  Plus, it leaves open the question of meaning or purpose in life or for life — NO SMALL QUESTION!  The theory of evolution uses “random” as a convenient assumption or framework to build an explanatory theory of how life evolves.  I consider the nature of “random” the great unanswered (and unanswerable) question within Darwin’s theory.  While reductionistic science, in proper accord with its assumptions and arising precepts, denies subjectivity as an area of investigation which science can legitimately explore.  Of course, accepting this assumption, though powerful in explaining some stuff, leaves the greatest questions in human life off-limits, and by improper cultural convenience and over-simplicity, simply ignores this aspect of reality (subjectivity), or worse yet denies it altogether.   It is no logical surprise, that the gaping hole of “random” leaves much to be desired in a more fully coherent account of human life and experience.  We need to evolve beyond this disability or maladaptation.  The sheer physical survival of a purely materialist worldview strikes me as our past, not our future.  This deterministic survival instinct, while part of our reality, becomes mere monkey business if taken as the whole truth.  So who is it in the human species that is not grasping this next level of evolution?  Maybe it will take some folks who appear “clearly out of their tree” to get us there…

POEM: Cautionary Tail

Ouch!
That guy should come with a warning label
She said after
Having had
A piece of cautionary tail

You can divide life’s lessons into two basic categories: 1) that which deserves emulating, and 2) that which warrants avoidance.  This short, funny poem highlights the latter of life’s lessons, the proverbial cautionary tale.  Fortunately, one of the redeeming qualities of life is that we can learn from both positive and negative experiences.  Of course, the content of this poem treads on the precarious territory of relationships and the ever-looming potential of the battle of the sexes.  Lust and romantic possibilities are often more than enough to pass by potential warning signs in dating relationships.  I am a big fan of throwing oneself fully into human relationships.  This seems consonant with living life fully.  Nonetheless, woo can turn to whoa very fast, often skidding deep into woe.  The reality is often that the best way to know where a line exists is by crossing it.  There is much in life that is unknown.  Spending too much time mapping out every sign and landmark may prevent one from living an actual life.  Hopefully, we can offer one another enough room and grace to make mistakes as we careen joyfully through life’s messiness.  In fact, such lives deserve emulating…

POEM: Her Voice

Her voice could be heard
Three generations within earshot
Yet the man in front of her
Was two ears short of listening
At times she spoke
Simply to convince herself
That she could
Due more
Then listen
Wading for something more than deaf
And dumb ruse of men
Relegated to quaint shams
Engendering stupefactions
As a pathetic answer
To unquestioning order
In a guise whirled
Gent-ly herd
In tasteful reservations
And if more than udder
He turns out
To be the outright shovin’ist
Is it possible
For him to do without
As if
You list a strata
And he’ll forevermore
Still fancy himself
On top
The crowning member
Of some exclusive club
The human race   
Oft leaving
Room for only one abet
Take it or leave it
Never quite getting it
What he wonts
So leading ladies
Show him a role
Un-for-gettable
And when it comes to you
It will be
Awe about
That transcending property
You’re choice

Being heard is perhaps one of the most fundamental aspects of positive human experience.  This poem addresses the profoundly prevalent and persistent reality that women are not listened to as much as men.  The need for human connection is so strong that being ignored can be more harmful than active dislike.  Being treated as an object rather than a subject is the primary mode of dehumanizing people.

The male privilege present in most human cultures, often called sexism, may be the most important -ism in humans’ communal experience.  Sexism may also be the most stubbornly persistent -ism.  I think that this is true because women are interspersed in all human cultures.  Many -isms, such as racism and classism, flourish because of in-group and out-group dynamics that can more easily be stratified in one’s everyday life and experience.  However, since women are nearly omnipresent in households with more than one person, there would seem to be powerful forces integrating women in a relatively fair way into the most fundamental units of society, the family or household.  A nearly universal factor in advancing equality for disenfranchised groups is to have that group exposed in meaningful ways to the dominant group.  It seems that the theory is that exposure leads to understanding, compassion and justice.  This doesn’t strike me as having much truth in regard to women.  Boys grow up with the proverbial “hand that rocks the cradle,” subject to profound influence by their mothers.  In the dominant heterosexual world, men seek and have close relations with women, as lovers, partners-spouses, raisers of children.  Still, it seems that these interpersonal and family dynamics are trumped by larger social and cultural forces.  I don’t pretend to have a solution for the ages old “war of the sexes” (which is typically framed in male fashion).  Nonetheless, I am quite sure that men not listening to women is not only a profound insult to women, but a profound loss to men.  Listen up guys!!

POEM: A Forgetting God

Remembering God is almost as hard as God forgetting us

Remembering God can be difficult.  Remembering God can be particularly difficult if we are not trying to remember God.  I believe that we all experience God, though some of us may not name it that.  Most simply put, God is love.  If we remember love and imbue our life with these loving experiences, then we will be well on our way to living Godly lives.  Every healthy relationship is reciprocal.  While remembering God may be difficult at times, recalling occasionally that it is even more difficult for God to forget us can bring comfort and serve as an invitation to a deeper relationship.  God’s call is better characterized by the woo of a lover — Love itself! — than a jilted lover in an unreciprical relationship, waiting by the proverbial phone for a call back.

I wish that traditional religion would harness this metaphor of lovers, the wooer and the wooed.  I think this meets resistance because some people think that it may imply some type of equality of humans with God; though most religious conservatives don’t necessarily see a reciprocal equality in human sexual relationships as an ideal anyway.  However, perhaps most importantly, institutional religion seems to have real issues with sex and sexuality.  The story of the virgin birth is perhaps the pinnacle of this disconnect: God has sex without really having sex, or daring to imbue a human sex act with divineness.  Then, Jesus is overwhelmingly seen as some asexual being.  My view is that these narratives are massive barriers to Christianity embracing a healthy human sexuality.  Jesus is purported to be fully God and fully human, yet the Christian narrative is notably silent on how Jesus manifests divinity as a human sexual being, except for not engaging in sexual acts.  I don’t consider total, lifelong (in Jesus’ case until age 33 at his death) abstinence as a feasible model for the perpetuation of the human race, or as particularly helpful for most people’s lives on earth.  Surely, there is a fuller picture that can be drawn.  Intimate sexual human relationships strike me as fertile ground (time to pull out the big puns!) for experiencing deep love, which is the stuff of God.  I pray for a way for Jesus to better redeem sexuality, which would go a long way to redeeming Christianity.  And the Church said, “Woo!”

 

Blood Donor Deferrals Border on Insanity

I just returned from donating blood at the American Red Cross.  I have been a regular blood donor for a long time.  I usually donate blood two or three times a year.  Unfortunately, I have been deferred as a blood donor for two of the last four years.  I was deferred as a blood donor twice for one year each time, both due to traveling to an area where there may be some malaria risk.  The first time that I was deferred as a blood donor was because of travel to Haiti.  The second time was due to travel through rural Colombia.  In my case, these deferrals resulted in a loss of 4 to 6 units of donated blood to the American Red Cross.

The American Red Cross is constantly trying to recruit new blood donors and to get previous blood donors to donate again.  From the regular calls and advertising campaigns, I get the impression that the US blood supply may be low at times and that my blood donations are greatly needed.  However, I am struck by the huge range of reasons for deferring willing blood donors.  It seems to me that the threshold for deferral is very low.  The willingness to accept any nonzero risk is very low.  This approach is insane, or least pretty darn close.  The vain quest for absolute security and zero risk is a dangerous fiction.  I understand the reasons for wanting to avoid blood transfusion related adverse events.  However, deferring extremely low risk willing blood donors and potentially depriving someone of a needed blood transfusions is not a zero risk enterprise either.  As stated by Richard Benjamin, MD, PhD, chief medical officer for the American Red Cross, “The most dangerous unit of blood is the one we don’t have.  Not having blood for someone who needs it is worse than giving someone a unit of blood that carries a 1-in-5 million chance of disease.”

I am not your average blood donor.  I have a master’s degree in public health, so I have training in epidemiology, the scientific study of the distribution of disease, health and their determinants.  Also, in the 1990s I worked in a health department managing an HIV-AIDS program.  I am familiar with the political and cultural forces that can distort our scientific assessments of risk management.  However, you don’t need a graduate degree to recognize that our culture has great issues around security and fear of losing or risking most anything.

Less than 38% of Americans are eligible to donate blood according to the American Red Cross.  Today, as I read through the pages of reasons for which you could be deferred from donating blood, I was struck most profoundly by the deferrals based simply on where one has lived.  If, in fact, the scientific basis for avoiding such blood donors is sound, then the entire continent of Europe should refuse blood donations from virtually its entire population.  This cannot be sound scientific reasoning.

In the last decade or so, there’s been a lot of hysteria about mad cow disease.  According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 22 cases of mad cow disease in the United States since 2003.  Three of these cases originated in the United States.  Most of the other cases were from Canada, which you may note is not one of the restricted countries that will put you on the blood donation deferral list by the American Red Cross.  The United Kingdom was the epicenter for the mad cow disease epidemic.  While in the United Kingdom there had been thousands of cases of mad cow disease in years past, in 2010 there were only 11 cases reported.  Maybe it’s time for the American Red Cross to relax its deferral requirements related to mad cow disease. Or, maybe we should come up with a new diagnosis for this irrational insanity, and declare that the American Red Cross has Mad American Disease.  You are literally dozens of times more likely to be killed by being struck by lightning in the US then getting mad cow disease.  I’m not sure what the chance is of lightning striking the American Red Cross, but I would settle for a light bulb above the head of somebody who makes these crazy decisions.

Over the decades that I have donated blood to the American Red Cross, I have noted the quickly changing and almost always growing list of reasons to defer a willing blood donor.  As a personal example, I had malaria when I was an infant in Haiti where I was born.  During the ensuing 50 years I’ve not had any symptoms of malaria.  However, how the American Red Cross deals with this distant case of malaria changes back and forth.  Many years ago, the American Red Cross simply asked whether you have ever had malaria, and if you indicated yes, the nurse would ask more specific questions.  This always made for an interesting blood donation visit as I suspect there were few Ohio blood donors who had ever had malaria, and the nurses often had to consult with other professional healthcare staff to figure out what to do with me as a blood donor.  Although sometimes it took a while for them to figure it out, it never prevented me from donating blood.  Then, at some point later, they changed the question as to whether you had malaria in the last three years.  I can answer no to this question, and this streamlined my visit quite a bit.  Now, in recent years, they are back to the more general question of have you ever had malaria.  Fortunately, there seems to be better training among the nurses during the screenings and they do not seem to need to consult anyone else to determine that I am, in fact, eligible to donate blood.

The American Red Cross’ quest for zero risk seems to be marching on.  Since I last donated blood less than three months ago, they have added yet another safety precaution.  Now, when they stick your finger with a needle to get a drop of blood to check your hemoglobin, they place a plexiglass barrier between your finger and the nurse.  Really now, how often does anyone ever got blood splashed in their eyes from giving a finger prick?  More importantly, does this represent any risk worth worrying about.  If it does, I’d hate to see what such risk assessment would do to health care workers in hospital settings.  Perhaps we should expect nurses in hospitals to soon be wearing spacesuits just to be sure.  According to the CDC, “Health care workers who have received hepatitis B vaccine and have developed immunity to the virus are at virtually no risk for infection…the estimated risk for infection after a needlestick or cut exposure to HCV-infected blood is approximately 1.8%.  The risk following a blood splash is unknown but is believed to be very small…The risk after exposure of the eye, nose, or mouth to HIV-infected blood is estimated to be, on average, 0.1% (1 in 1,000).” For instance, for hepatitis C,  “the risk is considered to be less than 1 chance per 2 million units transfused.”  That’s for a blood donation recipient who has an entire unit of blood transfused into them.  The risk of  the nurse getting infected by pricking the finger of a potential blood donor would be on the order of that one in a million TIMES the chance of getting a drop of blood splashed in their eye when pricking a blood donor’s finger TIMES the chance that such an event could cause disease.  You can do the math yourself.  For the example of hepatitis C, conservatively, we are talking about one in a million times one in thousands times one in a thousand.  In the end, we are talking about no more than a chance of one in many billions of getting infected by hepatitis C by pricking the finger of a potential blood donor without having eye protection .  For the number of blood donations every year in the US, it would take centuries for this practice to expect to prevent even one case of blood borne pathogens.  The risk for hepatitis C is the highest and adding in hepatitis C and HIV would not substantially change this basic calculation.  From the resource perspective, the question becomes how many billions of times do you want to place a plexiglass barrier between you and a potential blood donor to prevent a single case of infection?

I am well aware of the emotional place from which the quest for zero risk comes.  Unfortunately, the emotional experience of wanting to live in a zero risk world does not match up with a simple costs and benefits calculation of going very far down that road.  It quickly leads to unjustifiable contradictions.  Why defer blood donors due to a nearly incalculably small risk for mad cow disease from people who spend significant time in Europe but not Canada, where most of the US cases have originated from?  Well, I’ll tell you.  Starting a deferral process for people who spend significant time in Canada would expose the insane balance between actual risk and actual costs in trying to avoid the risk.  It seems that we can “afford” to ban, for example, military servicemen who were stationed in Germany or England from donating blood in order to “buy” some unscientific sense of security in our blood supply.  I recognize that plenty of people are willing to pay such prices.  I just ask that we don’t fool ourselves into thinking that these choices are based on scientific evidence and well-reasoned analyses of risk management.

Another example of blood donor deferral that rests more on cultural biases than scientific and well-reasoned risk management, is The Lifetime Ban on Blood Donations from Gay Men, where policy analyst Robert Valadez writes:

“So where did this policy come from? And why is it still enforced despite advances in technology that can identify HIV in a unit of blood within days of infection?

The policy dates back to the early days of the HIV epidemic, when knowledge of transmission was nonexistent. Recognizing the disproportionate incidence rates among gay and bisexual men, the FDA responded by enacting a policy that prohibited all men who had sex with other men from donating blood. The year was 1985. Twenty-six years later, the policy remains unchanged.

Current blood donor eligibility criteria are largely inconsistent, imposing significantly less restrictive deferrals to heterosexual men and women who engage in high-risk sexual behavior. For example, a heterosexual person who has sex with a partner who is HIV-positive is eligible to donate blood after only 12 months. Yet the policy permanently bans all gay and bisexual men, even those who are HIV-negative, consistently practice safe sex, or in monogamous relationships”

Like many experiences in my life, I find that even the wonderful experience of saving lives by donating blood, comes with the collateral costs of having to participate in the system that is driven by an insane quest for zero risk.  This insane quest has costs.  It has costs for the blood supply and the people who depend on it.  This insane quest for zero risk has costs for those who are subjected to its unscientific cultural biases, and for all of us who live in an environment that unnecessarily models for us this insanity and vanity.  Life has risks.  There are reasonable and scientific ways to reduce these risks.  We should pay attention to these.  However, we should not be driven and reduced by unreasonable fears, unfounded fears.  As is often the case in life, that which we feel threatens us gets a disproportionate amount of our attention.  Nonetheless, we should look at the full range of costs associated with trying to avoid some threat, and realize and accept that risk is an integral and unavoidable part of life.  I would hope that the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans, in its broadest sense, would kick in as we live into the fact that taking and accepting risks can far outweigh the costs of those risks.  Maybe even the American Red Cross will take a risk and pare down its blood donation deferral list.  We can always hope — though this entails some risk…

Valentine’s Day: Show The World Your Love of Justice

Hannah Levintova of Mother Jones magazine has a wake-up call for Valentine’s Day celebrants:  Think You’re a Virtuous Valentine? Think Again.  She writes:

Cut flowers: That bouquet you may be planning to gift today was most likely not grown in the United States. The floriculture industry taps out at $32.8 billion, and about $14 billion of that comes from the sale of fresh flowers. Around 63 percent of those blooms are imports from Colombia, and another 23 percent from Ecuador.

The labor rights facts of this industry are truly depressing. In 2005, the International Labor Rights Forum found that 55 percent of women working in the Ecuadorian flower production trade (they constitute half the flower workforce) had been victim to sexual harassment in the workplace. Nineteen percent were forced to have sex with a supervisor or coworker. Compulsory pregnancy testing is also a serious industry issue. In Colombia, where women make up about 65 percent of flower workers, a survey conducted by the nation’s flower industry union, Untraflores, found that about 80 percent of companies required women to take a pregnancy test as part of their job application process—presumably because they’d like to avoid providing paid maternity leave (required in Colombia). Another problem: In 2000, upwards of 48,000 children were found working in Ecuador’s flower industry. Colombia wasn’t much better. There have since been a number of hefty efforts at reform, and while Colombia’s been improving, the US Department of Labor still confirms extensive child labor use in Ecuador.

So, is the $17.6 billion that we will spend in the United States this year on Valentine’s Day a boon for love?  Ms. Lentinova goes on to outline other issues related to environmental impacts and other labor issues related to flowers, chocolate, and greeting cards.  I doubt that there is a conspiracy to make Valentines day an anti-love venture.  Unfortunately, this is a particularly ironic example of how our economy is deeply intertwined with poor environmental stewardship and poor treatment of labor. I would suggest that the first line of defense would be to consume no more than needed, to live simply.  The next line of defense, a close second, would be to educate oneself about how what we buy affects the rest of the world; then, to act responsibly based on that information.

Buy the way, happy Valentine’s Day!

Maybe There’s a Reason It’s Straight to Hell Not Gay to Hell

Maybe There’s a Reason It’s Straight to Hell Not Gay to Hell FUNNY BUTTON

Maybe Theres a Reason Its Straight to Hell Not Gay to Hell FUNNY BUTTONMaybe There’s a Reason It’s Straight to Hell Not Gay to Hell FUNNY BUTTON

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

View more Anti-Homophobia Buttons.

I like this design for many reasons.  First, it uses a pun that maximizes the meaning of both meanings.  By utilizing the ancient phrase “straight to hell”, it captures both the clarity of judgment and the eternal significance or importance of such a judgment.  Of course, then comes the pun!  The pun on “straight” is not actually made clear until the new phrase “gay to hell” is read.  Then, the full force of the pun on “straight” takes effect!  Since anti-gay judgmentalism is so deeply rooted in religious bigotry, a complete reversal of this judgment upon the judgmental homophobe is particularly delicious.  I humbly submit that this is more than enough to classify this design as an instant classic.  Nonetheless, there is more than one layer to this hell.  Using the freshly minted phrase, “gay to hell”, or more specifically, “NOT gay to hell”, besides laying waste to the classic ‘straight to hell’ phrase, offers a couple more layers to reflect upon.  Most people recognize the pun on gay, meaning both homosexual or queer in contemporary usage, and meaning happy in more colloquial usage.  This play on words has been used in many ways and it is quite familiar.  Juxtaposing “gay”, eliciting both of these meanings, with the concept of hell, can pose some interesting reflections and can get pretty deep pretty fast.  The most obvious meaning is supposed to be the simple assertion that being gay has nothing to do with going to hell, and, in fact, the commonly accepted homophobia in our society puts us at risk for damnation.  The secondary and tertiary meanings get more complicated with the relationship of happiness to hell.  Evil people are often portrayed as miserly and unhappy people.  People who take the time and effort to align themselves with the good are generally understood to experience joy and happiness, at least for those of us who see reality as beneficent.  I think that when gays truly accept the reality for who they are, there is very often a playful joy that is manifest.  This is true in the arts, heavily populated by queers, and generally correlated with flamboyancy.  Joy is Most Infallible Sign Presence of God--PEACE QUOTE BUTTONPlus, there is a much more bearable lightness of being represented by joy as opposed to the connotations of happiness with moral goodness and right behavior.  It is this playful and more bearable lightness of being that I can identify with and by which I even consider myself “queer” as a straight man who happens to be funny (what could be more queer!).  There is a quote that I can really relate to: “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God,” which is one of the quotes I have on a peace sign design.  What could be more of the opposite of hell than the presence of God!  I suspect that it’s more likely that moral goodness and right behavior emanates from deeply experienced joy than the other way around.  While this may be viewed as a radical and mystical concept, that is simply because it is a radical and mystical concept.  However, it’s not completely incomprehensible.  To truly be in the presence of God is a joyful experience.  To be in the presence of God greatly increases our probability of behaving in sync with the nature of God, and honoring the joy that comes from experiencing that nature.  On the other hand, the conventional wisdom of the world is usually reduced to the notion that if we argue about what is morally good and what is right behavior that all will be well.  Unfortunately, this plays into our ungodly nature; that would be when we live out of fear and focus on controlling others.  Religion has led the way in oppressing and repressing sex and sexuality.  Sex and sexuality are very powerful realities in our lives.  Sex and sexuality requires a mature level of respect and responsibility.  Healthy sex and sexuality is not simple or easy.  This is probably exactly the reason why religion has been so concerned, quite appropriately, with sex and sexuality.  Nonetheless, fear and our desire to control one another has seriously polluted religion’s ability to effectively deal with sex and sexuality.  While I’m a big fan of the social Gospel, which implies a responsibility for one another, the good news that is the Gospel, is predicated upon our own healing and achieving some balance in her own life so that we can be healthy enough to help others.  We can’t give people something that we don’t have.  Yet, perhaps mysteriously, we can be more together than we can alone; thus, we must recognize the reality that we are social creatures in the same boat together, and some isolated piety disconnected from the real needs of others is of little value to God or others.  Hey, I told you that there were a lot of layers and that it would get pretty deep.  In the end, in regard to this design, I think it puts right side up something that religion has gotten upside down for so long, and the irony is that religion at its best is supposed to turn things right side up.  Let’s make it so.  Amen!

P.S. in case there is any confusion, I don’t believe in hell, at least not in any way that construes God as wanting to hurt people.