POEM: To Be Read Or Not

Her life was written
In the margins
Tolled in fine print
Subject to lexicons
Beyond apprehension
Not adorned by elegant types
Or gaudy cursive
In fancy addresses
Wear truth is stranger then fiction
More than won could possibly ink
Never the lass, a worthy tale
At any rate, without prints charming
Repulsed by such false hood
A version true
To the hands she was dealt
Never to be red
Bye patron eyes
Perhaps only to be recalled
By awe that made her
More than quiet right
Or left
To live free how
Ever out of bounds

This poem is a story about a woman whose life cannot be captured by any conventional telling, dominant customs, nor any mere man.  got feminism? political buttonThis poem is a testament to women’s tenacious endurance, creative expression, grounded sensibilities, unequaled solidarity, authentic presence, and bold healing they bring to the world.  She centers an off-kilter world in unremitting celebrations of life. Still, my words can only fail in awe of the sacred silence from which she speaks. May my shutting up be an honorable beginning.

Man who says it cannot be done should not interrupt woman doing it. SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Martin Luther King Day history and reflection

Martin Luther King Day is coming up on January 20, 2014.  MLK Day is celebrated in the U.S. on the third Monday of every January.  The first official celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as a federal holiday in the U.S., was 1986. This upcoming MLK Day will be the 29th annual celebration.  Many younger folk will not remember a time without a MLK Day holiday.  However, much like Dr. King’s long-haul struggles, getting an official King holiday met with strong resistance for a long time.

As told here:

“Congressman John Conyers, an African-American Democrat from Michigan, spearheaded the movement to establish a MLK day. Representative Conyers worked in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and was elected to Congress in 1964, where he championed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Four days after King’s assassination in 1968, Conyers introduced a bill that would make January 15 a federal holiday in King’s honor. But Congress was unmoved by Conyers’ entreaties, and though he kept reviving the bill, it kept failing in Congress.

In 1970, Conyers convinced New York’s governor and New York City’s mayor to commemorate King’s birthday, a move that the city of St. Louis emulated in 1971. Other localities followed, but it was not until the 1980s that Congress acted on Conyers’ bill. By this time, the congressman had enlisted the help of popular singer Stevie Wonder, who released the song “Happy Birthday” for King in 1981, and Conyers had organized marches in support of the holiday-in 1982 and 1983, respectively.

Conyers was finally successful when he reintroduced the bill in 1983. But even in 1983 support was not unanimous. In the House of Representatives, William Dannemeyer, a Republican from California, led the opposition to the bill, arguing that it was too expensive to create a federal holiday and estimating that it would cost the federal government $225 million annually in lost productivity. Reagan’s administration concurred with Dannemeyer’s arguments, but the House passed the bill with a vote of 338 for and 90 against.

When the bill reached the Senate, the arguments opposing the bill were less grounded in economics and more reliant on outright racism. Senator Jesse Helms, a Democrat from North Carolina, held a filibuster against the bill and demanded the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) make public its files on King, asserting that King was a Communist who did not deserve the honor of a holiday. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had investigated King throughout the late 1950s and 1960s at the behest of its chief, J. Edgar Hoover, and had even tried intimidation tactics against King, sending the civil rights leader a note in 1965 that suggested he kill himself to avoid embarrassing personal revelations hitting the media.

King, of course, was not a Communist and had broken no federal laws, but by challenging the status quo, King and the Civil Rights Movement discomfited the Washington establishment. Charges of Communism were a popular way to discredit people who dared speak truth to power during the 50s and 60s, and King’s opponents made liberal use of that tactic.

When Helms tried to revive that tactic, Reagan defended him. A reporter asked Reagan about the charge of Communist against King, and Reagan said that Americans would find out in around 35 years, referring to the length of time before any material the FBI gathers on a subject could be released. Reagan later apologized, and a federal judge blocked the release of King’s FBI files.

Conservatives in the Senate tried to change the name of the bill to “National Civil Rights Day” as well, but they failed to do so. The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 78 for and 22 against. Reagan capitulated, signing the bill into law.”

It wasn’t until November 2, 1983, that President Reagan signed the bill that made Martin Luther King Day an official federal holiday, to be first celebrated on January 20, 1986.

I have a tradition of attending our local community-wide annual MLK celebration.  In Toledo this event is called a “unity” celebration.  I find the theme of unity somewhat incongruous with the divisive issues that Dr. King boldly and controversially confronted and persistently pursued.  These celebrations seem much closer to “have a nice day” than “get jailed for justice.”  While I consider it a victory to have won official recognition of Dr. King’s life and life’s work in the form of a governmental and nationwide celebration, the institutionalization of Dr. King’s institution-challenging message and life’s work is problematic.  Of course, hard-fought victories can never be permanently institutionalized, but must be fought and re-fought by spirited and compassionate folks across generations.  Institutions tend to be guardians of the past and the status quo.  Fully alive people need to secure the day and the future.  Like they say: activism is the rent you must pay for living on this planet.  Otherwise our lives will face foreclosure.

Of course, MLK Day cannot expect to be immune from the inane, monetizing, unjust powers that be — just like every other holiday (formerly holy day).  You can expect way more people to get excited about businesses selling discounted merchandise of MLK Day, or most any other holiday, than righteous and indignant people overturning the moneychangers’ stranglehold of debt on working people or their insistence to monetize every ideal or spiritual venture.  Every celebration is met with a tsunami of merchandising.  Buy your sweetie something expensive, commensurate with your love — which can’t be bought, but may be sold.  Celebrate dead presidents by spending dead presidents.  Buy some munitions for Independence Day.  Honor veterans by living out the consumers’ creed: Live, Work, Buy, Die.  Thanksgiving has been overrun by the commercialization of Christmas.  Perhaps this is not surprising, since the Christmas season now reaches before Halloween.  Martin Luther King, Jr., quite aptly, is in good company with Jesus.  Yet the eternal question remains: Is MLK Day just a day off?

FREE POSTER: MLK I Have a Dream, Obama I Have Drone

To celebrate the legacy of peace and justice of Martin Luther King, Jr. this upcoming MLK Day 2013, I have designed this free downloadable poster: “MLK I Have a Dream, Obama I Have Drone”

You can download this free 8-1/2 X 11″ Martin Luther King Poster – “MLK Dream, Obama Drone” here

Download Free Martin Luther King Obama Poster

This Martin Luther King Jr. design is a little edgier than many of my MLK designs.  However, in meditating upon our upcoming local MLK celebrations in Toledo, Ohio, I recognize that the profound edginess of MLK’s body of work for peace and justice is often turned into some kind of namby-pamby niceness and abstraction of pure intentions.  Of course, this overlooks the hard-core and often very unpopular work that MLK conducted.  I was extremely disappointed, as were so many others, when President Obama gave his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize.  While Mr. Obama typically finely targets his fine rhetoric to his audience, his speech to the largely pacifist aficionados of the Nobel Peace Prize was nothing less than crude apologetics for violence.  Unfortunately, Mr. Obama’s rhetoric has been fully incarnated into deadly policy with his escalation of killer drones initiated by Pres. George W. Bush.

I plan on passing out free buttons to participants of our local MLK celebration.  I expect that many people will be a little reluctant at the harsh juxtaposition of Martin Luther King Jr. and his idealistic and famous “I have a dream speech” with President Obama’s droning on with killer strikes, raining death on mostly civilians and often children. Mr. Obama’s killer drone strikes is perhaps this millennium’s best example (so far) of a blatant violation of international law and national sovereignty.

The timely and timeless question: what would MLK do?  Is appropriate especially for MLK Day, and every day in 2013.  What say you?

View Martin Luther King, Jr. designs (available on buttons-pin, T-shirts, stickers, bumper stickers, caps, mugs and more)

Mock Funeral – Occupy Toledo

Yesterday, April 1st, April Fool’s Day, was the one and only performance of Occupy Toledo‘s Mock Funeral — in life (and death) there are no rehearsals, this is it!  If you missed it, I truly hope that you were doing something else as fun and inspiring!  Thanks to all the players, readers, eulogizers, ushers, HOMElessLAND SECURITY, providers of food, and all who helped make Occupy Toledo’s RE-BIRTHDAY possible.  We rose like a phoenix from the ashes!!  Occupy Toledo will re-start the physical re-occupation of Toledo on May1, May Day, the day of a worldwide general strike!  Join us May 1 in Levi’s Square, downtown Toledo, St. Clair at Madison.  In the meantime you can come help plan the occupation of Toledo at our General Assembly meeting every Wednesday at 6:30 pm at Third Space.

Below is a picture of our own Rev. Ed Heilman serving as mock preacher (note the dollar sign on his bishop’s hat and the dollar sign cross on the altar)

Mock Funeral Preacher (Rev. Ed Heilman)Here is Occupy Toledo’s Obituary from the Mock Funeral:

“Occupy Toledo was born October 10, 2011, to it’s parents, the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. Born of hope, Occupy Toledo burst onto the scene in its own charmingly childish way. However, from the birth of Occupy Toledo, few people could understand what it wanted. Onlookers mumbled again and again: “What do they want?” “I don’t get it.” Occupy Toledo flailed around for about 6 months until it realized that it was too small to succeed. After scrutinizing corporate behavior, Occupy Toledo in due course discovered that the nobility of American corporations was unparalleled. The dearly departed realized that in these great United States of America, injustices are so few and far between, that it could no longer even occupy itself. Unavoidably, Occupy Toledo came to its senses, recognized its irrelevancy, and accepted that resistance to corporate rule is futile. Fortunately, in the end, Occupy Toledo had gained at least the good sense to crawl into a coroner’s office and die. Occupy Toledo died on April 1, 2012, due to apathy. Protesters were the Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2011. Gracefully, protesters like Occupy Toledo are stepping aside to make room for the inevitable Time Magazine Person of the Year for 2012: the Corporate Person, born of Citizens United, the true will of human persons across America. Occupy Toledo is survived by countless cousins around the country, many of whom have not achieved enlightenment, so they have not yet abandoned their vain struggles against corporate America, which is obviously too big too fail. The bad news is that Occupy Toledo is dead. The good news is that its condition is stable.”

Below is a picture of our own local activist doctor, Johnathon Ross, M.D., reading Occupy Toledo’s Death Certificate and pronouncing its death.

Mock Funeral Doctor (Johnathon Ross, M.D.)Here is Occupy Toledo’s Death Certificate from yesterday’s Mock Funeral:

“I hereby certify that Occupy Toledo, born October 10, 2011, has died on this day, April 1, 2012. The immediate cause of death was apathy. The underlying causes of death included: 1) an atrophied brain due to an overexposure to TV news and infotainment, talk radio, and so-called “reality” TV; 2) learned helplessness, due to an enlarged gullibility, making it susceptible to corporate propaganda and so-called political pundits; 3) a weakened constitution due to lack of exercising freedoms and widespread metastases of planetary consumption; and lastly, 4) pure exhaustion from running on the treadmills of trying to earn enough to maintain a decent household and fend off crushing debt.”

Of course, after the 1% overstepped their hand with their crass compulsions (by bidding on the Phoenix egg for their breakfast), the Phoenix’s prophecy was fulfilled:

“Hear this prophecy: The crass compulsion of the few to buy anything and everything is complete. The few dare to literally buy and consume the HOPE of the many. Because of this abomination of the few, the Phoenix’s prophecy is complete. The many, the 99%, Occupy Toledo, will be re-born one month from today in this same place. HAPPY RE-BIRTHDAY OCCUPY TOLEDO. Join us on May 1, May Day, a world-wide general strike, for the re-occupation of Toledo. Thus speaks the Phoenix, ‘You, the many, the 99%, shall arise again and be free. Join together with the peoples of this land and from around the world, and the few, the 1%, will be vanquished.’ “

Below pictured is yours truly, Dan Rutt, alias “Top Pun” (it’s just, my pun name), with the HAPPY RE-BIRTHDAY card placed over the tombstone announcing the re-occupation of Toledo.

Mock Funeral RE-BIRTHDAY CARD! (Dan Rutt as Funeral Director)

Here is some Toledo Blade coverage for the Mock Funeral.

If you’d like to read the Occupy Toledo Mock Funeral script, you can re-live the event, or get a greater taste of the drama of the day.  Here is a printer-friendly PDF version of the Mock Funeral of Occupy Toledo.

TopPun.com Celebrates 10 years, Launches TP Paper

Top Pun, Soul ProprietorTopPun.com Celebrates 10 years, Launches TP Paper

Ten years ago I had little idea exactly what I would be doing in 10 years.  Fortunately, TopPun.com – Maximizing Prophets has turned out to be too small to fail.  And while General Motors and pretty much the entire banking system have had to be bailed out, apparently, what is good for TopPun.com is good for America.  While I continue to make too little money to pay federal taxes (not unlike many corporations), this could just as well be the most effective way to not support war and imperialism by the US.  Reality has played neatly into my hand to live simply and justly.  How does one celebrate such an auspicious anniversary?  Occupy Wall Street ButtonsWell, the way that I’m celebrating is by launching a new monthly e-newsletter, affectionately known as the TP paper, because I prefer it over the top.  This newsletter will feature monthly web specials and free downloadable posters, among other things.  The first Web special, hopefully appropriately and timely, celebrates the Occupy Wall Street movement by offering 100 assorted Occupy Wall Street buttons for a mere $29.95, featuring dozens of new Occupy Wall Street themed designs that are not even available yet elsewhere on the website.  Download Free "Class War" Political PosterAlso to honor the Occupy Wall Street movement, the first free downloadable poster, “Class War” parodies the ridiculous attitudes of the 1%, corporate personhood, and money as free speech.  To receive the TP paper regularly, just complete the e- newsletter sign-up form.  THANKS!

Celebrate National Public Health Week 2012

Celebrate National Public Health Week 2012

Public health buttons-pinTop Pun, a public health professional in a former incarnation, invites you to celebrate National Public Health Week 2012, which for 2012 occurs April 2-8.  The annual health observance, seeks to mobilize communities across the country to recognize the contributions of public health.  The weeklong celebration is always scheduled for the first full week in April.  National Public Health Week is officially sponsored by the American Public Health Association.  This year’s National Public Health Week theme is “A Healthier America Begins Today: Join the Movement!”

Almost one million Americans die each year from preventable diseases.  Even small preventive changes and community health initiatives can make a big difference in living healthier lives. National Public Health Week 2012 will build upon the National Prevention Strategy to create a healthier nation by promoting healthy behaviors in the following areas: active living and healthy eating; alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; communicable diseases; reproductive and sexual health; and mental and emotional well-being.

I have fond memories of working in public health.  My first work in public health was in nutrition which soon expanded to community health education, including tobacco use prevention, nutrition, exercise, and diabetes detection and control. Then, I worked in HIV-AIDS prevention for the decade of the 90s.  I finished my last few years formally in public health working on health planning and community health needs assessment.  As it turned out, I like the work much more than I liked the job, that is, my employer.  Fortunately, getting out of public health work that make him a true, higher calling: to work full-time as the best punster for peace and justice in the English-speaking world.  Also, not by accident, the philosophical basis for public health a social justice, so, in fact, I carry on the core work public health workers.  So, please join me in making every week public health week in 2012.  Thanks!

Toledo Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Celebration

Toledo Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity Celebration

I just got back from the Toledo Martin Luther King Jr. Day unity celebration. I was delighted to see thousands oMLK T-shirtf people celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Toledo once again. I’m not sure there were quite as many people as there has been in recent years’ MLK unity celebrations in Toledo. Nonetheless, it is nearly impossible to have an event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. without being inspired in some way. I particularly enjoyed the keynote address by Hari Jones, Curator of the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum. He spoke quite eloquently about the tension between empirical skepticism and metaphysical optimism in the creation of this nation and the American dream, which includes and is perhaps typified by Martin Luther King’s dream. I like the quote from Art Tatum, a native Toledoan and celebrated jazz artist, who said that in jazz often all that there is a “there is no such thing as a wrong note.” This elicits a great concept about unity. Dr. Jones spoke at some length about how everyone must play notes and in this apparent discordance harmony paradoxically can arise. I wonder at times though, given our cultural value of conflict avoidance, that we focus on and perhaps vainly hope for an authentic unity that is forged somehow without conflict. If there is anything that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us, it surely would be something to do with dealing with conflict and authentic manner that is loving, respectful, and challenging — very challenging! While there is certainly merit in promoting community service, if we are truly to understand, appreciate, and embody the life and work of Martin Luther King, then we need to recognize and honor that his unique contribution to American society and the world was about successfully organizing masses of regular people to challenge and overthrow an unjust status quo. This is hard work. This is work that divides people as far apart as justice and injustice. Like Jesus was misunderstood in saying that he came to bring not peace but a sword, MLK is often misunderstood or idealized as some peacemaker who doesn’t understand the true nature of conflict and what it takes to bring justice in the world that can be cruel and apathetic to those suffering injustices. This misunderstanding often leads to acceptance, even if reluctant acceptance, of violence, as a necessary evil. The division that Jesus was referring to was not the division of flesh by a sword, but the division of people by those who would stand for justice and those who would let injustice stand. Pacifists like Dr. King and Jesus understand that there is no real way to get around conflict in life and its injustices, that we need to go through conflict. The trick is to go through that conflict with a humane measure of dignity and respect, a big dose of discipline, and an undying commitment to the fact that humanity and creation is one. This task is so large that it escapes mere human grasp and relies on grace from God, a power greater than ourselves, our family, our community, and even creation. Pacifism has historically been rooted in people with a deep relationship with the creator not simply the created, whether that be other people or the material world and all its bounty. In our modern or postmodern secular world many people may feel uncomfortable with the obvious, undeniable fact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the reverend, was a deeply religious man. Because MLK was so successful at providing a model for dealing with practical and large-scale injustices in our society, he is accessible to many who would like to claim him as their own. Unfortunately, to not delve to understand the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a religious pacifist is perhaps the miss the main point of his life, and death. At this point, I will stop babbling on and asks simply read or listen to some of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s writings or speeches. Equipping ourselves with a greater depth of understanding of MLK is a good start to honoring and celebrating his legacy.