POEM: Macaroni Art

Has it ever occurred to you
That your life’s work is but
Macaroni art
Only then realizing
That it is covering God’s refrigerator
And how great that is

This poem touches upon a number of themes: humility, self-confidence, perfectionism and grace. Every parent of a kid who is at least in elementary school has been given artworks that are of modest skill and humble materials, the proverbial macaroni art. Nonetheless, just as common, a parent receives such gifts with delight and affection. I find it encouraging to envision God receiving my less-than-skillful contributions to life with delight and affection. Of course, that which is most human and divine is so much more than “stuff.” May our relationships be overflowing with delight and affection.

Testimony for National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service — END DRAFT REGISTRATION

I prepared the below testimony to present at a public meeting in Chicago before the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, a commission created by Congress to deal with questions of draft registration, most specifically, whether to end draft registration or expand it to women. The Commission designed the format for this meeting with severely restricted opportunities for general public input. I intend to submit this testimony in written form, but I do not anticipate that I will be able to present it in person. At the end of this testimony is a much shorter statement that I intend to present to the media in Chicago, and directly to the Commission, if possible.

FULL TESTIMONY

My name is Dan Rutt. I have traveled from Toledo, Ohio, to be here today. I have come from 250 miles away to testify to you about service. I am volunteering my time to testify about that which is involuntary: conscience. I have come much further than 250 miles to be here today…

My testimony is rooted in family history predating the existence of the United States of America.  I am 12th generation in this land now known as the United States of America. In the early 1700’s, my ancestors settled on land given to them by William Penn, on what would come to be known as Pennsylvania. My Mennonite ancestors fled Germany to escape conscription and war.

With that wave of German immigrants and refugees, those that occupied the land had much fear about them ruining life as they new it. Newly-arrived German males age 16 and older were forced to take a loyalty oath to the British crown. The English oath was administered roughshod over the newly arriving boys and men, most of whom spoke only German upon their arrival. Apparently, a nominal and blind oath provided some comfort to those fearful residents already occupying the land.

As the Philadelphia harbor bells rang, signaling new arrivals, people gathered to greet them. Many gathered to welcome family or provide strangers with much needed assistance, knowing what it is like to leave one’s home and arrive in a strange land with little or nothing. Others gathered to enlist indentured servants. Here is my most important question regarding service. Serving freely or serving under coercion — which is the greater service? I submit that serving freely is greater. In this particular case, the free service of hospitality and welcoming outsiders is greater than enlisting indentured servants. In the shared scripture of The People of The Book — Jews, Christians and Muslims — a similar exhortation is repeated multiple times: “You must love foreigners because you were foreigners in Egypt.” This service of what may be considered radical hospitality is a time-honored practice of Jews, Christians and Muslims. The humble practice is at the heart of every great faith worldwide. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love because you were first loved. My ancestors, yearning to be free, wanted neither to be the cause of war as soldiers nor the tragic effects of war in its wanton destruction. This was at the heart of my ancestors’ journeys in life. This is my heritage.

More recently, in relation to war and peace, my great-grandfather, during World War II, ran an alternative service camp for conscientious objectors. As for me, I was literally born into service. I was born in 1961 in Haiti, while my parents were serving as medical missionaries, a doctor and nurse, with Mennonite Central Committee. Mennonite Central Committee has long encouraged and empowered years-long terms of service, often overseas. For my Dad, this was also as an alternative service to military service.

In 1979, the year I graduated from high school, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. In response to this, President Jimmy Carter instituted draft registration of young men my age, ostensibly to send a message of military preparedness to Soviet leaders. I was in the first batch of young men required by U.S. law to register for the draft. However, the prospect of draft registration conflicted with a higher law, my conscience and ultimate commitments. I could not and cannot, in good conscience, participate in war-making. As the clarity of my conscience emerged, I could find no way to register for the military draft, whose sole purpose is preparedness for war. My conscience also dictated that if I was to disobey an unconscionable law, then I was to openly take full responsibly for my actions while I worked to change such a law. I began by writing letters to Selective Service and my elected representatives. I may not have had been well-schooled — yet, anyways — on the politics of waging war or peace, but I was intimately familiar with my conscience and the legal duty that my young male peers and I faced. I was a teenager facing obedience to my conscience. This obedience came at the legal threat of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

I quickly learned that my war resistance is not dependent on geopolitical circumstances, political pendulums, or legal threats. I am already opposed to the next war. Unlike in the pragmatism of war, my enemy’s enemy is not my friend. For me, war is the enemy. Nonetheless, the nearly 40 years since my initial confrontation with draft registration affords me a certain perspective as I have lived through a full cycle of history.  While I was a skinny teenager facing taking on the United States government, the U.S. government was backing the soon-enough-to-be-notorious Osama bin Laden as a so-called “freedom fighter,” leading the mujahadeen in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation.  Of course, our support of Osama bin Laden, our enemy’s enemy, turned out to be a deadly lessen in the futility of weaponizing violent radicals in the vain hope that it won’t blowback in further violence on virtually all fronts. Today’s “freedom fighter” is tomorrow’s terrorist. Today’s war seeds tomorrow’s terrorist. Gandhi spoke frequently of the seamless connection of means and ends. War IS terrorism. How can we expect it to produce anything else — with it many “means” and “ends”? In the end, I cannot view warmaking as service to this country, or any country for that madder, certainly not to humanity as a hole. I find warmaking incompatible with Jesus’ call to love our enemies and to be peacemakers, the children of God.

In speaking with hundreds of Americans over the years about draft registration resistance, I have found that people’s objections to my objections are of two basic types. One type of response is basically that draft registration is such a minimal requirement that it isn’t worth much fuss. If this is the case, then why don’t we just get rid of draft registration, without much fuss? The other type of response is about the utter graveness of our warmaking, and usually something about our national doody. If war is so grave, perhaps the concerns around someone refusing to go postal should receive more thoughtful and consequential consideration. To add insult to injury, in a surreal show of moral farce, war apologists routinely cite “necessary evil” as their moral foundation. This is not the God I serve. Straddling these two poles of minimal and supreme concern, are the tired questions that are asked pacifists, such as: “What would you do if someone was raping your grandmother in the ally?” I learned to answer such questions with: “I’d register for the draft.” If their perplexity persisted, they might suggest that I go back to Russia (where I’ve never been) or indicated their inclination to see me face time in jail; presumably, so I am not around to not protect them.

Mean wile, back in 1980, soon after winning the presidential election, Ronald Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration. His campaign rhetoric about getting the government off the backs of people rang hollow, like a hollow bullet to my heart. The media wanted to do a story on this broken promise and how it affected the young men subject to the law, particularly those opposed to it. As it turned out, while there were millions of nonregistrants quietly in violation of the law, I was the only local public nonregistrant that they could track down, and I soon found myself highlighted in various media for years to come.

To make a long story shorter, in 1983, I was indicted for failure to register — I prefer refusal to register. In 1986, I was tried and convicted. My indiscriminate honesty more than compensated for their lack of investigatory skills. I served 107 days in the federal Community Corrections Center in Detroit, served two years probation, and served 200 hours of community service. I can’t help but note, today, since the theme is “service,” that the solution to my singular failure was to rip me from my community in order to integrate me back into my community. Plus, the court had to bean-count community service that you couldn’t have stopped me from serving anyway.

Of course, there were larger forces at work. I, and a select few others, had to be made examples of. I, for One, am proud of the example I served. In the case of The United States of America vs. Daniel A. Rutt, there was a focus on my failure/refusal. In the meantime, I had finished college, got married, finished graduate school, had a son, and got a job. I went on to serve in a public health career of almost two decades. I even got a national award from the feds for my work in health promotion — thanks for noticing, U.S. of A. For the last 16 years, I have run my own business promoting social justice.

I do not consider my time imprisoned or countless hours engaging in war resistance as any great burden. In fact, I consider this as service to my country and humanity. I do suspect that most any person who did a tour of active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan has suffered more than I.  Unfortunately, war is replete with suffering. Of course, suffering is of no great inherent value. Nonetheless, whatever we willingly suffer for is a good measure of what we truly value. I hope that more Americans, whether male or female, young or old, will volunteer to put more skin in the game and resist war in any way they can. I believe that the cost of freedom is found in not killing, rather than killing. As General Patton so infamously stated, “No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his country.”

It is impossible for me to separate my service from my conscience. Conscience is that small still voice that emanates from the foundation of our existence, that calls us, at the risk of trademark infringement, to be all that we can be. My war resistance is deeply rooted in following Jesus, The Prince of Peace. The Jesus I follow was executed as an enemy of the state. He was executed at the behest of the religious elite. Today, the religious elite dutifully save themselves and their clan, more faithfully blessing warmakers than counseling their youth to resist war, more conveniently blessing warmakers than counseling their youth to resist war. The first wave of martyrs in early Christendom were men who refused military service. The broader wave of martyrs were Jesus followers who refused idolatry, the literal and figurative “pinch of incense on the altar” to Caesar.

For me, draft registration is that “pinch of incense on the altar” of the state. When it comes to military service, in the great U.S.A., there is no “one nation under God.” When it comes to military service, The United States of America is God. Specifically, The United States of America, does not recognize ANY Constitutional right to refuse military service for ANY reason, including conscience or freedom of religion. As we all know, the U.S. Constitution provides for many rights, rights that cannot be infringed upon by the state. There are many constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom to petition for redress of grievances, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and the right to equal protection under the law, among others. These are often referred to as natural rights or God-given rights. Such rights define the character of a state, and place limits on its sovereignty, recognizing a power greater than itself. The United States of America, does not recognize ANY natural or God-given right to refuse military service for ANY reason. If you are surprised by this, so was I. I count this as the singular lesson that I learned in my draft registration resistance. This sad and idolatrous reality was unmasked only by a federal judge citing a Supreme Court case in a legal opinion rejecting my motion for dismissal on the basis of religious freedom. Fortunately, I have found that God’s grace extends further than legislative grace or constitutional provision of this republic. I strongly suspect that tens of millions of Americans of faith recognize that holy obedience sometimes requires civil disobedience.

My male ancestors age 16 plus who arrived to this land so many years ago were forced to swear a loyalty oath to the government, even though most didn’t even speak the language in which the oath was administered. This didn’t even seem to matter to government officials. Why is this? I suspect that the nominal and incomprehensible oath was a “pinch of incense on the altar,” a ritual form of national worship needed by a resident populace afraid of strangers. The minimal content of the oath served as a safe and surefire way to maximize compliance and minimize resistance. Who would get back on the boat and return across the sea because they had to mouth or sign an incomprehensible swearing. Who would not submit their name and basic information to the Selective Service System? Well, most young men do not register when they first become legally required. Most young men, hoping to go somewhere, register when they need to secure a driver’s license, or when they reach the shore of an education, needing a student loan.

I suspect that the ritual obedience of a “pinch of incense on the altar” may be more important than an actually functioning, fair and equitable system of potential conscription. Conspicuously absent from the Selective Service annual report is the noncompliance rate with the requirement for registrants to update their address (within 10 days) every time they move. Every observant person knows that 18-25 year-old men move a lot. How many address updates do they get? How many address updates don’t they get? Surely, this can be estimated, and certainly it matters if one actually cares about being able to effectively and fairly enlist young men in a potential draft. The noncompliance rate for initial registration is 8% for all 18-25 year-old men. I strongly suspect that the noncompliance with current address is much higher than noncompliance with initial registration; probably, in combination, high enough to blow a hole in any contention that draft registration is effective and fair. By the way, those young men not complying with address updates are subject to the same legal penalties of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. In FY 2017, 184,051 names and addresses of suspected violators to initial registration were provided to the Department of Justice. Does it strike anyone else as odd that the names and addresses of suspected violators are forwarded? If the Selective Service System has the names and addresses of potential enlistees, what else do they need?

I contend that what Selective Service is largely after is your assent to civil obedience, participation in a national religion of warmaking, your “pinch of incense on the altar,” if you will. This seems to be a better characterization of Selective Service’s function than, in the case of a military draft, to “rapidly provide personnel in a fair and equitable manner.” Oddly, if you find yourself a male age 26 or older, beyond the age requirement to register, and you failed to register, you could still run into trouble by being denied eligibility for federal student financial aid, federal job training, federal employment, or U.S. citizenship; yet, you may be in the clear if your can “show by a preponderance of evidence” that your failure to register was not knowing and willful. Just don’t be too conscientious; that is, until you have to prove that you were not conscientious. Apparently, the true crime is conscientiousness in not registering, more so than simply not registering. The selective prosecution of a few conscientious and public resisters while millions are noncompliant speaks volumes to this.  Certainly, a system where obliviousness is excusable and objecting conscientiously is a crime is a system that distorts our nation’s highest values.  I don’t object to Selective Service being shot full of holes regarding compliance. I do object to Selective Service dishonoring or punishing conscientiousness. As there is no way for a registrant to officially indicate any intent at conscientious objection, I would be very curious to see what would happen if conscientious objector status were a checkbox in the registration process. We might learn a lot about the state of conscientious objection in America. Of course, if Selective Service noncompliance is largely about non-conscientiousness, then I have to ask: What would such a level of non-conscientiousness say about what we might be fighting for and who might be fighting for it?

The draft registration system cannot account for true conscientiousness. The draft registration system cannot muster enough compliance, conscientious or not, to claim fairness and equitability. The honorable course of action, in both cases, is to end draft registration.

In truth, the actual practice of draft registration ignores conscientious objection. While there is no apparent constitutional right to refuse military conscription, there are some legislative provisions for what are called conscientious objectors. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to indicate conscientious objection during the current draft registration process. This is objectionable to many conscientiously opposed to war. Somewhat oddly, the only legal way to make such a claim is to submit to a system, the Selective Service System, whose sole purpose is preparing for war, which you must reject completely. Plus, conscientious objector status is only possible as a military service classification, if and when a draft may occur. The longer a registrant is unrecognized as conscientiously opposed to war, the further the objection. Further, conscientious objector status can only be recognized for those who are opposed to all wars. If you in good conscience object to whatever current war in which you are subject to serve, this is oddly irrelevant. You could, in fact, turn out to conscientiously object to every actual war that comes down the pike in your lifetime and this is deemed irrelevant if you are not opposed to every theoretical war (or past war). This renders conscientious objection to a meaningless idea for what is perhaps the vast bulk of being conscientiously opposed to war. Finally, there is no real mechanism to truly count or officially value the service of conscientious objectors, meaning that men will be drafted until the military need is met, whether ten or ten million men have conscientious objection. The service of a conscientious objector is superfluous to the determining aim of the Selective Service System. This itself is offensive to many persons of conscience opposed to war-making. Let’s end the criminalization of conscience.

In truth, the actual practice of warmaking habitually runs roughshod over international law and human rights. The promise of some possible future alternative service as a noncombatant is little comfort to my conscience, and of many others. In a warring world, the distinction between combatants and noncombatants offers fantastical sanitization rather than actual sanity. The fact is that across time and across a myriad of modern armed conflicts, over ten so-called “noncombatants” are killed for every “combatant.” The first casualty of war is the truth; most of the rest are noncombatants. My duty is to oppose war, not escape military service. This is my service to humanity. This service is regardless of combatant status. Plus, the best way to serve warriors happens to be ending war.

In the age of terrorism, some will claim that we live in new era of war, not subject to the old rules of war. We do live in a different time than in the 1980’s, the decade when draft registration was initiated. I can testify to a profound shift toward anti-war sentiment since then. During the first Gulf war, in the early 1990’s, I never felt so isolated as an American, confronting palpable resistance even from liberals. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, our local peace network, the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition, initiated weekly Sunday demonstrations at busy intersections around town. These demonstrations for peace and against war occurred weekly for 15 years (and continue twice each month). In the early years, most of the feedback we had from passing motorists was angry yelling, middle fingers, and expletives flying. Over the years, this angry response has become rare, perhaps a couple a week, and the overwhelming positive responses are represented by hundreds of “honks for peace,” peace signs and thumbs up. Americans in the heartland of Ohio are tired of war and welcome peace. Draft registration is a relic of ages past. Why have draft registration when even the military cites no scenarios where they would want a draft?

One issue at the heart of draft registration and military conscription is what is the proper role of women in warmaking and peacemaking. I am delighted to see that women serve as 5 of the 11 commissioners. Surely, it is women who should determine what is the proper role of women, in this case, concerning warmaking and peacemaking. In my lifelong work across a wide range of social justice movements, I have found women to be the most reliable and most inspiring leaders and laborers for social justice. I strongly suspect that women will take up the mantle of even greater war resistance if they become subject to military conscription. I take inspiration to serve as a war resister from Julia Ward Howe. She, most famously known as the composer of the Battle Hymn of The Republic, was the founder of Mother’s Day, originally a day of war resistance. She issued this Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870:

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says “Disarm! Disarm!” The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

As men have forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his time the sacred impress not of Caesar, but of God.

 In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

I would much prefer entrusting my conscience and fate to such “a general congress of women without limit of nationality,” rather than the currently constituted National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

Perhaps somewhat ironic, given my heritage, Germany now has a constitutional right to conscientious objection while the United States does not. When Germany ended conscription in 2011, the majority of those serving were conscientious objectors, and the debate had shifted from conscience to whether they should give up a huge pool of cheap labor. I believe that forced national service is incongruent with our nation’s highest ideals. I believe that volunteerism is at the core of authentic service. I suspect that lowering our ideals by forcing service is a poor way to nurture true service. Let us lead by example. This is why I am here today. If you want to gauge both the heart and the cutting edge of service in this country and for this country, look to those who volunteer, willingly, without pay, to live out their deepest values. This is the clearest view of our highest ideals incarnate, that service, that work, which cannot be bought and sold.

I appreciate the opportunity to testify before the Commission. From your bios, I can see that you are exemplary leaders in service. Unfortunately, I think that you may have an impossible job. I appreciate that Selective Service is technically considered under civilian control. Still, I can’t help but notice that both Selective Service and this Commission are heavily represented by persons from the military or traditional national security apparatus. This does not fairly represent America in the civilian service necessary to make for peace in the world. Also, about 4 in 10 Americans are persons of color, including many of those in the military. Why is this Commission even whiter than the overly white Congress who appointed it? This is not a service to America, and raises the question of whether white supremacy is part and parcel to your work. In tandem, the Commission’s overwhelmingly militarized representation and unduly whiteness, inspires little confidence that your recommendations can represent America. Perhaps it would be more honest to call this Commission an Omission. I suspect that this failure is rooted in the failure and cowardice of Congress to deal with draft registration in a changing world, that is, a world that recognizes women as equals. Congress punted on the politically unpopular choices of just ending draft registration or expanding it to women. Instead, Congress kicked the can down the road for a couple of years by creating a Commission to address this question for them. Unfortunately, This Congress-created Commission is so couched in generic service rhetoric that it is hamstrung in dealing straightforwardly with the singular issue that triggered its creation: draft registration. Until the Commission owns up to addressing the issue of draft registration as its core reason for existing, any hopes of sparking a national conversation on service will be sparks falling on damp firewood.  Further complicating the credibility of the Commission is the tightly controlled and choreographed public meetings in conjunction with severely limited open public testimony. A responsive democratic process would have began with generous opportunities for open public testimony, and then using this input to shape additional “invited” testimony. This may already be too late to remedy. The chasm between the nature of “invited” testimony and uninvited testimony betrays a characterization of the Commission’s work to date as democratic or representative. In my years of public service, both as a community planner and as a citizen participant in many public forums, I think that it is fairer to characterize the Commission’s public meetings to date more as “dog and pony shows” than as an open and responsive democratic process. For this Commission’s work to claim legitimacy, there is a lot of changes that need to be made. Lastly, having to make FOIA requests to find out about the basic public functioning of the Commission does not bode well for a culture of transparent, accountable public service by the Commission. I hope that you have found worthwhile input in my testimony to move toward a peace-loving democracy in which every one of us finds ample opportunities, free of compulsion, for self-sacrificial service for the good of all.

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PRESS STATEMENT

My name is Dan Rutt. I have traveled from Toledo, Ohio, about 250 miles away, to be here today. I am one of the select few prosecuted and imprisoned for refusing to register for the draft, back in the 1980’s. We are here today for one reason, and one reason alone: Congress punted on the politically unpopular choices of just ending draft registration or expanding it to women. Congress punted by appointing a Commission to provide recommendations regarding draft registration a couple years down the road. That Commission is the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. Unfortunately, This Commission’s work is so couched in generic service rhetoric that it is hamstrung in dealing straightforwardly with the singular issue that triggered its creation: draft registration. Until the Commission owns up to honestly and openly addressing the issue of draft registration as its core reason for existing, the Commission will be a failure. Draft registration continues to have no mechanism to accommodate conscientious objection. Draft registration is fraught with noncompliance by young men either not registering at all, registering late, or not updating their addresses. The military cites no scenarios where they would want a draft. This is no time to expand draft registration, whether to women or persons with select skills the military might want. Now is the time to end draft registration. Voluntary service is true service. Let’s keep it that way.

Today’s public meeting in particular highlights the failing credibility of the Commission. Previous public meetings around the country have had very limited opportunity for open testimony from the general public. Today’s meeting has even less opportunity. Previous public meetings have been billed as having opportunities to speak directly to the Commission; and when people get there they find out that there is a scheduled two minutes per citizen. This meeting is being billed as an opportunity for Q&A, not even to the Commission but to their invited speakers. Furthermore, the overall time for the public to even participate in this insular Q&A has been cut down to “20 or 30 minutes.” From the experience of previous public meetings, the chasm between the nature of “invited” testimony and uninvited testimony betrays a characterization of the Commission’s work to date as democratic. The Commission is moving in the wrong direction. A responsive democratic process would have began with generous opportunities for open public testimony, and then used this input to shape additional “invited” testimony as needed. This may already be too late to remedy.

Unfortunately, the Commission has other credibility problems that may very well make their job impossible. This Commission is dominated by members from the military or traditional national security apparatus, all the while trying to couch their work in a broader, more generic view of service. This Commission is extremely white, in a nation where people of color are about 4 of 10 Americans. This Commission is poorly designed to represent America. To make matters worse, the Commission has chosen to conduct its business in such a manner that citizens have had to make FOIA requests to find out about the basic public functioning of the Commission. This does not bode well for a culture of transparent, accountable public service by the Commission.

Originally, I planned my trip from Toledo to Chicago, for this public meeting, to deliver testimony to the Commission, offering a story of conscience and how draft registration fails to meet a broad range of America’s ideals. Because this public meeting cannot accommodate such open testimony, I stand before you, hoping that a free press will shine a light on the ill-conceived and poorly executed work of The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

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Listen here to the audio of my brief testimony against draft registration at 1:15:10.

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.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Senator ROB Portman “The GRINCH” Putting The ROB in Christmas

This free political poster is inspired by the pathetic and horrific tax cuts for the rich that congressional Republicans are pushing like crack for the wealthy this Christmas season.  The Senate Republican bill even includes a repeal of the individual health insurance mandate which would result in a projected 13 million Americans joining the ranks of the uninsured and fracturing our health care system into even more tiers or classes of citizens. Most poignantly for the Republican grinches, this lures many modest income people off subsidized health insurance plans to bet their health against whatever their cash contribution may be; this recoups hundreds of billions of dollars in insurance assistance available to modest income Americans which Republicans can use to fund tax cuts for wealthy Americans.  Repealing the individual health insurance mandate is a foolhardy accounting gimmick which will, in essence, “tax” all remaining insured Americans with an estimated 10% increase in premium contributions while nominally “saving” tax dollars, shifting costs, even greater costs, from the public to the private sector. HEADLINE: Republicans Rob Peter to Pay Paul So Overall Americans Can Pay Slightly More For Slightly Less.  Merry Christmas from congressional Republicans.  Never fear, the good news, not to be mistaken for The Good News of Christmas, is that the richest corporations and Americans will get a disproportionately large tax cut.

The poster design below is yet another in my “Parity or Parody” series targeting Sen. ROB Portman (R-OH) an alleged moderate who supports the repeal of the individual health insurance mandate to fund tax cuts for the rich.  Please feel free to distribute this free political poster: “Senator ROB Portman “The GRINCH” Putting The ROB in Christmas.”

Senator Rob Portman The GRINCH Putting The ROB in Christmas

I designed this Grinch poster to be used in conjunction with a satirical Christmas caroling protest outside Sen. Rob Portman’s Toledo office. To savor the flavor of this Republican hijacked holy season, please relish these parody lyrics to classic Christmas tunes:

1. Here We Go A-Caroling (to the tune of “Here We Go A-Wassailing”)

Here we go a-caroling against this bad tax bill,
Here we go a-caroling so Amer-ricans can still
See physicians when they’re sick,
Avoid vampiric politics,
And protect our economy from gre-edy ill will,
And protect us from gre-edy ill will

2. We Wish for a Better Tax Bill (to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”)

Good counsel we bring
To you and your friends
And if you don’t listen,
We’ll sing it again!

We wish for a bet-ter tax bill
We wish for a bet-ter tax bill
We wish for a bet-ter tax bill
And protected healthcare.

We won’t quit until we get it
We won’t quit until we get it
We won’t quit until we get it
And remember, we VOTE!

3. I’m Dreaming of a Good Tax Plan

I’m dreaming of a good tax plan,
One that doesn’t kill our healthcare
Where the poor are respected
Income equality is perfected,
And everyone prospers, thrives, and grows.

I’m dreaming of a good tax plan
With every “She Persisted” card I send
I’m hoping you will hear me, my friend,
And this greed-y, money-grab will end.

I’m dreaming of a good tax plan,
One that doesn’t kill our healthcare
Where the poor are respected
Income equality is perfected,
And everyone prospers, thrives, and grows.

I’m dreaming of a good tax plan
With every “She Persisted” card I send
I’m hoping you will hear me, my friend,
And this greedy, money-grab will end.

4. Be Mindful Shameful Gentlemen (to the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”)

Be mindful, shameful gentlemen,
stop robbing from the poor.
Remember revolution starts
and ends on your front door.
God save us from your greedy plan
To kill ObamaCare,
Wi-ith tidings of vo-ter outrage,
Voter outrage,
Oh ti-ding of voter outrage.

In cities and in country sides
The damage will be clear,
How will the people live their lives–
high taxes, no healthcare?
Republicans will damn themselves
For hurting people’s lives,
Oh ti-dings of vo-ter outrage
voter outrage
Oh ti-dings of vo-ter outrage…

5. Hark, The Senate Hear Us Sing

Hark the Sen-ate hear us sing,
This tax bill won’t fix a thing.
A tril-lion in added debt,
Isn’t right and you know it!

Let’s let go of party di-vides,
And improve the people’s lives
By tax codes – more in line
With – our founders’ – Democratic design

Hark the Senate, lest you ere,
We love our Obama-care!
Let’s make – our nation – a better place
A coun-try of hope and grace!

6. Jingle Bells

Oh, jingle bells, Paul Ryan smells,
McConnell laid an egg
Their tax plot will hurt a lot,
And shoot them in the leg.

Oh, dashing through Senate
In an ill-considered bill,
The Republicans are plotting
Their greedy, reckless shill

And, taking all of us
captive for the ride
we can’t believe they’d do this to us,
They’re not on our side!

Oh, jingle bells, Paul Ryan smells,
McConnell laid an egg
Their tax plot will hurt a lot,
And shoot them in the leg, Hey!

7. You’re a Mean One Mr. Portman (to the tune of “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”)

You’re a mean one, Mr. Portman,
It really is un-fair
Don’t vote – against the people or take aw-ay Obamacare Mr.
Port-man
All the while they pay your health bills, and you just don’t – seem to ca-re!

Don’t be callous, Mr. Portman
Is profit – the only – goal?
Raising taxes on your voters, giving loopholes to corporate ogres Mr.
Port-man
I wouldn’t vote for this tax bill with a nine and a half foot pole!

POEM: Owed To Stormi, The Poetess

It was a dark and stormy night
The starry heavens
Replaced by blinding light
Striking as lightning
Startling awe
But the bravest
From places unseen
With undeniable power
Sow ready to rumble
Reigning like a queen
Poet, poet her, poetess
Oh my God
Correction!
On my goddess
Her super natural wind
Clears deadwood from mighty oaks
And what remains
Still
Stands
Of gentle reads
On the edge
Of the river of life
And in her wake
Sleepy souls
And well wrested
A like
Find themselves
In what might
Be called
Daylight

I wrote this poem a while back in homage to Toledo poetess, Stormi, aka Paula Blocker, who graciously hosts a poetry reading every Friday night at The Trunk, 3353 Franklin.

MUST READ POEM: Incarcerated Truth

MUST READ POEM: Incarcerated Truth

But for the slip of the tongue
There could be
Having
Been given
The slip of paper
With a key
Too incarcerated truth
Knot to be
Read aloud
There is know God

Many of the simplest and most profound truths in life are best experienced in silence, where anything spoken would only detract from the experience.  If this poem is read out loud, it communicates the opposite meaning of that in silence: “There is no God” versus “There is know God.”  The reference to God sets up the conundrum of trying to communicate spiritual matters when words necessarily get in the way, often turning them into spiritual madders.  This poem is a big tip of the hat to the Tao Te Ching’s opening line: “The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.”  I have longingly loved this opening paradox which offers the poetic challenge of improving on silence.

Truth may very well lie in the manor in which it is spoken or knot.  Free of words, we may experience the hole truth, going down that place from which hares split.  Down, down, down — nothing softer, nor closer to foul.  Sublime temptations beg the ineffable won, only to be housed in feat of clay.  Any peep would be, as if, to bring the roof roof down, that within ear shot of any eavesdropper.  Even the most dogged ear tome would knot avail the rabid homme, the whole as nothing, but hollowed ground.  To no end, as soil one self.  Making me, want to pop eye: I AM, what I AM?!

A Spiritual Autobiography

I wrote the below spiritual autobiography a dozen years ago as part of a servant leadership study group.  While it definitely needs updating, it serves well as a brief overview of my spiritual history and development over much of my life, particularly my early years.  Fortuitously, my humor remains righteously irreverent and my faith grows.

RUTTS
by Alex Haley
(that’s just my pun name)

The year was 1961. Preceded by John, a child was conceived, fathered by a closeted gay man, in Bethlehem, on the outskirts of the city of brotherly love. In my mother’s womb, I was transported to Haiti, where my parents, as doctor and nurse, were beginning their service as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee. A dozen (and a half) generations ago my ancestors had fled religious persecution and military conscription in Germany to settle in America. For a new beginning, they were gifted with land from William Penn. This land was some of the most fertile in the world; so fertile, in fact, that even gay men father children there! Though now in Haiti, they were soon to be counted again among the privileged of the world. I was born. And on this journey, Joseph followed. Continuing my heritage as a sojourner in a foreign land, I was born a true child of the 60s.

I have no specific memories of those first couple of years in Haiti. However, only in recent years have I realized my ideal vision of serenity as sleeping without a care late in the morning in a mountain cabin while the rain pounds on the tin roof likely came from memories as a baby (now, if only I can figure out why I have a pleasant association with the smell of skunk!). Also, I am told that I was scared of most white people. Strangely, I am still haunted by white people on occasion.

After a brief stint in Detroit, perhaps explaining my love of urban life, I grew up in a small town in Michigan. The town was Mennonite-free, so I was raised a United Methodist. My childhood was strikingly trauma-free (only striking in retrospect). I knew safety. I knew predictability and caring. Our family always ate meals together, beginning with a prayer too short not to recount here: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.” A lot more theology in that prayer than I usually give credit. Our family participated in worship and church functions regularly. Worship was generally boring. One of my few memories was a teenager with a guitar, singing “Blowing in the wind.” I guess that would have been contemporary music, huh? And that was before Bob Dylan was a Christian. I attended Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and youth group. I only vaguely remember confirmation. I remember good times. Except for a desperately poor matching of gifts by placing me in a children’s choir – my first, and really only, experience with “playing hooky.” I loved summer camp. First there were church camps, then Boy Scout camps. My younger brother and I earned Eagle Scout ranking (the highest in Boy Scouts) in record time. Our scoutmaster was easygoing and playful. Perhaps paradoxically, it was easy to achieve in that environment. If “achievement” had been required of me, I probably wouldn’t have done it, or at least wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much. When we later moved and joined another scout troop, which was probably better organized and certainly more rigid, we dropped out after a while.

My understanding of diversity was child-like. I knew that Catholic families were the ones with five or six kids. Good families to play with. My best friend’s dad was Cuban. He also had two older half-siblings. In retrospect, this was the only somewhat non-traditional family I recall; though I don’t recall giving it much thought.

I was baptized at age eleven. Apparently, I was out of the country at the time such events usually occur. Fortunately, my understanding of baptism was still pretty much that of an infant, so it worked out well. I was confirmed a year later. About this same time, I was in little league baseball. In an attempt to deal with performance anxiety, I kept a pocket-sized New Testament in my back pocket. This crude attempt at spiritual osmosis was discovered by my brothers who with little affection labeled me “Bible boy.” I didn’t like this. I remember that my parent rebuked them.

When we moved to Dearborn, Michigan, before my ninth grade, my parents looked for a church nearby, but had little success – “too suburban” I think. Not surprising, considering we lived in a nice home with a pool, only 100 feet from a golf course. They decided to return to their church from earlier years, Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit, 20 minutes away. Central is the oldest Protest-ant church in Michigan, and has been called “the conscience of the city.” Always a leader in social justice, their most widely known pastor preached pacifism before, during and after World War II. I was soon to be raised on 45+ minute sermons, truly epic sermons. A turning point happened to me sometime during my high school years when my mom took me to a peace conference at church. My eyes were opened and my heart would soon follow.

I went to Hope College, a small, private, liberal arts school. It was a Christian College, as were most of its staff and students, mostly Reformed and Christian Reformed. However, it was unlikely that I would ever be Reformed; conservatively speaking that is. My college years began with my father lightly warning me of these Calvinists. I didn’t know what he was talking about. My first roommate and I, who were boyhood friends, unknowingly were matched because we were both Methodists – apparently, a rare breed thereabouts. Early on, I must have been an easy target for an overabundance of evangelism. A friend invited me to Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I went to what turned out to be a practically diversity-free zone; even ALL of the other persons in my small group were named “Kathy” (though probably a diversity of spellings). Later, when I saw out my dorm room window the friend who invited me, I said, “hello.” She asked me what I thought of the meeting. I shouted from the second floor window something to the effect that it was “too religious.” I did like church, and I went willingly. I even went to chapel services three times a week – religiously. I was also on part-time staff of the campus ministry. Though a biology major, I was frequently mistaken for a political science or philosophy major. Apparently, I was succeeding at the liberal arts (or at least the art of being liberal).

I very soon got involved with a small group of students known as the World Hunger Committee. Being a United Methodist, I must have known that there would be a committee for that! This formally launched my work in social justice, and my personal interest in stewardship, vegetarianism and nutrition. That first year, God brought together this son of a Mennonite with a Hope graduate who was a Mennonite (perhaps the only one). I told him that I was concerned about President Carter re-instituting draft registration. He said, “Why don’t you start a peace group?” I said, “Yes.” Fortunately, I didn’t now what I was doing. So, I helped found “Hope for Peace.”

For my own concerns, I hooked up with a Viet Nam war-era draft counselor. To make a long story short, when President Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration, I was identified in the Detroit News as a non-registrant. Being the only publicly-identified non-registrant in Michigan, I garnered much media attention. Eventually, the Reagan ‘get the government off your back’ regime and his Attorney General, Edwin ‘people are only hungry by choice’ Meese III, saw that out of millions of non-registrants, I was number 13 to be prosecuted. In the end, six years later, after heroically losing half a dozen pre-trial motions (with the help of a volunteer team of legal experts), my older brother dying, graduating from college, getting married, having a son, graduating from graduate school, and getting a job, I defended myself before a jury of my peers (though none of them were subject to the law I was defending myself from). I lost. But what did I win? (that is, beside three months room and board at the taxpayers’ expense) I learned to live in good conscience. I learned to refine my beliefs, even amidst great public scrutiny. I learned about civil disobedience, or as A.J. Muste, a great American pacifist and Hope College graduate would have said, “holy obedience” (in my write mind I say, “wholly obedience). I learned that the U.S. government has the absolute authority to draft any citizen regardless of conscientious objection. Any exception to this is due only to “legislative grace.” I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my government. Actually, I presented my case at the Detroit Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, in conjunction with a resolution to support young men’s consciences who were subject to draft registration laws, whether their conscience led them to register or not. The resolution failed. So, I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my denomination.

During college, after guest preaching at my home church in Detroit, someone came up afterwards and said, “I didn’t know that you were in seminary.” Nonetheless, I consider myself a theological mutt. I have drawn from many Christian traditions. I have studied Asian religions, and I am drawn to Buddhism. I am an amateur philosopher (that is, until someone pays me) and I am intrigued by the angst of existentialism. I have experienced a spiritual re-awakening in Alanon, which has given me things that my church could not. I believe that “religionism” may be the ultimate “-ism,” preventing us from experiencing the oneness of God. I may be a leading candidate to be voted, “most likely to be heretical,” by the powers that be. This is my orthodoxy. I believe that paradox lives in the neighbor of truth; and we should love our neighbors. In true Zen-like fashion, I find that irreverence is often the highest form of reverence. Among my heresies is my unabashed appreciation of “The Simpsons” (but, as the Hindus would say, “Don’t have a cow.”).

After an intense summer working for Bread for the World as an organizer, and days before my senior year began, my brother John was killed in an avalanche in Western Canada; but only after dropping out of college while on foreign study, wandering, rock-climbing and working (pretty much in that order) for a couple of years in Africa and the Western U.S. His death has given me a much greater sense of mortality and the preciousness of life each day. I actually find funerals as fruitful opportunities for reflection and renewing my sense of “living in the moment.” I have undervalued such opportunities. One of the few regrets in my life was missing three of four funerals of my grandparents.

My paternal grandparents were particularly religious. Only upon the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary (and doing the math) did I realize that my father was a near-bastard child to a teen mom. Years later, when my sister was pregnant and out-of-wedlock at age 19, my grandfather said, “The sins of the grandfather are being visited upon the granddaughter.” My thought: get over it! Well, at least, I can now understand why my gay father was closeted until his parents were either dead or demented. While I didn’t see healing in my grandparents, I saw that having an understanding of God under construction is a good thing, and sometimes demolition work is required.

That brings me to my marriage. To make a long, and usually happy, story short, my marriage of 11+ years ended 10 years ago. Nonetheless, we were blessed with two wonderful children, Joshua and Kathryn. I love being a parent. It may be the closest I’ve been able to experience what God must feel in His/Her unconditional love for us. Kate’s life is an ongoing miracle since she was born with multiple heart defects. She underwent two heart surgeries, and at one point with surgical complications, a doctor, trying to be optimistic, said, she has at least a 50/50 chance of living. A brush with death. There’s that mortality thing again. Not unlike death, I thought I had no problem with divorce – as long as it was happening to other people. Accepting our divorce was the most difficult thing I have ever dealt with.

Being out of a “relationship” for a number of years helped my re-develop my relationship with myself and with God. This came more through Alanon than church. Now, being in a relationship for eight years with a wise and beautiful woman has taught me to appreciate life as it comes, one day at a time – with both of us half single, half single parent; no longer with in-laws but ex’s. I’ve learned that God makes all things new, and often faster than I want. God never gives me what I want; God always gives me something better!

My career. God brought me to a career in public health, as I savored its roots in social justice. God brought me out of public health, re-naming me “Top Pun,” and appointing me as a jester for peace, where the pun is mightier than the sword, and justice is no yoke. My canvasses are buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and the World Wide Web. My business, by definition, is good – that is, maximizing prophets. My business is exactly on schedule; though I don’t know what the schedule is.

God brought me to Central’s neighborhood, and a few hours later, to Central. Centralites were my kind of people. Some happened to be Christians who were gay. Through my social justice work, not my public health work, God brought me to work in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This opened further opportunities to work with persons who happened to be gay. My dad “came out.” My parents divorced. God had prepared me.

I have issues with money. I aspire to live simply, gracefully facilitated by my recent poverty-level earnings. Living with less financial security has inspired me to give today because I may not be able to give later. Whatever old car I’m driving facilitates my prayer life (of course, no “auto”-biography would be complete without a mention of my car).

I am a mystic at heart, journeying as a gifted rationalist, Caucasian, male, father, lover, businessman, American, etc., etc., yada, yada, yada. While embracing the enigmatic, I hope these few words will offer you a clue as to who I am. Hopefully, these few words will offer you a clue as to who we are. One of my favorite poems is from Muhammad Ali: “Me. We.”

In all, God has never left me; except for an instant in 1981, but that’s another story…

Self-Made Trump Has A Fool For A Maker

In Trumpian fashion, fool of irony, I quote myself: “A self-made man has a fool for a maker.”  The man-child known as Donald Trump runs roughshod over the boundaries of lesser fools.  He fashions his fashion as the boss of a collapsing world, his world, his collapsing world.  If Trump where to know God, he would know himself — he knows neither.  His self-masturbatory god head is a lonely impossibility, even in his hugely culpable hands and with such a big mouth — something is missing, however compelled he is to grab it.  The loneliness of this pitiful and pitiless man is captured well in the essay by Rebecca Solnit, THE LONELINESS OF DONALD TRUMP: ON THE CORROSIVE PRIVILEGE OF THE MOST MOCKED MAN IN THE WORLD, with excerpts below:

Once upon a time, a child was born into wealth and wanted for nothing, but he was possessed by bottomless, endless, grating, grasping wanting, and wanted more, and got it, and more after that, and always more. He was a pair of ragged orange claws upon the ocean floor, forever scuttling, pinching, reaching for more, a carrion crab, a lobster and a boiling lobster pot in one, a termite, a tyrant over his own little empires. He got a boost at the beginning from the wealth handed him and then moved among grifters and mobsters who cut him slack as long as he was useful, or maybe there’s slack in arenas where people live by personal loyalty until they betray, and not by rules, and certainly not by the law or the book. So for seven decades, he fed his appetites and exercised his license to lie, cheat, steal, and stiff working people of their wages, made messes, left them behind, grabbed more baubles, and left them in ruin.

He was supposed to be a great maker of things, but he was mostly a breaker. He acquired buildings and women and enterprises and treated them all alike, promoting and deserting them, running into bankruptcies and divorces, treading on lawsuits the way a lumberjack of old walked across the logs floating on their way to the mill, but as long as he moved in his underworld of dealmakers the rules were wobbly and the enforcement was wobblier and he could stay afloat. But his appetite was endless, and he wanted more, and he gambled to become the most powerful man in the world, and won, careless of what he wished for…

…The child who became the most powerful man in the world, or at least occupied the real estate occupied by a series of those men, had run a family business and then starred in an unreality show based on the fiction that he was a stately emperor of enterprise, rather than a buffoon barging along anyhow, and each was a hall of mirrors made to flatter his sense of self, the self that was his one edifice he kept raising higher and higher and never abandoned.

I have often run across men (and rarely, but not never, women) who have become so powerful in their lives that there is no one to tell them when they are cruel, wrong, foolish, absurd, repugnant. In the end there is no one else in their world, because when you are not willing to hear how others feel, what others need, when you do not care, you are not willing to acknowledge others’ existence. That’s how it’s lonely at the top. It is as if these petty tyrants live in a world without honest mirrors, without others, without gravity, and they are buffered from the consequences of their failures…

We keep each other honest, we keep each other good with our feedback, our intolerance of meanness and falsehood, our demands that the people we are with listen, respect, respond—if we are allowed to, if we are free and valued ourselves. There is a democracy of social discourse, in which we are reminded that as we are beset with desires and fears and feelings, so are others; there was an old woman in Occupy Wall Street I always go back to who said, “We’re fighting for a society in which everyone is important.” That’s what a democracy of mind and heart, as well as economy and polity, would look like…

…Some use their power to silence that and live in the void of their own increasingly deteriorating, off-course sense of self and meaning. It’s like going mad on a desert island, only with sycophants and room service. It’s like having a compliant compass that agrees north is whatever you want it to be. The tyrant of a family, the tyrant of a little business or a huge enterprise, the tyrant of a nation. Power corrupts, and absolute power often corrupts the awareness of those who possess it. Or reduces it: narcissists, sociopaths, and egomaniacs are people for whom others don’t exist.

We gain awareness of ourselves and others from setbacks and difficulties; we get used to a world that is not always about us; and those who do not have to cope with that are brittle, weak, unable to endure contradiction, convinced of the necessity of always having one’s own way. The rich kids I met in college were flailing as though they wanted to find walls around them, leapt as though they wanted there to be gravity and to hit ground, even bottom, but parents and privilege kept throwing out safety nets and buffers, kept padding the walls and picking up the pieces, so that all their acts were meaningless, literally inconsequential. They floated like astronauts in outer space.

Equality keeps us honest. Our peers tell us who we are and how we are doing, providing that service in personal life that a free press does in a functioning society. Inequality creates liars and delusion. The powerless need to dissemble—that’s how slaves, servants, and women got the reputation of being liars—and the powerful grow stupid on the lies they require from their subordinates and on the lack of need to know about others who are nobody, who don’t count, who’ve been silenced or trained to please. This is why I always pair privilege with obliviousness; obliviousness is privilege’s form of deprivation. When you don’t hear others, you don’t imagine them, they become unreal, and you are left in the wasteland of a world with only yourself in it, and that surely makes you starving, though you know not for what, if you have ceased to imagine others exist in any true deep way that matters. This is about a need for which we hardly have language or at least not a familiar conversation.

A man who wished to become the most powerful man in the world, and by happenstance and intervention and a series of disasters was granted his wish. Surely he must have imagined that more power meant more flattery, a grander image, a greater hall of mirrors reflecting back his magnificence. But he misunderstood power and prominence. This man had bullied friends and acquaintances, wives and servants, and he bullied facts and truths, insistent that he was more than they were, than it is, that it too must yield to his will. It did not, but the people he bullied pretended that it did. Or perhaps it was that he was a salesman, throwing out one pitch after another, abandoning each one as soon as it left his mouth. A hungry ghost always wants the next thing, not the last thing.

This one imagined that the power would repose within him and make him great, a Midas touch that would turn all to gold. But the power of the presidency was what it had always been: a system of cooperative relationships, a power that rested on people’s willingness to carry out the orders the president gave, and a willingness that came from that president’s respect for rule of law, truth, and the people. A man who gives an order that is not followed has his powerlessness hung out like dirty laundry. One day earlier this year, one of this president’s minions announced that the president’s power would not be questioned. There are tyrants who might utter such a statement and strike fear into those beneath him, because they have installed enough fear.

A true tyrant does not depend on cooperative power but has a true power of command, enforced by thugs, goons, Stasi, the SS, or death squads. A true tyrant has subordinated the system of government and made it loyal to himself rather than to the system of laws or the ideals of the country. This would-be tyrant didn’t understand that he was in a system where many in government, perhaps most beyond the members of his party in the legislative branch, were loyal to law and principle and not to him. His minion announced the president would not be questioned, and we laughed. He called in, like courtiers, the heads of the FBI, of the NSA, and the director of national intelligence to tell them to suppress evidence, to stop investigations and found that their loyalty was not to him. He found out to his chagrin that we were still something of a democracy, and that the free press could not be so easily stopped, and the public itself refused to be cowed and mocks him earnestly at every turn.

A true tyrant sits beyond the sea in Pushkin’s country. He corrupts elections in his country, eliminates his enemies with bullets, poisons, with mysterious deaths made to look like accidents—he spread fear and bullied the truth successfully, strategically. Though he too had overreached with his intrusions into the American election, and what he had hoped would be invisible caused the whole world to scrutinize him and his actions and history and impact with concern and even fury. Russia may have ruined whatever standing and trust it has, may have exposed itself, with this intervention in the US and then European elections.

The American buffoon’s commands were disobeyed, his secrets leaked at such a rate his office resembled the fountains at Versailles or maybe just a sieve (this spring there was an extraordinary piece in the Washington Post with thirty anonymous sources), his agenda was undermined even by a minority party that was not supposed to have much in the way of power, the judiciary kept suspending his executive orders, and scandals erupted like boils and sores. Instead of the dictator of the little demimondes of beauty pageants, casinos, luxury condominiums, fake universities offering fake educations with real debt, fake reality tv in which he was master of the fake fate of others, an arbiter of all worth and meaning, he became fortune’s fool.

He is, as of this writing, the most mocked man in the world. After the women’s march on January 21st, people joked that he had been rejected by more women in one day than any man in history; he was mocked in newspapers, on television, in cartoons, was the butt of a million jokes, and his every tweet was instantly met with an onslaught of attacks and insults by ordinary citizens gleeful to be able to speak sharp truth to bloated power….

…The man in the white house sits, naked and obscene, a pustule of ego, in the harsh light, a man whose grasp exceeded his understanding, because his understanding was dulled by indulgence. He must know somewhere below the surface he skates on that he has destroyed his image, and like Dorian Gray before him, will be devoured by his own corrosion in due time too. One way or another this will kill him, though he may drag down millions with him. One way or another, he knows he has stepped off a cliff, pronounced himself king of the air, and is in freefall. Another dungheap awaits his landing; the dung is all his; when he plunges into it he will be, at last, a self-made man.

POEM: Tickling God’s Whiskers

He thought
Too himself
More or less
THAT would tickle God’s whiskers
Which was particularly funny
Since God has no whiskers
Un-less
That is
God is right
Under your knows

Human Race has one really effective weapon: laughter--PEACE QUOTE BUTTONThis short poem plays with the notion that God is more than we can even imagine.  To some, this may launch profuse ponderings of untold wise cracks, offering glimpses into eternal mysteries of the spirit.  Too sum, this may forebode cruel jokes of a grumpy owed man shitting up on his throne, offering butt flashes of the highest rank.  Either weigh, the joke is, well, on you.

What did the child say when he happened up on three holes in the ground?  “Well, well, well.”

Got Laughter SPIRITUAL BUTTON

POEM: Trash Talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And some possible alternative verses:

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

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

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

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

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

POEM: Hell In A Handbasket

I would rather live…
In a trailer
That proverbial mobile homme
Seeing stars when roofs are razed
And nothing but realty at my back
As awe of creation is present
As I am
Looked down upon
Wading patiently fore that noonday star
When every real Job calls it a day
…Than exist
In a fool length feature
That mansion of a handbasket
With mirror interior decorating
Magnificent all the same
In funhouse pleasures
Overlooking up
In efface of the bottom of men’s soles
Knowing not what frees us

Foolishness and wisdom look different and produce different results.  Better to have a life well spent than merely saved.  Conventional wisdom often mistakes comfort for happiness, a grand foolishness.  High success and high status are virtually indistinguishable.  As the addled adage goes: winning is everything.  Wise souls are far too ardent and awe encompassing to abide only within the rules defined by one culture and one generation, one place and time.  Faith Trumps Skepticism PEACE BUTTONWisdom is necessarily counterculture, precisely because it seeks to move that culture, any culture, to a greater wisdom.  Acting within such a greater wisdom, not yet carrying the day, perhaps even amid night, often appears foolish.  Acting “as if” something is true is an existential conundrum we all face if we want to be more than what we are now, if we want the world and the rules by which it acts to be more than what they are at any given time.  Suspending disbelief is part and parcel for acting to perform its human artistry, and all of the world is a stage.  There are great truths in stories that never happened.  There are great truths in lives whose stories are bigger than one soul can live.  Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase. MLK QUOTE BUTTONAbout now, the postmodern brain must choose between serving only that within its reach or venturing to awe that the heart compasses.  Fools are conventionally portrayed as having an addled brain, which is infinitely better than having an addled heart.  This poem compares wholehearted living with merely existing — whatever the sum of our daze.  A willingness to be viewed as a fool by the conventionally wise may very well be the difference between heaven and hell.  Fools invite others into a better possible world, however improbable, not a theater of the absurd.  Typically, others are busy doing something else, absurdly similar to those around them.

In contemporary times, live theater has largely been replaced by movies [dead theater?].  This poem compares living, in a movie trailer, to merely existing “In a fool length feature.”  And as we all know, movie trailers are quite reliably better than the full-length feature.

FAITH is greater than FEAR SPIRITUAL BUTTONOne of the great dramas on life’s sufferings, unfulfilled longings, and doubt versus suspending disbelief is the story of Job in the Bible.  As the ever-hopeful person that I am, I was reminded of Job 11:17 “Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning.”  Such poetry!  Here is the whole chapter, as the lineup of doubters mock Job’s enduring faith:

Are all these words to go unanswered?
   Is this talker to be vindicated?
Will your idle talk reduce others to silence?
   Will no one rebuke you when you mock?
You say to God, ‘My beliefs are flawless
   and I am pure in your sight.’
Oh, how I wish that God would speak,
   that he would open his lips against you
and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom,
   for true wisdom has two sides.
   Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.
Can you fathom the mysteries of God?
   Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
They are higher than the heavens above — what can you do?
   They are deeper than the depths below — what can you know?
Their measure is longer than the earth
   and wider than the sea.
If he comes along and confines you in prison
   and convenes a court, who can oppose him?
Surely he recognizes deceivers;
   and when he sees evil, does he not take note?
But the witless can no more become wise
   than a wild donkey’s colt can be born tame.
Yet if you devote your heart to him
   and stretch out your hands to him,
if you put away the sin that is in your handYou will not enter paradise until you have faith, and you will not complete your faith until you love one another. Muhammad quote PEACE BUTTON
   and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,
then, free of fault, you will lift up your face;
   you will stand firm and without fear.
You will surely forget your trouble,
   recalling it only as waters gone by.
Life will be brighter than noonday,
   and darkness will become like morning.
You will be secure, because there is hope;
   you will look about you and take your rest in safety.
You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid,
   and many will court your favor.
But the eyes of the wicked will fail,
   and escape will elude them;
   their hope will become a dying gasp.

May we awe find, life during whatever daze might be present.

POEM: Just Dew It

Round
Mid night
Countless drops
Fall free
In to the loving alms
Of Mother Earth
Making a mud pact
With trees, meadow, and flower
To dew wet sow ever
They thirst for

Life has an incredible capacity for renewal.  As the snows begin falling in this winter season, this poem can serve as a reminder that we are one day closer to spring.  They can cut all the flowers, but they can never stop the spring -- Pablo Neruda quote POLITICAL BUTTONEven spring in awe of its glory is not my favorite season, due primarily to its muckiness.  I, as most humans, have an incredible capacity to see what I don’t like about something.  As winners of discontent, it is easy to see the parent flaws in creation, weather it be subzero temps or mucky life springing forth.  Nonetheless, in life’s absences or parent death, summer in due course rounds the coroner transcending hour brutal figurings.  Even fall has a frolicsome way of upstaging the looming death weave awe faced.  Still, the con founding cycles of loss and renewal, life and death, seem to fallow us through life.  After witnessing countless of these cycles, how many more must we witness to deem them reliable, trustworthy?

I am a fan of the simple comic genius of the movie, Being There, a more spare forerunner to Forrest Gump.  This movie is a conflagration of innocent naivete and mighty inanity.  In Being There, starring peter Sellers, as Even on the road to hell, flowers can make you smile. Deng Ming-Dao quote SPIRITUAL BUTTON“a simple-minded gardener named Chance has spent all his life in the Washington D.C. house of an old man. When the man dies, Chance is put out on the street with no knowledge of the world except what he has learned from television. After a run in with a limousine, he ends up a guest of a woman (Eve) and her husband Ben, an influential but sickly businessman. Now called Chauncey Gardner, Chance becomes friend and confidante to Ben, and an unlikely political insider.”  A signature dialogue in the movie juxtaposes the simple experience of a gardener, naive in the ways of the world, with the dinnertime musings of Washington power brokers:

President “Bobby”: Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?
[Long pause]
Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
President “Bobby”: In the garden.Raise your words, not voice; it is rain that grows flowers, not thunder -- Rumi quote POLITICAL BUTTON
Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
President “Bobby”: Spring and summer.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
President “Bobby”: Then fall and winter.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we’re upset by the seasons of our economy.
Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
Benjamin Rand: Hmm!
Chance the Gardener: Hmm!
President “Bobby”: Hmm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I’ve heard in a very, very long time.
[Benjamin Rand applauds]
President “Bobby”: I admire your good, solid sense. That’s precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.

God reigns on…the just and the unjust.  It is hours to thirst for righteousness and feed the dewy dreams of one another:  To dew wet sow ever/They thirst for.

POEM: Unforgettable

She was a spark
Spanning but instant generations
Clothed in stardust
Naked to that place before birth and after death
As thought of God
Less of a dream
More of a smile
Merging within that space-time continuum
On the face of awe that is
A hopeful fuel
In the tinderest of worlds
As an owed flame
Meeting for the first time
Caught up
Not in making memories
Sow much as the unforgettable

This poem is about human life lived in the presents of our mystical or divine nature which is both immediate and ceaseless.   To love another person is to see the face of God. Victor Hugo, Les Miserables quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONThe joy and assurance of ever-fresh possibilities and abiding, sublime companionship sets the bar much higher for what a full life encompasses.  A full life is leavened by unforgettable experiences more sow than a mere collection of memories.  Life is more fully characterized by lively experiences than sheer existence.  This poem seeks to present a daringly dual encounter of both first love and oldest friend, the simultaneous experience of the freshness of emerging love and the comfort of a steadfast confidant.  May your life be steeped in such marvelous moments.

Being A hopeful fuel/In the tinderest of worlds speaks to the vulnerability of unabashed hope and irrepressible joy in a world that is far too fixated on command and control, and is busied with armor more than amour.  May love overwhelm your every defense.  May your life be less about getting and more about un-forgetting.

Got Joy SPIRITUAL BUTTON

HOPE POEM: Why God Invented Dark

God invented dark
As a respite
From high noon
That searing sun
Of which mortal men are made
To see
Sow much more
Innumerable lofty stars
Unseen in mere day dreams
Beyond won’s highest hopes
Awe at once
A mist unbelievably rare life
Thou dust hold together
Awe that matters
When noonday returns

Here is yet another poem about hope, just in case you may need to re-stock, or stock up.  Life is replete with cycles.  Only in the darkness can you see the stars. MLK QUOTE BUTTONDay and night, sleep and wakefulness.  Opposites teem in a paradox packed reality.  Belief and skepticism are life-long dance partners.  Our quest for unity requires acceptance of diversity.  The immeasurable value of life is most evident in the face of death.

Taoists seem to have the keenest awareness of the importance of opposites and their complimentary nature.  That the nature of something is inextricably bound to its opposite, or even comes from its opposite, is mind-boggling.  The mind reaches one of its natural limits when it comes to logical contradictions.  Of course, the Taoists’ purpose is not to jar the mind, but un-jar the mind — and free up the heart.

Hope is the purview of the heart.  Hope may not make cents for those demanding a foolproof return on their investment.  Delving into the vital depths of paradoxes and life’s necessary contradictions is not for the fainthearted.  Wholehearted living demands assent and even gusto in the thralls of uncertainty and unpredictability in order to make the most of life.  Hope is the life-blood of an entrepreneurial life spirit.  The attachment to conventional power — those well-known levers of control — and the insistence on dominion over others, is the nemesis of hope.  Hope arises from a place beyond mere control.  Hope, awash in possibility, is an existential reality ever-present on the threshold of human life.

For many, the contemporary context for this poem is a looming Donald Trump presidency.  Many fear that their existence may be taxed beyond bearing.  This is undoubtedly true for some.  Still, the contrasting values brought forth by the Don’s cartel will as surely offer high relief.  Once Game Over King and Pawn Go Back in Same Box -- PEACE QUOTE BUTTONStarker choices can favor moral humans as much or more than amoral or immoral humans.  If you want presumed victory, take the sociopath, limiting the struggle to the well-worn levers of control.  If you want more, let your heart take hope, take time to see the light amidst the darkness, and listen intently to whatever maybe herd for the duration of human game.

POEM: Creator of Heaven Unearth

Oh God
Awe might he
Creator of heaven unearth
Your sun trying to peer through
What is mirrorly mist
Between every human face
Won and the same
Unending cycles
Set up for yielding
What is seeing bye many
As a lode of crop

Metaphors Be With You SPIRITUAL BUTTONThis short poem plays with that deep mystery and sublimely thin veil between humans, and between humans and what many would call God.  Talking about God is almost as dangerous as not talking about God.  Speaking with humans is much the same.  Humans are endowed with unfathomable faculties.  And religion is full of it.  Life presents humans with awesome and baffling experiences weather we pay close attention or knot.  I am inescapably intrigued by diving into the deep end of life — even a mist warnings of shallow waters, or quiet impossibly, that there is know pool.

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. Voltaire quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONLife can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. Soren Kierkegaard quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONFirst Things First But Not Necessarily in That Order SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Give Me That Old-Time Religion! -- Zeus SPIRITUAL BUTTONDon't Have A Sacred Cow SPIRITUAL BUTTONBreathe in. Breathe Out. REPEAT. SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Ever Wonder? SPIRITUAL BUTTON

POEM: As Far As One Kin See

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

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

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Anti-GOP Pledge of Allegiance — Plague of Leeches on The Flag

With a wave of patriotic protests occurring during the national anthem, I thought that I would add the pledge of allegiance into the mix.  Of course, this free poster is an anti-Republican, anti-GOP parody of the pledge of allegiance: Why plague leeches to the flag unguided statesmen of America and to the Republican which grandstands, “won nation under God, it’s our liberty, just US for all.”

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Anti-GOP Pledge of Allegiance -- Plague of Leeches on The Flag

Please feel free to share, download and print this FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Anti-GOP Pledge of Allegiance — Plague of Leeches on The Flag.

Also, please feel free to browse my patriotic themed designs:

What Your Flag Stands For Is Up To You - POLITICAL BUTTONHopeful Symbolism Flags Don't Wave in Vacuum -- PEACE QUOTE BUTTON	 Dissent Is The Highest Form Of Patriotism POLITICAL BUTTON

THINK - It's Patriotic POLITICAL BUTTONI WANT YOU To Support PEACEABLE ASSEMBLY - Protect the Constitution (Uncle Sam) - POLITICAL BUTTONAmerican Flag is Bad Wrap -- ANTI-WAR BUTTON

Where Are All of the Politicians Wrapped in Flags ANTI-WAR BUTTONI Want You To Work for Peace [Uncle Sam] PEACE BUTTONSupport Our Troops - Work for Peace - Justice for Veterans - Bring them Home NOW--PEACE BUTTON

ACTIVIST POEM: Our Ayes Will Have It

She had
Enough
Of half-baked politicians
She kneaded democracy
Here and now
As the yeast she could do
Sounding off
To those who might
Listen
Wee choir not
A grand stand
To lift every voice and sing
Wringing well
The harmonies of liberty
However aloud the rolling sees
Our ayes will have it

This poem is a tribute to the enduring importance of movement politics as the truest driving force for social and political change, working for justice for all.Justice: Some Assembly Required -- POLITICAL BUTTON  This poem is a tribute to political activists who do most of their work outside formal electoral politics.  Such action is centered out of the direct lived experiences of broken hearts and broken lives as opposed to white papers and think tanks.

Most people of privilege and power will roll their eyes when hope dares rise from despairing circumstances to demand justice, aka “too much.”  “They just don’t get it” the condescension goes, as if people on the short end of power don’t know how the world works.  “Not getting it” may be true inasmuch as the powers that be have “it” and don’t give anything but a shit.  Mainstream politics is almost by definition reactionary.  The first duty of society is justice. Alexander Hamilton quote POLITICAL BUTTONThe fear of losing “it” at best and organized greed at worst, short-circuits justice in our so-called democracy for countless minorities (disenfranchised folks of every stripe), which deeply ironically comprise a majority of our nation.  If the 1% are masters of anything, they are masters of dividing an overwhelming majority of the populace against each other to assure that none of their many legitimate grievances are fully redressed.  Human progress is neither automatic or inevitable...Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle. MLK QUOTE BUTTONFear of losing whatever one has sides with frightening regularity with the increasingly routinely vain hope of “upward” mobility, aligning itself with organized greed, all to avoid earnestly casting one’s lot with the poor and disenfranchised.

All of this breaks my heart — not my will or hope. This poem alludes to the rousing song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is often referred to as the “Black American National Anthem.” This song beautifully embodies and honors in music and lyric the undying hope and ultimate commitments arising like a phoenix out of countless inhumanities and death itself to keep our eyes unwaveringly on the prize: justice for all.  This song was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) in 1899 and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954) in 1900, the lyrics of which are:

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise,
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest, our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee,
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.

May our native land, and every native land, be blessed with the spirit of this song.

Feel at liberty to browse my justice designs:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere--Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONKnow Justice, Know Peace with African American Flag colors POLITICAL BUTTONIf you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor -- Desmond Tutu quote POLITICAL BUTTON

Globalize THIS - JUSTICE [earth graphic] POLITICAL BUTTONMarch For Justice - and every other month -- PEACE BUTTONPower at its best is love implementing the demands of justice -- Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTON

The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice -- Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONJustice Is Less Expensive Than Injustice POLITICAL BUTTONConscience is the Chamber of Justice--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

	 Liberty and Justice for White Rich and Connected (LIBERTY BELL) POLITICAL BUTTONJustice Is No Yoke - Isaiah 58:6-PEACE BUTTONJustice for ALL POLITICAL BUTTON

Justice NOW POLITICAL BUTTON

Chris Hedges’ Interviews Noam Chomsky on Precarious State of America

Once again, Chris Hedges nails it in his article, Noam Chomsky Has ‘Never Seen Anything Like This,’ discussing the precarious state of the current American political landscape and bringing to bear Chomsky’s rigorous and insightful analysis over the last several generations:

Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite and the myths they perpetrate. Chomsky has done this despite being blacklisted by the commercial media, turned into a pariah by the academy and, by his own admission, being a pedantic and at times slightly boring speaker. He combines moral autonomy with rigorous scholarship, a remarkable grasp of detail and a searing intellect. He curtly dismisses our two-party system as a mirage orchestrated by the corporate state, excoriates the liberal intelligentsia for being fops and courtiers and describes the drivel of the commercial media as a form of “brainwashing.” And as our nation’s most prescient critic of unregulated capitalism, globalization and the poison of empire, he enters his 81st year warning us that we have little time left to save our anemic democracy.

“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. “The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.”

“The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen,” Chomsky went on. “Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election.”

“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Chomsky added. “I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The CIO was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies.”

“I listen to talk radio,” Chomsky said. “I don’t want to hear Rush Limbaugh. I want to hear the people calling in. They are like [suicide pilot] Joe Stack. What is happening to me? I have done all the right things. I am a God-fearing Christian. I work hard for my family. I have a gun. I believe in the values of the country and my life is collapsing.”

Chomsky has, more than any other American intellectual, charted the downward spiral of the American political and economic system, in works such as “On Power and Ideology: The Managua Lectures,” “Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and US Political Culture,” “A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor and the Standards of the West,” “Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky,” “Manufacturing Consent” and “Letters From Lexington: Reflections on Propaganda.” He reminds us that genuine intellectual inquiry is always subversive. It challenges cultural and political assumptions. It critiques structures. It is relentlessly self-critical. It implodes the self-indulgent myths and stereotypes we use to elevate ourselves and ignore our complicity in acts of violence and oppression. And it makes the powerful, as well as their liberal apologists, deeply uncomfortable.

Chomsky reserves his fiercest venom for the liberal elite in the press, the universities and the political system who serve as a smoke screen for the cruelty of unchecked capitalism and imperial war. He exposes their moral and intellectual posturing as a fraud. And this is why Chomsky is hated, and perhaps feared, more among liberal elites than among the right wing he also excoriates. When Christopher Hitchens decided to become a windup doll for the Bush administration after the attacks of 9/11, one of the first things he did was write a vicious article attacking Chomsky. Hitchens, unlike most of those he served, knew which intellectual in America mattered.

“I don’t bother writing about Fox News,” FAUX NEWS - Rich People Paying Rich People To Tell Middle Class People To Blame Poor People (FOX NEWS Parody) - POLITICAL BUTTONChomsky said. “It is too easy. What I talk about are the liberal intellectuals, the ones who portray themselves and perceive themselves as challenging power, as courageous, as standing up for truth and justice. They are basically the guardians of the faith. They set the limits. They tell us how far we can go. They say, ‘Look how courageous I am.’ But do not go one millimeter beyond that. At least for the educated sectors, they are the most dangerous in supporting power.”

Chomsky, because he steps outside of every group and eschews all ideologies, has been crucial to American discourse for decades, from his work on the Vietnam War to his criticisms of the Obama administration. He stubbornly maintains his position as an iconoclast, one who distrusts power in any form.Stop Terrorism Stop Participating in Terrorism--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

“Most intellectuals have a self-understanding of themselves as the conscience of humanity,” said the Middle East scholar Norman Finkelstein. “They revel in and admire someone like Vaclav Havel. Chomsky is contemptuous of Havel. Chomsky embraces the Julien Benda view of the world. There are two sets of principles. They are the principles of power and privilege and the principles of truth and justice. If you pursue truth and justice it will always mean a diminution of power and privilege. If you pursue power and privilege it will always be at the expense of truth and justice. Benda says that the credo of any true intellectual has to be, as Christ said, ‘my kingdom is not of this world.’ Chomsky exposes the pretenses of those who claim to be the bearers of truth and justice. He shows that in fact these intellectuals are the bearers of power and privilege and all the evil that attends it.”

“Some of Chomsky’s books will consist of things like analyzing the misrepresentations of the Arias plan in Central America, and he will devote 200 pages to it,” Finkelstein said. “And two years later, who will have heard of Oscar Arias? It causes you to wonder would Chomsky have been wiser to write things on a grander scale, things with a more enduring quality so that you read them forty or sixty years later. This is what Russell did in books like ‘Marriage and Morals.’ Can you even read any longer what Chomsky wrote on Vietnam and Central America? The answer has to often be no. This tells you something about him. He is not writing for ego. If he were writing for ego he would have written in a grand style that would have buttressed his legacy. He is writing because he wants to effect political change. He cares about the lives of people and there the details count. He is trying to refute the daily lies spewed out by the establishment media. He could have devoted his time to writing philosophical treatises that would have endured like Kant or Russell. But he invested in the tiny details which make a difference to win a political battle.”

“I try to encourage people to think for themselves, to question standard assumptions,” Chomsky said when asked about his goals. “Don’t take assumptions for granted. Begin by taking a skeptical attitude toward anything that is conventional wisdom. Make it justify itself. It usually can’t. Be willing to ask questions about what is taken for granted. Try to think things through for yourself. There is plenty of information. You have got to learn how to judge, evaluate and compare it with other things. You have to take some things on trust or you can’t survive. But if there is something significant and important don’t take it on trust. As soon as you read anything that is anonymous you should immediately distrust it. If you read in the newspapers that Iran is defying the international community, ask who is the international community? India is opposed to sanctions. China is opposed to sanctions. Brazil is opposed to sanctions. The Non-Aligned Movement is vigorously opposed to sanctions and has been for years. Who is the international community? It is Washington and anyone who happens to agree with it. You can figure that out, but you have to do work. It is the same on issue after issue.”

Chomsky’s courage to speak on behalf of those, such as the Palestinians, whose suffering is often minimized or ignored in mass culture, holds up the possibility of the moral life. And, perhaps even more than his scholarship, his example of intellectual and moral independence sustains all who defy the cant of the crowd to speak the truth.

“I cannot tell you how many people, myself included, and this is not hyperbole, whose lives were changed by him,” said Finkelstein, who has been driven out of several university posts for his intellectual courage and independence. “Were it not for Chomsky I would have long ago succumbed. I was beaten and battered in my professional life. It was only the knowledge that one of the greatest minds in human history has faith in me that compensates for this constant, relentless and vicious battering. There are many people who are considered nonentities, the so-called little people of this world, who suddenly get an e-mail from Noam Chomsky. It breathes new life into you. Chomsky has stirred many, many people to realize a level of their potential that would forever be lost.”

May we have enough hope and faith in one another to act courageously for a bold new world.