Feminist POEM: Me Too — Now A Brand Knew Whirled Of Daughters

They rise from along history
Yet much more so from her story
As tectonic plates ready to serve up
Unseen
Earthquakes
From a thousand generations reserved in silence
Now a brand knew
Whirled of daughters
A raze of sisters
A planet of mothers
Assault of the earth
Kind
Of guy
Proffering
A little cue and
Eh
All up in her grill
Did she
Ever have a preyer
And sow unwilling to take it like a man
As scorn his money shot
That unequivocal denial
In gendering truth
Giving phallus testimony
As lord of the manner
What gender buy ass?
All the wile
Repeating his know bull
Saying
He said, she said
Firmly regarding women
No one can ever no
As patently reckon sow
Never the less
The young cry out
Listen, those who have years
And the owed cry out
Of chorus we believe
Agin and agin
How becoming
Suspect to boot
Those inconceivable wholly catholic believers
Accused of mass hallucination
Wile evangelicals ax for forgiveness
Can we hear an “awe men”
Convicted of repentance
Fore “Whatever”
Might
Or might knot
Curred
Even “so”
Prone to think not
Either weigh
Scores are cutely a ware
Of the deference between men and women
And their coming forwardness
Women taken longer for what sow ever reason
And presumptuous minute men
Pressing for Deliverance™
The move he perfected in reel life
Yet she persists
In efface of such a lie
As a nation crime seen
Takes it tolled
In that kill her attraction
Boys will be boys
As if only, desperately only
Girls will be boy’s
At his will
And over her dead body
Yet ever rising agin
Women take the stand
With a flood of testimony
Wee will sea
Who rights history
As righteous her story
You can bet your posterity
This is the time
Where few will scarcely believe
Such daze
A nation myth taken
Bye men of owed
Having all ready pain
Billed a thousand stories tall
More than merely high
Will occupy that feted place
Having long a go
Razed hell
And now we are where
Everyone is free
To converse with angels
Holy on the level

This poem is my latest ode to the Me Too movement and a living prayer in contrast to awe of the phallus preyers offered up these daze. Women Brought All Politicians Into The World, We Can Take Them Out POLITICAL BUTTONI find inspiration in the Me Too movement to combat the pitiful and hurtful lack of trust and faith in women testifying to their own experiences, particularly about sexual assault. While the very process of the Supreme Court nomination of Bart O’Kavanaugh, aka Brett Kavanaugh, is a profound driver and marker of the progress of the Me Too movement, if Bart O. is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, he will be a clear and present danger to all women facing sexual harassment and sexual assault. As documented by the National Women’s Law Center:

Kavanaugh’s Record Signals Danger for Survivors of Sexual Harassment

  • Stop Sexism - STOP Sign POLITICAL BUTTONDuring his time as a judge, Kavanaugh has routinely ruled against working people, going out of his way to make decisions that deny people meaningful legal protection from sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination. His approach would harm those challenging workplace harassment and suggests a general hostility to discrimination claims, which could mean he would also make it harder to challenge harassment at school, from health care providers, and elsewhere.
  • SEXISM is a Social Disease POLITICAL BUTTONSexual harassment is not about sex, it is about power and control. Undocumented immigrant workers are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse, because they lack power in the workplace and elsewhere. Luckily, the Supreme Court has made clear that federal labor and employment law protects employees regardless of their immigration status, including their right to be free from harassment. Kavanaugh could change this. In Agri Processor Co. v. N.L.R.B., Kavanaugh dissented from a decision holding that an employer must bargain with employees who sought to form a union. Kavanaugh disagreed because many of the workers were undocumented immigrants. In the face of clear Supreme Court precedent to the contrary, Kavanaugh claimed that undocumented workers were not “employees” protected by the National Labor Relations Act, solely because of their immigration status. His analysis suggests that he would also hold undocumented workers are not “employees” protected from harassment and other forms of discrimination under federal law. This would give employers a blank check to sexually exploit undocumented immigrants and otherwise engage in the most despicable kinds of discrimination.
  • The #MeToo movement has shone a light on broken systems that prioritize protecting employers over helping those who experience harassment. One such system operates in Congress. Staffers experiencing sexual harassment at the hands of members of Congress or coworkers must endure three months’ worth of counseling before they can even file a formal complaint, for example. Kavanaugh, in Howard v. Office of Chief Admin. Officer of U.S. House of Representatives, would have further weakened the system protecting Congressional staffers from harassment and other forms of discrimination. The case involved a Black woman who worked for a Congressional office and alleged she was discriminated and retaliated against because of her race and paid $22,000 less than her white male counterparts doing the same job. Kavanaugh’s dissent argued she should be completely denied the right to bring her discrimination case in court, because judges should not inquire into most employment decisions made by Congress. Congressional employees, like other employees, should be able to go to court to enforce their legal rights and not be relegated into internal systems designed to protect their employers.
  • Federal law prohibits workplace sexual harassment. But in Miller v. Clinton, Kavanaugh wrote a dissent that would have denied a group of employees working overseas for the State Department any legal protections against workplace harassment and other forms of discrimination. His dissent also argued that those protected by civil rights laws are less desirable employees —a troubling worldview.
  • As the #MeToo movement has made clear, women are still too often disbelieved when they speak up about sexual harassment and assault. Unfortunately, Kavanaugh’s kneejerk reaction is to believe employers over individuals alleging discrimination. For example, in Jackson v. Gonzales, Kavanaugh wrote an opinion dismissing a Black employee’s claim that he was denied a promotion because of his race. The employer argued that the white employee who was promoted instead was more qualified even though her qualifications didn’t match up with the requirements in the job description. Kavanaugh ruled for the employer rather than letting a jury decide whether the employer’s explanation was believable.
  • Many individuals who experience harassment are afraid to come forward because they believe doing so will make it difficult or impossible to find another job. Kavanaugh has shown no concern for these real-world consequences of challenging discrimination. In America v. Mills, an employee accused his former employer of race discrimination, and the former employer agreed to pay the employee thousands of dollars to settle the claims. The settlement agreement also said that if prospective employers contacted the former employer about him, the only response would be a neutral reference. Instead of abiding by this agreement, the former employer gave a reference that included statements such as “he may not be the guy to take it to the next level…” and “I don’t think he got along with everybody…”; he had significant difficulty finding a new job. Kavanaugh held the former employer was not liable for violating the settlement agreement because this was close enough to a neutral reference. In the real world, of course, comments like this can torpedo a job opportunity. As the dissenting judge (a Bush appointee) noted, Kavanaugh’s analysis renders meaningless the part of the settlement agreement that was meant to ensure the individual’s future job prospects were not harmed as a result of challenging discrimination.

Feel free to view my feminist and women’s rights designs:

Feminism Is The Radical Notion That Women Are People POLITICAL BUTTONGlobalize THIS - WOMEN'S RIGHTS [earth graphic] POLITICAL BUTTON

Supreme Court Nominee POEM: Ostensible Merit, Garland

Ostensible Merit, Garland

Senate Republicans bemoan
We can’t Ford
No delay
We just
Long to confirm
As weave past attest
Merit
Garland

This poem is my owed to Senate Republicans’ stellar hypocrisy, in this case regarding confirming Supreme Court nominees. They entirely delayed and fully denied the Merrick Garland nomination of the previous administration. Yet, they are hellbent on ramrodding their Brett Kavanaugh nomination through, all while a credible allegation of sexual assault goes without nonpartisan investigation. Mean wile, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the accuser, is vilified and must cope with multiple death threats. Less that sympathetic, more like pathetic, Senate Republicans claim ostensible merit and they are craven that garland across that abridge too far.

For the record, I took poetic license with the slant rhyme and pun of Merrick/merit. Also, I will from now on refer to Brett Kavanaugh as Bart O’Kavanaugh, the character that portrayed him in his character witness’ memoir: Wasted: Tales of a Gen X Drunk, by Mark Judge. Judge Kavanaugh’s profoundly poor judgment of his fellow Judge and alleged fellow sexual assaulter as a character witness may very well be disqualifying in itself.  Brett’s prep school buddy unabashedly portrayed his view of women by this quote on his high school yearbook page: “Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.”  The past matters. The present madders too.

FREE Anti-Trump POSTER: DUMP Trump, TRUMP Dump — It all makes sense when you realize that the “T” is silent

Confused about the daily antics of Donald Trump and his regime of toadies? Perhaps this will clear it up. I give you this FREE Anti-Trump POSTER: DUMP Trump, TRUMP Dump — “It all makes sense when you realize that the “T” is silent.”

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The New York Times cataloged a list of items that Prez Donald Trump has done to lower the bar of presidential behavior. Such a trove of uncouth, demeaning, and dangerous behavior fuels anti-Trump sentiment and action. This list is only from the first eight months of his presidency; the list is much longer now, and growing every day. Here is the starter list:

  • Mock a foreign leader with a demeaning nickname and threaten his country with nuclear annihilation over Twitter
  • Call for the firing of “son of a bitch” athletes who choose to exercise their right to free speech
  • Refer to the White House as “a real dump”
  • Spend the weekend golfing at your private club while the mayor of an American city wades through sewage-filled water to help citizens after a catastrophic hurricane, then accuse that mayor of “poor leadership” when she criticizes your administration’s slow response to the storm
  • Criticize victims of that hurricane still living without drinking water or electricity by saying they “want everything to be done for them”
  • During a visit to some of those victims, throw rolls of paper towels at them and tell them they should be “very proud” that only 16 people have died so far, unlike in a “real catastrophe”
  • Attack a senator battling terminal cancer
  • Pick nominees to the federal bench who call a sitting Supreme Court justice a “judicial prostitute” and refer to transgender children as part of “Satan’s plan”
  • Campaign hard for a Senate candidate; then when he appears likely to lose, say “I might have made a mistake” and later delete your tweets supporting him
  • Behave so erratically and irresponsibly that senators of your own party resort to saying you’re treated like someone at “an adult day-care center” to keep you from starting World War III
  • Spend one of every three days as president visiting at least one of your own properties
  • Publicly and privately humiliate your own attorney general for recusing himself from an investigation into your campaign
  • Say nothing when a foreign leader’s bodyguards brutally attack peaceful protesters in the streets of Washington, D.C.
  • Tweet GIFs of yourself violently attacking the media and your former political opponent
  • Encourage police officers not to be “too nice” when apprehending criminal suspects
  • Help draft a misleading statement about the purpose of a meeting between your son, other top campaign aides and representatives of a rival foreign power intent on interfering in the election
  • Deliver a speech to the Boy Scouts of America that includes mockery of a former president and winking references to sexual orgies, and then lie by claiming that the head of that organization called and told you it was the best speech ever delivered in Boy Scout history
  • Hang a framed copy of a fake Time magazine cover celebrating your business acumen in your golf clubs around the world
  • Mock a female television anchor’s appearance, saying the anchor was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” at a holiday gathering at your private resort
  • Force your cabinet members to take turns extolling your virtues in front of television cameras
  • Welcome into the Oval Office a man who threatened to assassinate your predecessor, whom he called a “subhuman mongrel,” and who referred to your political opponent as a “worthless bitch”
  • Continue to deny that Russia attempted to influence the presidential election, despite the consensus of the American intelligence community — and yet also blame your predecessor for not doing anything to stop that interference
  • Grant temporary White House press credentials to a website that, among other things, claims that Sept. 11 was an “inside job” and that the massacre of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax
  • Block people who criticize you on Twitter
  • Claim that an investigation into your campaign’s possible collusion with a foreign power is “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”
  • Pressure multiple intelligence chiefs to state publicly that there was no collusion between your presidential campaign and the Russian government
  • Without consulting anyone at the Pentagon, announce a new policy barring transgender soldiers from serving in the military
  • Pardon a former sheriff who was convicted of criminal contempt of court for refusing to obey the law
  • Continue to repeat, with admiration, a false story about an American military general committing war crimes
  • Mock the mayor of a world city for his careful, sober response to a terrorist attack
  • Tell Americans that a march of torch-carrying white supremacists and neo-Nazis includes “some very fine people” — and when one of those marchers murders a peaceful counterprotester, condemn violence on “both sides”
  • Run an administration whose ethical standards have, in the words of the federal government’s top ethics enforcer, made the United States “close to a laughingstock”
  • Hide data that don’t support your pre-existing policy preferences
  • Admit to trying to intimidate a key witness in a federal investigation
  • Continue to leave hundreds of executive branch positions unfilled
  • Profit off the presidency, accepting millions of dollars from foreign government officials, businesses, politicians and other supporters who pay a premium to patronize your properties and get access to you — while also attempting to hide the visitor lists at some of those properties from the public
  • Promise to drain the swamp, then quietly grant ethics waivers to multiple former industry lobbyists who want to work in your administration
  • Tell a lie, on average, more than five times a day
  • Call for criminal investigations of your former political opponent, seven months after winning the election
  • Appoint your family wedding planner to head a federal housing office
  • Shove aside a fellow head of state at a photo-op
  • Attack private citizens on Twitter
  • Delegitimize federal judges who rule against you
  • Refuse to take responsibility for military actions gone awry
  • Fire the F.B.I. chief in the middle of his expanding investigation into your campaign and your associates
  • Accuse a former president, without evidence, of an impeachable offense
  • Employ top aides with financial and other connections to a hostile foreign power
  • Blame the judiciary, in advance, for any terror attacks
  • Call the media “the enemy of the American people”
  • Demand personal loyalty from the F.B.I. director
  • Threaten the former F.B.I. director
  • Accept foreign payments to your businesses, in possible violation of the Constitution
  • Occupy the White House with the help of a hostile foreign power
  • Intimidate congressional witnesses
  • Allow White House staff members to use their personal email for government business
  • Claim, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally
  • Fail to fire high-ranking members of your national security team for weeks, even after knowing they lied to your vice president and exposed themselves to blackmail
  • Refuse to release tax returns
  • Hide the White House visitors’ list from the public
  • Vacation at one of your private residences nearly every weekend
  • Use an unsecured personal cellphone
  • Criticize specific businesses for dropping your family members’ products
  • Review and discuss highly sensitive intelligence in a restaurant, and allow the Army officer carrying the “nuclear football” to be photographed and identified by name
  • Obstruct justice
  • Hire relatives for key White House posts, and let them meet with foreign officials and engage in business at the same time
  • Promote family businesses on federal government websites
  • Tweet, tweet, tweet
  • Collude with members of Congress to try to shut down investigations of you and your associates
  • Threaten military conflict with other nations in the middle of news interviews
  • Compare the U.S. intelligence community to Nazis
  • Display complete ignorance about international relations, your own administration’s policies, American history and the basic structure of our system of government
  • Skip daily intelligence briefings
  • Repeat untruths
  • Share highly classified information with a hostile foreign power without the source’s permission
  • Lie

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Judge Kavanaugh covers Trump – I’ve got your back, that is, backside – “We should not burden a sitting President with civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecution.”

Prez Donald Trump is all about Donald Trump. The Don picks a perfect cabal member to cover his ass from the Supreme Court bench. Judge Brett Kavanaugh has demonstrated huge judicial deference to expansive executive power. In tribute to this pick, I offer you this FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Judge Kavanaugh covers Trump – I’ve got your back, that is, backside – “We should not burden a sitting President with civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecution.”

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Judge Kavanaugh covers Trump - I've got your back, that is, backside - "We should not burden a sitting President with civil suits, criminal investigations, or criminal prosecution."

A New York Times opinion piece, Will Kavanaugh Provide Cover for Trump?, provides insight to why Judge Kavanaugh may have captured Prez Donald Trump’s interest:

In the coming weeks, the Senate will undertake its constitutional duty to vet Judge Kavanaugh on issues like health care and abortion. But the Senate must also explore a question central to evaluating the judge’s commitment to the rule of law: Does he have the requisite independence from President Trump to serve as a check on his abuses of power?

This issue is particularly important given repeated claims by the president’s attorneys that Mr. Trump is essentially above the law — that he can even refuse a subpoena to testify. Given the looming Mueller investigation, these weighty, knotty constitutional questions may soon come before the court.

When it comes to these questions, Judge Kavanaugh is not a blank slate. He worked for Ken Starr, the independent counsel who aggressively investigated President Bill Clinton. But Judge Kavanaugh later adopted views that are outside the mainstream in their deference to the executive.

In a 2009 law review article, Judge Kavanaugh argued that a sitting president should be able to defer civil suits and criminal prosecutions until after he leaves office and should be excused from having to answer depositions or questions during his term. He went so far as to advocate that Congress “consider a law exempting a president — while in office — from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.”

It is hard to imagine that these extreme views weren’t part of Judge Kavanaugh’s appeal to President Trump, a man who is a defendant in several civil suits and the subject of at least one criminal investigation. According to media reports, the White House has looked at the judge’s views on indicting a sitting president.

Nor are these mere academic musings. During his service on the appellate court, Judge Kavanaugh has written opinions reflecting an expansive view of presidential power, and on several occasions he has expressed concern about executive branch agencies that are insulated from direct control by the president.

What does this tell us about how he would view the ongoing investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel? There are important and — at least under current law — decisive differences between the independence enjoyed by the agencies at issue in those cases and that of the special counsel, who reports directly to a political appointee serving at the pleasure of the president. But the logic employed in Judge Kavanaugh’s opinions could easily be extended to argue that the president should enjoy the power to control the course of all criminal investigations — including those into his own alleged misconduct.

Judge Kavanaugh’s approach to executive power could, moreover, affect other aspects of the federal investigations relating to Mr. Trump. One of the most important is whether a president can pardon himself. In our view, the idea that a president can grant himself a pardon is anathema to our constitutional structure. One need not be a judge to see how antithetical this is to our Constitution: 85 percent of Americans (including 75 percent of Republicans) say that it is unacceptable for a president to pardon himself of a crime. Given Judge Kavanaugh’s position on executive authority, it is unclear where he would stand. Senators must find out.

Judge Kavanaugh’s writings and opinions also suggest he will be receptive to the bizarre argument that the president cannot obstruct justice by firing Department of Justice officials or taking other actions pursuant to his constitutional authority. There are multiple flaws in this argument, chief among them that both the Constitution and hundreds of years of precedent support the validity of congressional restrictions on the exercise of executive power. Will Judge Kavanaugh stand with the rule of law or allow the president to interfere with our system of justice with impunity?

Then there is the legality of Mr. Mueller’s appointment, which Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has already tested in the two federal courts where he is facing charges. Both the District of Columbia and Virginia federal district courts rejected motions by Mr. Manafort to dismiss his criminal indictments, and the District of Columbia court rejected a collateral civil suit that he filed there challenging Mr. Mueller’s prosecution of the case. The reasoning behind these decisions is straightforward: Congress has given the attorney general broad authority to delegate power to subordinate officials. We cannot help wondering whether Judge Kavanaugh will view this delegation as an intrusion on presidential direct removal authority and reject the commonsense holdings of these lower courts should he have the chance.

The usual practice at Supreme Court confirmation hearings is for the nominee to refuse to answer questions about issues that may come before him or her. But we have never had a nominee who was chosen by a president identified as the subject of a criminal inquiry — one that already has resulted in serious charges against top aides and could implicate the president himself. We need to know the judge’s views on these issues so we can have an honest and open national discussion, and the Senate make a fully informed decision.

If he refuses to share them, Judge Kavanaugh must agree that if he is confirmed he will recuse himself from any decisions concerning the special counsel investigation and the related exercise of presidential powers —or his confirmation must be delayed until after the investigations are resolved. If the Senate confirms him without resolving these questions, we face the prospect of a new associate justice who poses a grave danger to the legitimacy of the court — and our democratic system of checks and balances.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FREE 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.

POEM: Unleashed

As anger and grief morphs
Into the habits and vagaries of daily life
The heart is circled by its waggin’s
In loo of revolutions more roil
As if
Too be stuck
In
The mettle
Only to be
Haunted by cursory echoes
Of lives a custom to be frayed
Of what might be
Stranded
Into the unbreakable
Accord
As knot the tear or stricken
And still
The heart fastens
Awe that grows
Unleashed

This poem addresses the challenges of palpable anger and grief “normalizing” as time goes on.  The necessities and sheer habits of everyday living bear down on overflowing passions, often sublimating such powerful emotions into more comfortable or familiar patterns.  This can tamp down more revolutionary impulses for changes in life.  Such coping is commonplace.

Such a process causes me to reflect on the current post-election era.  The System Was Never Broken It Was BUILT That Way - POLITICAL BUTTONI remember the outrage when Baby Bush beat Al Gore only with the intervention of the Supreme Court, in the face of a popular vote loss and electoral college squeaker fraught with voting irregularities and inadequacies.  I noted how the un-sexy issue of the mechanics of voting and elections receded from consciousness in due course within a matter of months.  Multiple presidential election down the road, many of these election and voting deficiencies continue largely unfixed.  The electoral college has taken US to school again!  Plus, the striking down of key elements of the Voting Rights Act has left state-level shenanigans with voter suppression to run rampant.  Add in the increasingly surreal gerrymandering of voting districts and the democratic process is literally moot for most of America in national elections.

While our national democracy stays the course on being massively dysfunctional at so many levels, this election cycle, a vicious cycle, is a quantum leap in dangerous effect.  Stop Hate STOP Sign -- POLITICAL BUTTONThe sexism, racism, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant xenophobia reached for new heights and historic lows during the campaign.  Women, people of color, Muslims, and immigrants have legitimate reasons to worry on both a daily basis and what looms in the future.  Misogyny, white supremacy, and xenophobic nationalism are being baked into the Donald Trump regime.  While in many ways this is nothing new to disenfranchised folks, the stunning respectability of sexual assault braggadocio, scorn of Black Lives Matter, collusion with white supremacists, and a national fortress mentality could easily converge into the most authoritarian presidential administration in our lifetimes, if not ever, in America.

This poem is a warning of the dangers of “normalization,” and a call to the difficult, lifelong, trans-generational work that needs to be done.  Courage Trumps Fear PEACE BUTTONI don’t believe that such work can be done unless it is equipped with hope.  This poem culminates in the hope that by reaching deep and going long the solidarity of wholehearted people will supply needed power to resolute minds and steadfast hands to further incarnate seemingly impossible justice for all.

Dealing with endemic injustices calls for a demanding balance between daily coping and cultivating a long-haul way of life that shrewdly generates and regenerates, creates and recreates, produces and reproduces just and heartening habits of behavior and ways of being in the world.  Will the better side of America prevail over the genocide of America?  We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools--Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONAll I can say is that when sides are drawn, I know which side I hope and plan to be on.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. so plainly observed and prophesied, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”  Though I would update this a bit and expect to see sisters steadfastly leading this fight.  Some things don’t change.  This can be a good thing.

 

SHIFT HAPPENS POLITICAL BUTTONThe Ones Who Are Crazy Enough To Think They Can Change The World Are The Ones Who Do POLITICAL BUTTONAll the darkness in the world could not put out the light of one small candle. Jewish Holocaust victim's epitaph POLITICAL BUTTON

The Enemy Is Fear. We Think It Is Hate, But It is Fear -- Gandhi quote POLITICAL BUTTONFear does not prevent death; it prevents life --Nagub Mahfouz quote POLITICAL BUTTONLife shrinks or expands according to one's courage --Anais Nin quote POLITICAL BUTTON

POEM: Signs of The Tines

At the White House speak easy
Blah blah blah blah blah blah
The media drinks it up
At a mine-blowingly vapid clip
In the mean time
On the plantation
Grounds to a halt
Surrounded by offense
In arose guardin’
At least since 1984
Black sheep a massing
Estate clearly
As to klan destined premises
And as such a tract
An overwhelming farce
Met with all arm
As privates in public places
And wile mill or tarry
As eventuality
Weather picked up for loitering
Or trashing national security
Hour constitutional is put down
And though wee are like
A communal terrain
Pigs offer another forum of public transportation
A signing
This won in the can
Matching our zeal to the maxim
In another banner day
For homeland security
Or whatever it scald
As free speech grows smolder
And another die cast
For the prints of darkness
Wielding a pitchfork for the signs of the tines
A tail never to be told

This is a poem about police and/or military — sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference these days — putting down a protest at the White House.  Typically, the corporate media give little coverage to such democracy taken into the hands of ruly citizens, and what coverage they give is often superficial and dismissive.  The demonstration in this poem has overtones of a Black Lives Matter protest, making it contemporary, but it could very well be most any protest in modern times at the White House.  The title of this poem, Signs of The Tines, has what may be an easily missed pun, referencing the tines of the devil’s pitchfork casting signs into a bonfire, which might very well be the preeminent renewable energy source in America.  Protest politics and direct nonviolent resistance has always forced America to confront a legal and political conundrum of law enforcement routinely violating constitutional rights, often under the pretext of national security.  Most any perceived threat to the state triggers an overreaction, even an existential crisis, from most any nationalist from right to left.  Exposing the naked sovereignty of the state, particularly when in moral bankruptcy, is one of the most useful effects resistance offers.  The veneer of civilization can be quickly peeled back to witness the assertion of brute force in the religion of nationalism and state sovereignty.  And for those of you who may dare to believe that we are a nation under God, think again.  I confronted this directly in my legal challenge to draft registration.  As a motion to dismiss based on draft registration offering no opportunity to indicate conscientious objector status, the federal judge rejected the motion citing a Supreme Court case from the 1930’s which stated that the federal government has the absolute power to conscript anyone in the United States, regardless of conscience or anything else.  Conscientious objector status is merely a historical and political concession which was literally referred to as “legislative grace.”  I must admit, in this decade-long resistance to forced military participation in Team America, this was the only thing that truly surprised me.  I, for one, am unwilling to concede absolute authority to any government.  I actually wasn’t even very excited about this motion for dismissal, but my pro bono lawyers wanted to test this legal argument.  Frankly, I wouldn’t have registered even had there been a way to meaningfully indicate conscientious objection.  I think I registered my objection quite meaningfully without their approval or feigned “grace.”  You might want to pay attention to the wizard behind the gracefully flowing curtain, dutifully colored, red, white, and blue…

POEM: War on Poverty

War on Poverty

In our nation’s capital
We are drowning in think tanks
Our chief armament
In the war on poverty
And for all of their business
They have made up their mine
Poverty is not the problem
Poverty is the solution
Yet the war ever undertaking
Congress versus progress
Commander-in-chief of CEOs
Backed by supreme courts and county jailers
Triune bosses super intending won
Until six feet under
With nary a heart
The only pauper resting spot
From their holey canons
Granting fiats where one can scarcely ford
Pronouncing victory
In their own dialectical weigh
Emptying their echo chambers
Buy and buy
Only saying
Let them eat ordnances

This poem is in honor of the 50th anniversary of the “War on poverty” declared by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.  Of course, there is war and poverty aplenty still.  Sometime in the 1980s, during the inglorious Reagan regime, I heard a phrase which has stuck with me ever since: Poverty is not the problem; poverty is the solution.  Fortunately, this phrase was uttered as a biting critique of the implicit assumptions of a capitalistic plutocracy.  The war on poverty is about the same age as me. The material wealth in the United States of America has more than tripled during this time.  Further, for at least centuries, there have been enough material resources to meet the basic needs of every human being on this planet.  Answering the question of why there is widespread poverty worldwide and within the fabulously wealthy U.S. is perhaps the most important inquiry humans on this planet can address.  The only real scarcity on this planet is within the human heart.  Talk is cheap, and rhetoric is not very nutritious.  Surely, Man does not live by bread alone.  As surely, Man does not live by focaccia alone.  Mother Theresa perhaps said it best: “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”

POEM: Lovers of Dirt

Lovers of Dirt

Wile in cathedrals
The atheist
Dares claim
The title
Of mass debater
As little comes
From behind the veil
That doesn’t exist
In the slightest
Hint elect
To believe
Methods to their madness
Seemingly beyond approach
However rue derangement
Identifying any genus
By its feces
So commonly specious
In its origins
By means
Naturally selective
Preserving favored races
In the struggle
For life
As fashioned
From flights of fancy
For the birds
In plain English
Triggering an evolution
Of rapacious masculinity
Vanquishing femininity
As it sees fit
Too survive
And nothing more
As awe is derived
As so much
Ground Chuck
No longer
A yin without a yang
A homme with only half a story
In tell gents design
New ways of poker
Without reason
Fueling themselves
With fantasies
Of being porn again
Any come hither looks
Reduced to contrivance
Goddesses none
Any go whither looks
Annunciating to the world
A piece of class
A coy that must be played with
Bastards and bitches all
Wed to nothing but progeny
Incesting that the best demands it
Endless reproductions
Preying for deviant genes
To a god of chance
Just for the novelty of it
Tails you win
Heads you lose
Either way
Stuck only
By wieners and losers
How fare
Abet
Between fancy pants
And the un-gaudy
Next to uncleanliness
Soully lovers of dirt
However complicated

This poem is a commentary on atheism, evolution, and gender.  Of any belief group in America, those unaffiliated with religion are the most male, 60%.  As much as religion may be a problem for women, it seems that lack of religion is even less attractive.  If reproduction is the key to human evolution, then perhaps unbelieving men should pay attention to the keyholes.  Both atheism and evolution often strike me as dominated by male pattern balledness.  Reducing human evolution to sexual reproduction strikes me as some form of porn, a way to partner sterile abstract thinking with screwing, an unproductive mating of reductionistic thought and base sexual impulses.

I find the conundrums of atheism well captured in this poem’s title: Lovers of Dirt.  Atheism may be the most poorly equipped belief, or disbelief, system to deal with love.  Perhaps because God is love.  For whatever reason, atheists cannot bring themselves to believe in God, fortunately, I have met many who quest for love.  This poem is partly inspired by a conversation I had with a fellow protester outside the Toledo federal courthouse, when we were protesting corporate personhood, as promoted and reinforced by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United.  This man was clearly offended by considering corporations on the same level as humans, and willing to hit the street to make that point.  In the course of our conversation, it became clear that he was an atheist.  He could clearly tell the difference between the legal fiction of corporate personhood and actual human personhood.  However, he could not articulate the difference between people and dirt.  A parently, people are simply complicated dirt. This claim to be able to make higher level distinctions while being unable to make lower level distinctions seems to strike at the ultimate heartlessness of atheism.

Maybe there are other forms of atheism, but I have found this creep of distinctionless infecting virtually every atheist with which I have ever had a conversation.  Now don’t get me wrong, while I don’t believe in atheism, I do believe in atheists, certainly inasmuch as they embody love.  Plus, I am a big fan of distinctionlessness.  However, I view distinctionlessness as a spiritual aspect of reality, by definition outside the realm of science which only deals with distinctions.  Distinctionlessness might be cited as unity consciousness, the oneness of all reality (which includes consciousness).  Now, to give props to John Paul Sartre, the great atheist existentialist, and author of Being and Nothingness, he might consider distinctionlessness to be represented by nothing.  Sartre dealt in-depth trying to explain the structure of consciousness which necessitated a relationship with nothingness, a perilous journey where we are reduced to alternating between subject and object.  I am a subject and you are an object of my subjectivity.  Then, you are a subject and I am an object of your subjectivity.  And never the twain shall meet. Ad inifinitum!  Perhaps not surprisingly, Sartre was famous for saying, “Hell is other people.” (see No Exit, a one-act play). According to Sartre, other people, in the experience of subjectivity, must reduce others to objects.  Sartre believed that there can only be NO connection between subjects, no underlying unity.  I am at a loss how Sartre can even claim that other subjects exist, if he can only experience them as objects!?  Of course, this self-contradictory assertion is the basis for his atheism.  In this case, God would be Subject with a capital S.  The logic goes like this: if God existed, we would experience God as an object, and since there is no convincing evidence that such an object exists, then God does not exist.  Of course, this same logic, applied to other humans, would necessitate concluding that other people (if you can call them that) don’t exist as subjects.  These are the foolish places that highly rational and completely unreasonable men end up.  Except Sartre was not a fool.  He acknowledged that other subjects existed — only that these subjects existed outside his experience!  He could only experience their objectively ghostly apparitions masquerading as subjects, and occasional buyers of his books.  By beginning with an assumption of nothingness, he ends up with much, much, much, much, much less than if he had begun with an assumption of somethingness.  Both are assumptions, mere propositions or assertions.

Descartes launched modern Western philosophy off with “I think therefore I am,” taking existence as evidence against nonexistent.  Simple but compelling.  Sartre breaks this tradition in a striking way, he appears compelled by nothingness, nonexistence, perhaps quite appropriately, for no apparent reason.  By Sarte’s same logic and assumptions critiquing God’s Subjective existence, Sartre could just as easily made a profoundly good theist had he only explored the logical sequence of knowledge unveiled by allowing that just another subject may exist, another Subject may exist.  This seems a great leap of faith to some.  How could you equate little old me, a subject with a lowercase s, on the same par as God, a Subject with a capital S?!  Yet, this is exactly what Sartre did with his chosen path.  By Sartre’s own logic and apparent experience, he is the only subject that exists!  If there is only one subject, then this is the closest to God one can expect.  Sartre had no basis for distinguishing between a subject with a lowercase s and a Subject with an uppercase S.  Sartre was God!  And God is dead!!  Case closed — and it was a very cold case!  This should come as little surprise, that God was so little.  When being must have a relationship with nothing in order to generate consciousness, subjectivity is necessarily imprisoned: condemned to be free; with nothing to ground its being.  Now, to be fair, Sartre has nothing to stand upon.  By claiming that it was the relationship to nothing that generated consciousness, the breath of subjectivity, he allowed other subjects to exist (spookily as God allows).  All you have to do is believe in nothing.  How hard could that be?  Except that the other ethereal pillar holding up Sartre’s world is that nothing can be the ground of our being.  So, our being comes from nothingness.  Is this magic less objectionable than our being coming from somethingness?  I would agree that God is a no thing, in that the fullness of God, what God IS, cannot be ascertained from studying objective things, anymore than the fullness of human subjects can be understood by simply studying their junk.

In my book, Sartre should have devoted his keen intellect to a masterpiece call Being and Somethingness. In studying Sartre’s Being and Nothingness in my college existentialism class, what I most keenly remember is a footnote, and perhaps the only ultimate foothold in my book.  This footnote stated that his arguments did not preclude the possibility of hope, but that his purpose was not to explore that possibility.  This existential choice on his part left his work despairing.  John Paul Sartre was intellectually clever and outside of his formal philosophy, in real life, fought to be compassionate to others, though chronically despairing and doubting that he could ever really connect with them as fully human.  Perhaps Sartre’s greatest distinction is how well his worldview resonated with those cynical enough to be satisfied with studying the nooks, crannies, and shadows of this deeply pessimistic, foundationless-yet-sold-as-foundational worldview.  He created a lifetime of available preoccupation in his self-proclaimed hell.  And if there truly is no exit from this deadly state of affairs, aspiring to screw some less cruelly than others; then, being right will have to serve as a poor substitute for happiness.  Religion will be reduced to self-fulfilling prophets.  Humanity will never graduate from preoccupation to the much harder vocation of bringing hope to an obviously hurting world.  Hope requires the study of human nature, of which Sartre is so absolutely skeptical, even of its existence.  Such absolute skepticism begs for a different perspective, in that it worships subjectivity, our apparent ability to will one thing over another, either assenting to or rejecting preconditions.  Sartre aspired to build the slimmest possible precipice from which to perch looming subjectivity, a philosophy with as few assumptions as possible, resting on as narrow an objectivity as possible.  But rather than finding a holy grail, he found himself, and apparently the whole world, on a throne of spears. This creates perhaps the largest overreach possible in underestimating both objective reality and subjective reality.  Unity consciousness is the oneness of all reality, which includes consciousness.  Sartre’s arena was human consciousness, and declining to leave that arena, shortchanged the fullness of reality.  His reality lifts human consciousness beyond its ken.  Though he was perhaps within grasp of an occasional barbie — no offense to Simone de Beauvoir, his lifelong lover, to whom one day while they were sitting on a bench outside the Louvre, said, “Let’s sign a two-year lease.”  They never married.  Near the end of her life, de Beauvoir said, “Marriage was impossible. I had no dowry.”  In fact, there was no dowry that could cover the deficit in Sartre’s worldview.  Sartre’s reality became, through his own volition, human consciousness married to nothing, and no divorce laws.  His denial is nearly unfathomable.  His consciousness only unifies with reality in some zombie apocalypse fashion — which seems enduringly fashionable for some reason.  Sartre strips objective reality of any subjectivity but his own, except for those ghostly apparitions (that would be you) who are condemned to walk the earth, a living hell, negating his subjectivity with a moments notice.  His justice: he returns the favor, jousting with lifelike windmills.  This farcical, impossible dream, leaves Sartre riding his knight mare in a one horse town.  His reward: he is the grand marshal and sole entrant in this ludicrous parade.  Though quite miraculously, Sartre ends up joining an elite pantheon of self-fulfilling prophets of epic disproportions.

I can see how many people are deeply reluctant to believe in God.  What I find much more difficult to understand is people’s deep commitment to disallowing for even the possibility of God. In other words, agnosticism seems justified (though a bit indecisive), whereas atheists must take on a mantle of hubris unbecoming to open minds and open hearts.  Sartre proclaims that there is no exit in a house that he built with no doors!  In the end, using Sartre’s arguments against God, the Subject with a capital S, one must argue against subjectivity itself, all subjectivity.  It is to this that I object!  Sartre built an inhospitable house, a testament to his objectivity (or testament to his lack of subjectivity), and he has nothing to blame.  By leveling subjectivity, he finds, least of all, himself.  Not by humility, but by hubris.  And from nowhere comes a call, “Philosopher heal thyself!”  Yet, the great metaphysician, Jesus also begged the question of the physician healing thyself.  Jesus is recounted to have said in Luke 4:18-28 (NIV), in launching his public ministry, by quoting the prophet Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.  He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.  Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”  “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.  I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed — only Naaman the Syrian.”  All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.

People are lazy enough to want miracles.  Some just want to be entertained enough to provide a break in their existential ennui.  A rarer few are happy being unhappy.  Jesus’ hometown crowd called for him to reproduce for them the miraculous events that they had heard transpired elsewhere.  Surely he would put on an even better show for the hometown crowd, they thought.  When Jesus implied that his prophetic acts would not get any traction amongst this hometown crowd, accurately citing history, the crowd got pissed.  They bypassed the good news and didn’t even get a good carny show out of it!

Interestingly, the crowd was incredulous even when the heard good news — “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips” — asking “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”  You remember, that snot-nosed kid who used to run around here some years back.  And we all know about Joseph, don’t we?  They just couldn’t believe that such good news and authority could be present in one from such humble and ordinary beginnings.  Jesus made it clear that enlightenment or salvation cannot just be handed to someone like an everyday object, miraculous relic, or even apprehended through the world’s best philosophy.  In Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus, where the condemned rich man upon his death and agony wants a heavenly message sent to his sons on earth, so that they might be saved, he is told: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (Luke 16:21)  The good news that Jesus proclaimed was to the poor, not the “successful” in society who have mastered the conventional wisdom.  Jesus proclaimed that freedom for the prisoners is possible, and that recovery of sight for the blind is possible, that setting the oppressed free is possible.  The miraculous is not concerned with overturning the impossible, but with the possible not yet manifest.  This is the realm of faith and hope.  This is the realm that Jesus calls us into.  Some hear this and are deeply moved.  Some hear this as a carnival barker.  Some more recalcitrant few hear this as a carnival barker who never even existed!  There are few problems that denial won’t solve, eh?

I think that Sartre’s cynicism ultimately lies in this fact that you can’t force people to be enlightened.  Jesus understood this.  Sartre knew that our choices literally create meaning by placing value behind some actions and not others, all within the realm of the possible.  Jesus understood this.  Unfortunately, Sartre neutered himself when it came to the realm of the possible, the worst form of self emasculation, with militant atheism — which ironically seems much more popular among men.  The attraction to overt force and militancy seems more hegemonic among men.  Though please note that I don’t think that spirituality is better suited or more fully manifest according to gender.  Nonetheless, I do think that there are specific forms of foolishness that are predominantly occupied by men.  The same goes for women; but that’s another story…

I commend Sartre for trying to tackle the immeasurable perplexity of the relationship of objectivity and subjectivity.  Such a task should vex even the greatest minds, of which I consider Sartre among.

Atheists typically claim to be concerned solely with science.  Fair enough.  Science is about understanding and manipulating the outside “objective” world, the visible, measurable world which makes the world more conducive to usefulness, or better means to some end. Spirituality is about understanding and experiencing the subjective world, the oft invisible, oft immeasurable, typically elusive world conducive to elucidating what are good ends and worthy states of being.  What unkind of world could we possibly expect if we studied only the ways to get places but refused to ponder the full range of places or states of being which are better to move toward?

The study of subjectivity includes understanding ourselves, others, and at least offering a shot at discovering or understanding God, if such a present manifests at any time.  The legitimate existence of metaphysics, the area of study beyond the physical world measurable by reductionistic science, surprisingly to some, is not really controversial amongst professional philosophers.  Of course, in the ever-changing, heated climate of rampant spirituality, there are always some climate change deniers in the crowd.  In the end, reducing the transcendent or spiritual nature of subjective existence to mere objectivity — i.e., humans are complicated dirt, nothing more — is amputating half of one’s existence, and the only half that can ascertain which is the “better” half (which is the one that can make us whole).

To advance metaphysics we must ponder other subjects – you, me, and even God.  Harkening back to the discussion of distinctionlessness, atheists with which I have conversed, seem to be pulled back to distinctionlessness.  I would like to draw a distinction between two forms of distinctionlessness.  There is the ground zero of distinctionlessness that atheists default to, apparently in the face of nothingness, the abyss.  This casts a pall over any ability to discern good from evil, or to carve out any solid ground for our subjective being, even going so far as to doubt whether others or oneself even exist (as a subject), let alone whether God exists!  I contrast this with unity consciousness which is present in the oneness of all reality, which happens to encompass consciousness.  I think that this distinctionlessness of unity consciousness is a fuller representation of reality than the atheist existentialism a la Sartre.  Oneness can only be present with consciousness because if consciousness was not encompassed, then consciousness would be separate, and there would be two disconnected realities, not one.  If these two disconnected realities seem familiar, it might be because they are eerily parallel to Sartre’s alienating description of alternating subject-object, object-subject relationships between so-called subjects — more like objects masquerading as subjects.  Sartre cleverly avoids the problem of two separate realities by defining nothingness as one of the two disconnected realities.  Many people might be willing to agree that nothing is not separate from our one reality, which seems somewhat different than saying nothing is separate from our one reality.  This clever configuration jury-rigs the vexing question of something coming from nothing.  Recall that Sartre views consciousness, a necessary aspect of subjectiveness, as arising from nothingness.  Or put somewhat differently, subjects are dependent on nothing. So which makes more sense: subjects are dependent on nothing OR subjects are dependent on something?  If subjects are dependent on nothing, then they should have no constrains on their freedom.  Deeply ironic, if Sartre is correct that a subject is dependent on nothing, then he has accurately described God!  Further, he has described a monotheistic God, because there could not be two absolutely free God’s operating in the same reality without clashing and limiting each other’s freedom.  Back to human-scale experience, I don’t think that any sane person would claim that their freedom is dependent on nothing.  Clearly, any coherent account of human experience testifies that human freedom is bounded, dependent on something.  If subjects are dependent on something, then an accurate account of reality must include a description of Being and Something, not simply Being and Nothingness.  Of course, existentialist thinkers following Sartre claimed that subjects could actually meet, dare I say, without distinction.  So, the limitations on our freedoms could arise from other subjects (as well as from objects).

But could Sartre be correct?  Yes, if you expect to learn the full truth from an incomplete truth that is factually accurate.  No, if you consider half a picture the full picture.  I think that Sartre is a freaking genius, and that his facts are correct.  Of course, I take some of this on faith, since he was wicked smart, perhaps too smart for his own good!  After all my critical analysis and occasional mocking, I will say that Sartre had all his facts right, he just didn’t have all the facts, or the full truth.

Like I enjoy saying, “Truth lies in the neighborhood of paradox.”  There is a persistently perplexing dualism present in human contemplations of reality.  I think that Sartre nailed down half of this dualism.  On one hand, the nailing down of hard facts was old-school, meaning it was completely consistent with the 400-plus year tradition of the enlightenment and the chain of progress that is Western civilization (as distinct from the contributions of the ancients).  On the other hand, his intellectual work was cutting edge and timely, even before its time.  Seriously, he was working with NOTHING!  This anchored the accomplishments of the enlightenment in a new way.  Of course, for those ultimately not happy with his militant focus, it could be viewed as the last nail in the coffin that is postmodernism. I think that the answer illuminating the full truth involves pursuing both-and answers rather than only either-or answers.  In this light, I would slightly restate an earlier proposition: I don’t think that any sane person would claim that their freedom is ONLY dependent on nothing.  Sartre was ahead of his time, and prescient of modern quantum physics, which has shed light on nothingness.  In quantum physics, particles arise out of nothing, seemingly independent, though subject to probabilistic behavior when viewed as waves.  And the best answer we have about which state of affairs is true is: both.  Subatomic physical behavior is best described as both waves and particles.  This answer, which is as perplexing as the original question, rests on the fact that it depends on how you look at it.  Literally, observing something changes it.  Conscious awareness affects reality in predictable ways (that is, probabilistic).  Translating this into our larger discussion, the freedom present in human consciousness arises from BOTH nothing AND something.  Possibilities collapse into specific actualities based on our observation and intent.

To be fair to Sartre, I’d like to think that had he lived much longer (he died in 1980), he may have been able to incorporate some insights from modern physics into his worldview.  However, the wisdom of the ancients was available to him.  As Jesus pointed out, witnessing miracles won’t necessarily make someone a better, more whole human being.  The power of skepticism and cynicism is strong.

Sartre was correct: Hell is other people.  But, Sartre was only half correct, for: Heaven is other people.  If you can relax your skepticism and cynicism enough, you may just find that others are both your curse AND salvation, which is way better than being mirrorly a curse.  Jesus was a teacher of all subjects.  When Jesus was asked, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40, NIV)  Attention all self-fulfilling prophets: seek and you shall find — but, if at first you don’t find, keep seeking…many subjects await you…and perhaps only one…

POEM: In God We Trust? Money Speaks!

In God we trust?

A graven image

We never leave home without

Good

For all debts, public and private

When miss taking goods for good

The most note worthy tender legal

By George, Abe, Alex, Andy, Ulysses, and Ben

Close impersonal friends

Treasuring some denominations more than others

Speaking for itself

Silencing those without

Trust

In God

Wee

It is hard to imagine anything much more ironic than engraving on our money, “In God we trust.”  In a so-called Judeo-Christian nation, the irony is even much deeper.  Jesus tells us that “No servant can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Luke 16:13, NIV)  Perhaps, the intent of engraving, “In God we trust”, on our money is to remind us that we are supposed to trust God rather than money.  However, this also just seems to play into the irony.  Of course, this irony has reached the point of the surreal in recent times in the United States, with the US Supreme Court declaring that money is free speech and corporations are persons entitled to rights formerly reserved for human beings.  God has created human beings, and human beings have apparently created some other form of persons.  In Wall Street speak it would be some form of human derivative.  Wall Street is a modern-day Golden calf, creating idolatrous graven images.  The reason such activities are considered idolatrous is because it violates the natural order of things.  Humans are to serve God and one another.  Corporations are legal fictions created to serve humans, a man-made technology or tool to be subservient to human needs.  Corporate personhood is a derivative of the modern-day Golden calf, the worship of Wall Street, its so-called best and brightest, and, in the end, the worship of money.  Money is a tool.  People who worship money become tools, dehumanizing themselves and others.  Wall Street brings us to a very sad state:  we put a precise price on everything, yet lose our ability to value anything other than the almighty buck — deer me!  We must not get caught staring into the bright headlights of unrestrained capitalism and its well funded propaganda trying to convince us that we are helpless against the idolatrous idea that serving money is inevitable and that we cannot do better.  It strikes me that living in this surreal and cynical situation requires that real people speak out freely against this dangerous fiction of corporate personhood and money as free speech.  Otherwise, corporations will rule us rather than the other way around, and money, concentrated in the hands of a few, will drown out the true speech of the people and we will be robbed of our democracy.  This is all just a fancy legalistic way of the richer telling the poorer to shut up.  What say you?

Religious Liberty, Conscience Exemptions for Everything

With the Obama administration’s recent rules requiring organizations owned by religious groups to provide contraceptive coverage as part of their employees’ health insurance, conservative groups and the Roman Catholic Church have gotten all their panties in a bunch, which is particularly interesting since most of them are men.  I like the take on religious exemptions for everything by Jonathan Zasloff and conscience clauses by Mark Kleiman in the reality-based community blogs.   The most obvious religious exemptions would be for Quakers, Mennonites, and other pacifist religious groups, to have to pay for anything related to war.  The more interesting suggestion was by Mr. Zasloff:

Why not include immigration law in the picture?

“You shall love the stranger, for you were a stranger in the land of Egypt.”  This is not an isolated Biblical line: it is repeated no less than 36 times (really) in the Bible.  So synagogues, churches, and mosques (musn’t forget mosques) should just make it clear that they should not have to obey immigration law: they will hire or provide services to anyone and everyone regardless of immigration status.  Any attempts by any law enforcement agency to prosecute them or in any way harass or deport immigrants who are part of their religious communities violates their freedom of conscience to include them (not to mention their rights to freely associate).

I think that both of these authors are offering these suggestions more as tongue-in-cheek parodies than as serious policy considerations.  This is not to denigrate in any way the importance or depths of the religious beliefs of any of these groups, including the anti-contraceptive crowd.  I believe that what is being legitimately mocked is an immature insistence that religious liberty, at least for their own particular group, requires absolute unchecked freedom.  This is a fiction in the real world.  The legitimate questions asked by these bloggers have taken us just far enough down the road of logic to see the absurd conclusions that must be drawn if such logic is taken to its nth degree.

As with all freedoms, religious freedoms must be balanced with other freedoms.  This will never make everybody completely happy, and fortunately, will not make anybody all-powerful, with infinite, absolute, unchecked freedom.  That sounds like the kind of freedom reserved for God anyways, and you’d think that religious folks could respect that, even insist upon it.

I have commented elsewhere on this issue, particularly in the context of the current birth control insurance mandate debate (see Birth Control as a Human Right – Toledo Protest).

I think this issue to be resolved in the real world, religious groups, claiming a particular bastion of truth, need to vote with the existential force of their lives, to make these beliefs real in the world, not just words, particularly words to control other people.  In the 1980s and 90s the Roman Catholic Church provided strong leadership in the sanctuary movement which protected persons who are in this country of illegal status due to economic or political violence.  The Roman Catholic Church took real risks and paid a price for incarnating their beliefs.  Pacifist religious groups have refused to go to war and pay war taxes for generations.  As a religious pacifist myself, I was convicted by the United States of America for refusing to register for the military draft, and I was incarcerated for a few months.  I think I made my point.

The state cannot be trusted to strike a balance between religious liberty and other liberties.  This is precisely why religious groups need to be about the difficult and real work of living out their beliefs in such a way that their importance is manifest to the rest of the world.  Since the US made a federal case of it, my resistance of draft registration, I learned that according to the US Supreme Court, that the US has the absolute power to conscript anybody for any reason, and there is no constitutional right, religious or otherwise, to refuse military conscription.  The US government could conscript your grandmother if they wanted to.  The specific language cited in my case, which was used to reject a claim of religious liberty, was that conscientious objection was by “legislative grace” alone.  I for one, do not by the grace of Congress go.

The bottom line:  if we are going to live by God’s grace, we will need to fight for our liberties and rights, and real grace is not cheap, it has a cost; if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be worth much now would it?

 

Abolish Corporate Personhood – join MovetoAmend.org

Abolish Corporate Personhood – join MovetoAmend.org

End Corporate PersonhoodIt’s “We the People”, not “We the Corporations.”  Well, perhaps, for now, it’s “Wee the people!”  But hang on, the people are pissed off, and the meek are getting ready.  We are in fact the people we have been waiting for.  Corporations never have and never will be our saviors.  At best, they are tools… for people to use to better humanity as the people see fit, for the people’s benefit.

I am encouraging all the people of these United States to join in the effort to abolish corporate personhood through direct democracy.  One national organization helping lead the way in abolishing corporate personhood is MovetoAmend.org.  Here is a snippet from their website:

“On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions.

We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule. We Move to Amend.”

Here’s the Move to Amend amendment they propose:

 Move to Amend 28th Amendment

Section 1 [A corporation is not a person and can be regulated]

The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.

Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.

The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

Section 2 [Money is not speech and can be regulated]

Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure.

Federal, State and local government shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed.

The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

Section 3

Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.

Let’s abolish corporate personhood and end of the reign of legal fictions over our political and social life in these great United States, great because of the strength of its people, and great because laws can serve people not people serving legal fictions.