Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rethink, Renew, Refocus

I want to challenge everyone who is reading this right now to watch this TEDx presentation sometime before we go back to work this upcoming week, or within this first week of the New Year. And if you're further interested/intrigued/infuriated, I'm going to highly, highly recommend watching the full documentary, Economics of Happiness. I'd like to discuss its points here and elsewhere. I'd love to share what I've seen here, and group up and imagine with others from a wide variety of viewpoints and backgrounds. And then, if you feel it is a worthy idea/concept, may you also share.

I guarantee that what Food, Inc., did to make us reconsider our relationship with our food and its production, this film will help us evaluate and re-imagine our relationship to our resources, our neighbors, the so-called emerging (maybe "submerging" would be a better word for it) and the multinational corporations who have effectively rigged the system to their profit.

Please watch. It may anger you, but it will most likely also inspire you.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Six Geese a-Laying

Phenomenally wealthy. This was NOT a common family.

Speaking of huevos, I've been planning on going vegetarian through January. I'm figuring that it'll be easier to ease into vegetarianism, and hence realistic and acheivable. Especially for this broke dairy-lover. It'll give me some practice to prepare to a Lent-period fast of the vegan (no animal or animal products - dairy, eggs, cheeses, yogurts, milk, um... ice cream, or anything else that might have come from a productive animal and that was deliberately taxing for them).

Hopefully, I can figure this thing out a bit over the next month and go, like most of the "developing" world, meatless for quite a while. Speaking of which, I'm thinking of doing a series during this fast on the deadly sins and corresponding virtues, starting with gluttony. If you want to participate in that, shoot me a response. Thanks!

Five Golden Rings

In my head, at least, I'm always read that to say, "diamond rings." And that of course brings me to Kanye's collab with Jay-Z and, unwittingly but fortunately, Lupe. It also reminds me of that pretty decent social commentary/White guilt movie, Conflict Diamonds.

These jewels shine, you see. And they cut with precision. And people die and are enslaved over their possession. And profits are used to buy weapons and futher enslave entire regions under war chiefs. But they're also as fragile as a leg lamp. All of which means that diamonds are extremely useful, as a metaphor for human and, particularly, rich people greed.

On the contrary, though, gold is quite utilitarian. For example, you can use it as a conduit for electricity. And... Look, it's shiny!

Golden rings

All of which makes the assertion that we need to return to a gold standard as silly, arcane, Euro-centric and obsolete as some medieval song about giving birds and trees out for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

There Are Better Ways

I'm working on this comprehensive and quite daunting (for me, at least) post on Ron Paul - on what I like about him and what overwhelmingly terrifies me about him. And then I run across this footage from this old video. Not old as in early-90's or 1980, when Paul's workers/self/whoever collaborated with racists and said some pretty awful stuff about blacks and teh gays even by anonymous Youtube commentator standards, but Tim-Russert-was-still-alive old.

It's about the Civil War and reparations. Not for the blacks who were tortured, raped, whipped, beaten, branded, cut open, savaged, utterly humiliated, who were treated like so much livestock. Who were forced to give birth to children only to have them ripped from them at or shortly after birth. Who were never extended decent civil or human rights that the US Constitution had guaranteed to every other person (read: male) within the confines of the United States of America. Who were not given validity of any sort in courts of law, not paid for their work or allowed a moment's rest, nor to have any freedom of their own.

No, not those folks...

  • RUSSERT: “I was intrigued by your comments about Abe Lincoln. ‘According to Paul, Abe Lincoln should never have gone to war; there were better ways of getting rid of slavery.’”

The idea that the Civil War was fought to release slaves is a Northern Myth. It sure made me feel better about myself as a young Yank, all smug that "my side" was the right side, fighting for valor and justice and human dignity and all that stuff. But, seriously, we're adults now, right? Don't Russert and Paul know that the intention of Lincoln, et. al, was not, originally, to free the slaves? Don't they also know that the war started after several Southern states broke off from the United States to form their own confederacy?

Lincoln's intention was not to free the slaves; It was to keep the Union together. Slaves were a pawn in that game, as far as Lincoln was concerned, and would be used as a moral cover for the economic reasons of the war machine.

I hasten to add, though, that slavery was a major reason for the war from the Southern side even as it's end was not the fundamental reason for the war from the Northern perspective. None of the powerful elite were abolitionists for any moral reasons. They may be labelled loosely as abolitionists in broader terms, as abolishng slavery would help manufacturers competing for wage control in the North and help the North retain popular control in national elections and in the House. Additionally, politically both the North and South were already inolved in bloody wars expanding their powers in the Republic as they stretched out westward.

Though the moral abolitionists began to hold sway with the populace towards the beginning of the strife (helping to elect Lincoln himself), the elite's only concern with slavery was economic. Free wages are so much more damaging to the capitalists than cheap labor.

  • PAUL: “Absolutely. Six hundred thousand Americans died in a senseless civil war. No, he shouldn’t have gone to war.

First, the war wasn't started by Lincoln. The Confederacy, borne to maintain slavery, oppression, and White Supremacy as both an economic engine and a way-of-life, fired first. (Those terrorists!)

To me, all war is senseless. I, as usual, agree with him on this principal. But were the outcomes senseless? No. If you're going to take the horribleness of war, than you should at least have some good come of it. Or, as Ta-Neisha Coles has been saying, we make a big deal about the 600,000 White "brothers" who were murdered, but we tend to stay silent about the several million brothers and sisters who lived in murder.

  • He did this just to enhance and get rid of the original intent of the republic. I mean, it was that iron fist…”

This, on the other hand, is the Southern Myth of the Civil War in action. It's familiar territory to anyone hanging around Republicans, Libertarians (especially of the Southern variety), and other assorted conservatives who've bought into the States' Rights rhetoric. But it's not true. That's another way to put the rights of Whites ahead of non-Whites. The most recent, majestically absurd and largess use of this has been in the anti-immigrant laws of Arizona and other Southern States. But we should really look back to the arguments used against "activist judges," "troubling Northerners," and "intervening Feds" surrounding the Civil Rights movement to see it in its full bloom. The truth is that the South started the Civil War in order to protect its way of life - slavery as an economic system, as a culture, as a means of control and dominance.

  • RUSSERT: “We’d still have slavery.”

Conjunctive history. We may or may not. But I can imagine we'd look a lot like the CSA. There were other ways of getting rid of slavery, for sure. But Paul's response to this is ludicrous and insensitive.

  • PAUL: “Oh, come on. Slavery was phased out in every other country of the world. And the way I’m advising that it should have been done is do like the British empire did. 

Slavery in Haiti was not "phased out." In fact, that was a bloody revolt. But then again, the French charged Haiti for their own independence - under which Haiti has been in heavy financial duress until this very day - because, you know, slaves are property and if you lose your property, then you should be compensated for it and all. But Rep. Paul wouldn't ever suggest such a thing, would he? Nah, that would be c-r-a-z-y. Like Newt Gingrich and Haley Barbour racist and crazy type stuff. And this is the sensible and principled man we've all been subject to praise after praise about, right?

  • You buy the slaves and release them.

 Oh ****! Hoooly...

  • How much would that cost compared to killing 600,000 Americans and where the hatred lingered for 100 years? 

But see, Paul's mistaken. He believes that the Southern slave "owners" would have given up their rights to free labor for a price? That they would have given up their entitlement to own laborers and human "beasts" for a measly price? Seriously? Britain did away with it because they found it of little practical value for their work. The slaves in Barbados, etc, were revolting anyway and that was scaring them. And actual members of Parliament were also revolting against the slave trade and then slave ownership. These effects weren't really happening in the US. There was too much at stake for the Southern plantation owner and his ownership of prime Black men, women, and children. They would not have given up that easily unless they were absolutely forced to.

And people like Ron Paul wouldn't force their fine hands in such a result. Wouldn't want to hurt the property owner, now, would we?

Four Calling Birds

Four Calling Birds
Get it?

Bought some brown rice and beans for next week. In the meantime, I'll be finishing the calling bird in my fridge. Until

I can say one thing. It's hard to be a vegetarian on the West Side of Chicago. I haven't seen a fruit market out here, and the closest supermarket, Dominick's, is prohibitively expensive. So I have to go back into the city to get some fruits and veggies or grains.

Which wouldn't be so bad. But it doesn't make me curious in the least why the local Church's Chicken becomes so popular on 35¢ Thigh Tuesdays. Nor why obesity and obesity-related health problems are such a way-of -life in these under served neighborhoods.

Of course, if we could all afford Whole Foods I guess this would be less of a problem. But other issues have to do with food education, additive addiction, and equity and access. Yet these problems are deeply rooted in traditions of racism and classism. Unless we deal with these issues, we can't expect the cost of health care (for instance) to go down.

Unless we complete ignore the problems of the poor and minorities directly in front of us.

But I can't imagine America doing that... Naw...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Two Turtledoves

I'm not sure what a turtledove is and looking it up would just kind of ruin the joke so I'm not going to do that. I imagine, though that it combines the essence of the dove with the essence of a turtle - meaning that it tastes great for crabs.

But I can't help but think of the iconic olive-branch weaving peace dove in some militaristic-looking camo and shield. Which I find to be astute these days.

"Wise as doves, shrewd as turtles."

Original piece. Unfortunately, the less-than-majestic top was cut off.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Speaking of birds, I'm thinking of forgoing meat for a forty-day period soon - maybe a couple of forty day periods, even. I say this because I'm at a quandry. I wish I were one of those people who could be convinced to never, ever eat meat. I understand that it's unethical to eat most meats - certainly the mass-produced meats that I can afford to eat with any sort of regularity. I understand that the mass consumption of so much meat is a burden on the planet in many ways (butane gas from so many cows needed for McD's, for example). There are many other reasons to go vegan/veggie, and I want to expound on them through these twelve days of Christmas.

Another reason this is such a battle for me is that I can't quite decide to do this fast during Lent with most of the Christian world, or to do it through January with my own church.

Evangelical churches, which is my tradition, are so anti-traditional that they mark their own traditions. And I kind of like that iconoclasm of these churches. But something in me misses aligning with the rest of the church. Being so individualistic really has its downsides, as it's a lemming-like individualism.

My own church has a pretty cool habit of fasting beginning at the start of the year. It's a way of sanctioning the year for Jesus. But my problem is I don't really celebrate New Years. Starting a new year at the top of winter just doesn't sit well with this Chicagoan. The ancient practice of beginning the year during spring (and Lent being a way to purge out the old year) just makes so much more sense to me.

Also, since we're thinking of pears and the ability to pick them from their trees, please remember the plight of the undocumented workers paid far below living wages and even minimum wages to do back-breaking work and then disrespected enough to be imprisoned and harassed for trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.

Happy first day of Christmas! Only eleven more to go.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hark! The Herald Angels Evangelize!

I've got a shameful confession: As a young adult, I once declared that Black Gospel music wasn't really about the Gospel because its aim wasn't to convert people to Christianity. It wasn't, in my estimation, saving souls from the clutches of hell.

Free Gospel Sundays

I was wrong. Black Gospel Music, far better than nearly any other type of music in the Contemporary Christian market or much anything else I've ever witnessed - and I would count evangelists in that - witnessed and proclaimed the gospel.

Allow me to clarify.

The term gospel means "good news", which any good Evangelical knows. We know that and we think that the good news being declared is the good news that Jesus paid for our individual sins with his death and, therefore, if we trust in him we are removed from the ultimate price of our sins and get to be with God when we die. This is alternately called salvation. The ultimate problem with this, from my perspective, is that we don't seem to understand what Jesus was attempting to save his followers from, let alone to.

Fortunately, understanding what the gospel entails can help to clarify and round that out a bit for us.

In the era of the Roman Empire, when Jesus was of age, the empire (which consisted of Palestine, where Jesus was born and spent the overwhelming majority of his life) centered around the one person of note: the emperor. Whenever an heir apparent was born or a new one rose to the throne, evangelists (messengers, from which we get the word "angels") were sent through the kingdom to spread the good news of the coming king.

In fact, they would say, "I bring you glad tidings of good news."

The birth anunciations of Jesus of Nazareth to the lowly shepherds were then a mocking of the Roman Empire with a different objective. Not only was this announcement about a new king, but about a new kingdom, a new way moving, new rules, new perspectives.

We can see what that new kingdom would look like throughout the gospel accounts of Jesus' life. "The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor." (Luke 7:22)

The most precise account of this new kingdom presided by this new king may be in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus assessed all of the current political/societal/religious views of the time and found them all severely lacking. He condemned the power-and-violence seeking of the Roman Empire, the violent reactionism of the zealots, the accommodations of the Herodites, the alleged purity of the Pharisees, the hiding and disconnection of the Essenes.

He offered something fresh, creative new, and utterly not-of-this-world. He offered healing and hope for the sick, the downtrodden, the forgotten, the poor, outcasts, the depressed, homeless, victimized, brutalized, oppressed. Slaves, women, children, gentiles - he welcomed them all with open arms and instructed his kingdom-mates to do the same.

So it makes sense that much of Black Gospel Music is about rejoicing in and pushing towards liberation rather than solemnly waiting for heaven (although many songs brilliantly did both). Because that's what "Gospel" means after all.

Blow your horn, Gabriel. Blow.

How to Reject Your Daughter's Date for Her and Then Take Her Out

Things I don't do that Pastor Mark Driscoll of Seattle's Mars Hill Church likes to do and tells men they need to do:

So, I was pretty excited when I found there was something I could have in common with this bro-in-Christ, right? I mean, in some way we gotta be connected. The opportunity arose, I thought, with the pop-Christian-cultural arrival of the #DaddyDaughterDate. You know, stuff that real men do with their real daughters (if they have one or more, as I do) all the time.

The idea of fathers separating and devoting special time for their children, let alone their daughters is something that I have long noticed was lacking, of course, especially in pastoral homes (there are several reasons for this. But it seems to be a fundamental problem of priorities and leadership in the way that churches run business. Too much involvement from too few...). Especially of the brand of Christianity that Driscoll more-or-less represents.

It's nothing new, of course. My four year old and I do it all the time. There's nothing that could be construed as misogynistic, paternalistic, or Freudalistically creepy in this right?

But then...

Adam Bishop
RT : Dear fathers, if your daughter is dating a loser, feel free to dump him for her and take her out yourself/ great advice.



Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Humiliation of Living Humbly

My new friend David Henson wrote a story about Jesus being born into a migrant family that is worth a good read and meditation. It's a bit of a pick-axe if you're like me and you've heard Linus' gospel story on repeat since birth but can't quite make a tangible or visceral connection to it every year. The original hearers of this particular "gospel" story, after all, were quite shocked by it.

A small distraction from this meditation occurred when David proposed that modern readers tend to think of Jesus' birth as being a humble affair, rather than the humiliation he believes it was.

For most of us, I think he's right. We like to imagine being born into wealth, or at the least to rise into wealth so that our children can be privileged. Chances are, if you're reading this, you have some amount of fortune, if not of the wealth variety, then at least enough to find yourself with a computer, internet access, and some amount of spare time. Rare commodities in most of the world. We may pity those without such access and leisure.

I don't need any research to convince anyone that we actually enjoy imagining the life of the glamorous, the fabulous, and the wealthy. Those are what most movies and television shows portray. The roots and bark of hip-hop culture comes from poverty but bloom wealth fantasies. We play the game of watching the thrones. We like to envision ourselves as masters of fate, as having dominion and persuasion, luxury and attractiveness. The greatest crimes are being ugly, or poor, or weak, or humble, or servile.

But Jesus took the opposite approach. A later book in the New Testament said that the Christian God "emptied himself." A result is that he was, "of no stately appearance."

By our standards, it's safe to say that he may have been ugly, but he surely wasn't a sexy, strong stud.

David is right in that we gloss over the full revolution that Jesus' birth signified. But if we suggest that a position is humiliating, we must recognize that it is only that for those who are unwilling to be in such a position.

Such a humble birth - one amongst the beasts and belonging to street-level commoners in a strange land - may be humiliating for the apotheosis and divine cult of the Caesars. These are men who (and let's consider that empires and autocratic states have not changed their essence within the last two thousand years) were conferred the proof of their godness upon the state of their "superior" birth and measured by the tools of their wealth, accumulation, access, and power. The Roman emperor becomes a god to continue the oppressive system and keep the power base faithful. As long as he is faithful to the good of power accumulation - and hence exploiting all those and all that which can be used for the good of the power accumulation - then the god of power is served.

The Hebrew god becomes a man to "confound the wise", "shame the powerful", and turn the world freakingly upside down.  For a god to become man, or man-like, would require that he or she becomes man, and therefore is in tune with what it means to be human, not just become human. And when that god comes in the form of the lowliest of people (which is to say, most of them), then that god can not look down with pity or disgust at the "lowly". That god - Jesus - identifies with the common man because he is the common man.

Christians have a horrible habit of hagiographing everything we respect even though our holy book does not. If Jesus didn't look like the star from The Passion, then he we typically see him as otherworldly. Jesus would have never been tempted to cheat on a math test because he knew all the answers. He would never have struggled with lust, because that's what sinners do. He wouldn't have cried when his friend died, because Jesus knew that his friend was with God... No, wait.

It is nearly impossible for us to imagine our dear Lord and Savior being actual flesh and blood. And often when we do, we middle class Americans like to figure him as one of our own.

But he wouldn't be. Not in the least.

To be sure, if Jesus were born this generation, it's likely that he'd have been born in a ravaged part of the world - say, occupied Palestine or just-"liberated" Iraq. North Korea. Or in the slums of Calcutta, Johannesburg, or Warsaw. Or any number of war-savaged post-colonies throughout Africa and the Americas and Asia.

But if he was born in the US empire - and David makes a good point that Israel/Palestine was in the furthest reaches of its time's super-empire - then it's likely he would have been born to a migrant family, or to homeless vagabonds, or WalMart associates, or to out-of-work coal miners.

His angels would have likely spread their message ("gospel") to AIDS patients, dope fiends, prostitutes, hospice guests. The birth could've happened in a back alley, in North Lawndale, the projects, the Appalachian back roads...

All of which may be terribly shocking for those of us who secretly or openly aspire to be wealthy and beautiful and powerful and who therefore expect that god also worships the wealthy, the beautiful, the powerful. But to the god who became one with humanity, then it only follows that that god is enchanted by the outcasts and misfits - which is to say, all of us.

It's Solstice, Charlie Brown!

Happy Sun-Loving Hump Day.

I have depression. Not the seasonal affective type. But the lack of sunshine doesn't help. So I look forward to waking up and even going to sleep while the sun is out. I look forward to the eventual warming up. I look forward to sunlight and heat and being able to see things again for all their radiant splendor.

Halfway there. Halfway there.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yes, I Is Angry, Bro - But I'm Not Envious

Variously, in my slacktivism endeavors, I'll be asked if I'm envious. Or bitter. Or hateful. Or angry.

The correct answer, of course, is: no, no, no, yes.

If you're not familiar with biblical language that I'm using here, allow me to elaborate.

There are various accounts of prophets in the Hebrew scriptures. Some were major, some minor, some poets.

And then there was Jonah. If you're like me, you remember Jonah as the guy who got swallowed by a whale (yes, he was pwnd).

All the prophets had words from God - messages of salvation, condemnation, warnings. The prophets had no choice but to speak the Hebrew God's words to the intended audience, whether doing so meant praise, death, or torture for the prophet, because God's words were "Shut up in my bones like fire."

They all had their messages and their particular model. Most of them were angry about injustice done to or by their people, the most famous case being Amos. As a result, most of the prophets were unpopular, viewed as grumpy, angry, crazed folk. No prophet was accepted in her or his casa, according to Jesus. Yet they felt no option but to deliver their messages, with their "tongues on fire."

Jonah was the exception. Jonah, an Israelite, was to send a message of deliverance and redemption to the Ninevites. Nineveh was the empire that ruled and subjugated Israel, and Jonah, being a proud Israelite, detested the captors.

When God told this prophet to love his enemies, he didn't turn the other cheek. He turned and fled.

So, a boat, a large storm, a straw match, an intentional man overboard, and three days in the belly of a fish later, Jonah finds himself back on the journey he despised in the first place.

Clarke's Block Fire, Keene New Hampshire

In the Message translation of the third chapter of the book:
Next, God spoke to Jonah a second time: "Up on your feet and on your way to the big city of Nineveh! Preach to them. They're in a bad way and I can't ignore it any longer." This time Jonah started off straight for Nineveh, obeying God's orders to the letter. 
Nineveh was a big city, very big—it took three days to walk across it. 
Jonah entered the city, went one day's walk and preached, "In forty days Nineveh will be smashed." 
The people of Nineveh listened, and trusted God. They proclaimed a citywide fast and dressed in burlap to show their repentance. Everyone did it—rich and poor, famous and obscure, leaders and followers... 
God saw what they had done, that they had turned away from their evil lives. He did change his mind about them. What he said he would do to them he didn't do.

One day on a three day journey. And then Jonah stops.

Jonah's heart just wasn't in this message. He didn't want reconciliation or mercy or love. He wanted what he considered to be justice. But God didn't destroy the Ninevites...

I'll post the entirety of the final passage. There are too many lessons here to ignore, and I'd like to leave it open for meditation on a few of them. But notice here Jonah's combo pack of hatred, bitterness, and envy.
Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, "God! I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That's why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love, and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness! "
God said, "What do you have to be angry about?
But Jonah just left. He went out of the city to the east and sat down in a sulk. He put together a makeshift shelter of leafy branches and sat there in the shade to see what would happen to the city
God arranged for a broad-leafed tree to spring up. It grew over Jonah to cool him off and get him out of his angry sulk. Jonah was pleased and enjoyed the shade. Life was looking up. 
But then God sent a worm. By dawn of the next day, the worm had bored into the shade tree and it withered away. The sun came up and God sent a hot, blistering wind from the east. The sun beat down on Jonah's head and he started to faint. He prayed to die: "I'm better off dead!
Then God said to Jonah, "What right do you have to get angry about this shade tree?"
Jonah said, "Plenty of right. It's made me angry enough to die!" 
God said, "What's this? How is it that you can change your feelings from pleasure to anger overnight about a mere shade tree that you did nothing to get? You neither planted nor watered it. It grew up one night and died the next night. So, why can't I likewise change what I feel about Nineveh from anger to pleasure, this big city of more than 120,000 childlike people who don't yet know right from wrong, to say nothing of all the innocent animals?"
Notice the line: What do you have to be angry about? The correct answer: Nothing. He should have rejoiced in the humility and salvation of the Ninevites.

Jonah had cultivated his anger over the injustice of the Ninevite empire and what they had done to his people into a growing and festering bitterness. And that bitterness had turned and collaborated with hatred of the personal - not philosophical - sort.

This is where the God and the messenger parted. God made it clear that he sought to give the Ninevites a chance to change their ways. Jonah in no way wanted that chance to occur, ran away, reluctantly and poorly and half-a33edly did his part, and then sat up a one-man theater, eager for the pyrotechnics. Wherein all the inhabitants of a major metropolis would be extinguished.

He was not looking forward to their salvation. But he was looking forward to their gruesome, fire-from-above death. He wanted God to conduct a War on Terror for his viewing pleasure.

And when that didn't transpire, Jonah sulked like a child who didn't receive his pony. This might've bothered God if God were a contemporary politician. Then maybe God would've decided to cave into the blood-lust demographic. But the Hebrew God was much more concerned about the lives of 120,000 uneducated folks then in appeasing the vengeance crowd.

Bloodthirsty Jonah was angry. Not because justice wasn't served. Jonah's idea of justice didn't equate with God's ideas of justice. Bloodthirsty Jonah was angry because mercy flowed like the mighty rivers.

And then Jonah got some reprieve from his subsiding hatred-and-bitterness anger. A vine gave him some nice shade from the brutal sun. And he enjoyed his material comforts and obviously felt entitled to them. Life was finally looking up for Ol' Jonah, huh?* He quite literally had it made in the shade.

Vines of the Romans

So when the vine wilted, he was triply angry. This anger, though, was filled by bitterness, hatred, and envy now.

Envy, despite what the mouthpieces of the elites try to convince us, is when one wants what others have - but doesn't need - solely for himself and is consumed by it. Jonah had it all, and he wanted an extra step of mercy - to the point where he was further angered by it. Envy however, ISN'T wanting for all to have equally. That would be JUSTICE.

The mouthpieces of the Triple Angry Crowd are awfully confused about what is right and what is evil here.

It is evil to be selfish. It is the work of evil that allows envy and greed and bitterness and wrath to consume us. And that is something that every person needs to be vigilant against (ftr, much of the American left is filled with righteous indignation that sometimes becomes bitterness).

So, yes, I'm angry. There are many other emotions that I tap into, but I can't help but look at the injustice in the world and be a bit troubled, a bit angry at the least. I try to watch, though, so I don't allow that anger to burn over and smother and incapacitate love. It's important to see humanity in every person, but there are going to be times when that's just a simplistic answer for a hurting people.

The trick, I think, is not to let righteous anger turn into a Jonah.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Language of Abuse

Hippies - Use Backdoor :-)

"Take a bath and get a job, you dirty, lazy hippies!"

This is the language of dehumanization. It's always language like this that is used to dehumanize and devalue other men, women and children for practical - often monetary - purposes.

It is this type of language that tries to remove popular sympathy away from those being exploited and away from those rebelling against the exploitation. Palestinians are a "made-up" people group (i.e., they're not real). Indigenous tribes are "savages." African descendants are "beasts." Poor Whites are "white trash." Murdered children during war are "collateral damage." Immigrants are "free loaders." The working poor are "lazy."

And those are some of the names I can say in print. To even repeat the more derogatory names is to revisit the abuse and violence beset upon the subjects of those names.

It is this type of language that allows powerful and rich men to completely prey on less powerful with the wanton consent and even approval of the majority of Westerners. Get the common people to believe that a sub-group of common people is less human than you or they are, and you can control them both. It's the act, the effect of the dehumanizing language that does this.

Language that imagines people groups as "monsters" turns the hearers themselves into monsters.
Plushes Cool Monster
Well, SOME monsters are pretty darned cute...

Abusive language is used to justify mass removals and genocides. To eradicate and largely exterminate American Indian tribes and wipe them from their lands. To bloodily subjugate entire races of people. To sell and divide families. To bomb children. To blame women for their own rape. To bully homosexual teens to suicide.

The abortion foes know this well, which is why they refer to the pre-born as "babies" and "people" and call themselves "pro-life". The rank-and-file believe this is true. And up until the late 1970's, it's arguable that they were correct that they were actually pro-life. But then they largely stopped caring for the after-born and advocated wars and the death penalty.

Because the leaders of the anti-abortion movement saw a way to mobilize the masses and make a quick buck: Demonize the opponents and tune into an American blood-lust for optimal performance.

The demonizing, dehumanizing and over-all blood lust has made it easier to ignore and ridicule the opponents of exploitation as well. Since they are removed from us, they become caricatures who only live to defile the public order. We see them as what they aren't, nor do we hear their stories nor care for their stories. For the same reasons we do not listen to the hurt of African Americans or Latinos in the United States, we do not hear the cries of the bullied gay youth in our schools, or the protests of the protesters. They are wasteful, lazy, stinky, bums who want what everybody else has and don't want to do anything but hang around and complain until someone gives it to them.

Of course this isn't the truth or anything resembling the truth. But the vocabulary and the power of words create a barrier, and we agree with that barrier when we refuse to break down that barrier. In doing so, we help to build up that barrier and the dehumanizing is complete. So when the agents of the elite forces come in to do their work, we commend them for keeping us safe from the vermin. Unaware or uncaring they physical and social harm going on all around us but hidden from sight by the opaque walls of dehumanization.

So maybe we need to make it personal. How much blood needs to be shed on the other side of the wall before we begin to tear it down? How much abusive language can we take and give before we all collectively say, "Enough with your power games!"?

Consider this story from a non-violent protester at Occupy LA:
For example, I watched as the LAPD destroyed a pop-up canopy tent that, until that moment, had been serving as Occupy LA’s First Aid and Wellness tent, in which volunteer health professionals gave free medical care to absolutely anyone who requested it. As it happens, my family had personally contributed that exact canopy tent to Occupy LA, at a cost of several hundred of my family’s dollars. As I watched, the LAPD sliced that canopy tent to shreds, broke the telescoping poles into pieces and scattered the detritus across the park. Note that these were the objects described in subsequent mainstream press reports as “30 tons of garbage” that was “abandoned” by Occupy LA: personal property forcibly stolen from us, destroyed in front of our eyes and then left for maintenance workers to dispose of while we were sent to prison.
When the LAPD finally began arresting those of us interlocked around the symbolic tent, we were all ordered by the LAPD to unlink from each other (in order to facilitate the arrests). Each seated, nonviolent protester beside me who refused to cooperate by unlinking his arms had the following done to him: an LAPD officer would forcibly extend the protestor’s legs, grab his left foot, twist it all the way around and then stomp his boot on the insole, pinning the protestor’s left foot to the pavement, twisted backwards. Then the LAPD officer would grab the protestor’s right foot and twist it all the way the other direction until the non-violent protestor, in incredible agony, would shriek in pain and unlink from his neighbor. It was horrible to watch, and apparently designed to terrorize the rest of us. At least I was sufficiently terrorized. I unlinked my arms voluntarily and informed the LAPD officers that I would go peacefully and cooperatively. I stood as instructed, and then I had my arms wrenched behind my back, and an officer hyperextended my wrists into my inner arms. It was super violent, it hurt really really bad, and he was doing it on purpose. When I involuntarily recoiled from the pain, the LAPD officer threw me face-first to the pavement. He had my hands behind my back, so I landed right on my face. The officer dropped with his knee on my back and ground my face into the pavement. It really, really hurt and my face started bleeding and I was very scared. I begged for mercy and I promised that I was honestly not resisting and would not resist.
You could (and may want to) read more here.

History, of course, is filled with millions and millions of stories like that. Where the authorities come in and violently hold down the oppressed or the protester after that man or woman or child has been thoroughly monster-ized and ridiculed. Because then, no one can hear them scream, right?

No one cares if the master is raping the slave because she isn't really human and therefore, it doesn't count, right? Or that Irish children are starving in the streets while dining aristocrats ignore them? After all, they're only Irish cubs... Or that two-thirds of the world live and toil in abject poverty, in shanties, with barely enough food to make it through the day, while a minute percentage of humanity hoards more money and resources than they know what to do with? Alas, the wealthy earned it...

The trick is then rising above it all, right? To call out evil for what it is without demonizing and dehumanizing those who are different from us. To re-humanize the villains and un-villainize the humans. To break down the barriers, brick-by-brick.

That would be recognizing the brother-and-sisterhood of humanity. That's a good way of using the pen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fools, Idiot, Neighbors, and Teachers

I had a couple friends publicly denounce me and take me to task for publicly saying some mean things about religious and political leaders like Chuck Colson, Newt Gingrich, and Donald Trump because they said some nasty lies about Black, Latino, and poor people. The argument was that I should not attack fellow believers, and that Jesus left clear instructions about calling "your brother 'Raca' ('you fool')." Which he did, in the famous Sermon on the Mount, shortly after the Beatitudes.

And I seriously had to question this and think about this and wonder if I was betraying myself. If I may have gone overboard to my own principles.

See, I do have principles. I don't always remember what they are. And I'm not always faithful to them. But generally speaking, I try to live by them - even if I don't remember why I'm living by them or what they are.

So, I needed to ask, "Is that it? Is that the final word on name-calling in the bible?" Because it didn't seem to be.

I learned early on in my Christian life that the bible effectively uses sarcasm and sometimes even insults to get its points across. You thought Jonah was just a story about a fish eating a dude? Consider the final chapter of the book. Remember that section where Elijah and his protege Elisha dared the Baalians to a fire-off? "Where are your gods? Do they have the runs?"


And then there's these passages in the New Testament, where Jesus, Paul, and James use some pretty tough language themselves.

Jesus: You two-faced double-timers. You cleaned up sarcophagi. You den of poisonous snakes. Woe to you!

Paul: I wish those Judaisers would finish up their own jobs on themselves and fully emasculate themselves.

Speaking of sarcasm, notice the dripping irony here, in 2 Corinthians chapter 11:

Don’t think that I am a fool to talk like this. But even if you do, listen to me, as you would to a foolish person, while I also boast a little. Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool. And since others boast about their human achievements, I will, too. After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools! You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face. I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that!
In these passages, Jesus and Paul are addressing religious and civil leaders that abuse those under their watch. In contrast, Jesus gives specific directions about leadership to his followers:

  • "Watch out for the impurity of the Pharisees,"  
  • "The leaders of the non-Jews lord their leadership over them. You are not to be like that. You are to serve, as the Son of Man has."

In fact, that seems to be the whole point of leadership with Jesus. Those who want to lead must do so by humble example. Not by boastful braggadocio. Not by harming others, or exposing others, or spreading malicious lies about others. But by sacrifice.

If they weren't willing to do that, but were willing to take on the title of "leader" (and in the process, hurt Jesus' sheep), they are open for scorn. And not a little bit either.

But what about the word, "fool." Does the threat of hellfire in Matthew chapter five only apply to that word? Is it magical? Can we get away with any sort of insult, as long as we don't call someone a "fool"?

No. Not at all.
James 2:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clohes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompani by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
As one can ascertain in the Corinthian passage, Paul was calling the other leaders fools for their
It seems obvious to me that there are several meanings for the word "fool" or for any such insult in the Bible. The most common understanding of the word "fool" (forgive my non-use of Greek or Hebrew here) in the bible is one who acts as if there were no God to be held accountable to. Which is one way of looking at the leaders in the Corinthian church that Paul was addressing, sarcastically, above.
The fool says in his heart, there is no god.
It seems clear that when Jesus said that we shouldn't call our fellow brothers or sisters fools, he meant we shouldn't take it our words, our interactions, our insults lightly, nor that we should take ourselves so highly that every little insult is a threat to our being.

Perhaps if we look at the model of Jesus, we see and recognize a pattern. Those who hurt the poor, those who profited from the abuse of others, those who bullied or kept themselves in a level above others were open for open criticism. The more common people who were not in leadership positions may be open for gentle rebuke, but from an actual state of humility, after the rebuker earned the trust, respect, and friendship of the rebuked. Far too often we critique or judge and say we're doing it out of love.

But we aren't.

We judge people we don't really know because they don't measure up to our standards. Rather than working through life and our struggles together, earning each others' trust.

However, when we are talking about leaders, or supposed leaders, we must consider a few other directives.

  • Let not many of you consider to be leaders.
  • The leaders of the pagans lord over them, but you are not to act as such.
  • Weep and wail, you rich people
  • Woe to you, pharisees.
  • To whom much is given, much is required.

Let's not forget the clearing of the temple that allowed the outcasts into the holy place.

In short, it's not okay to lash out and take personal offense at others for debatable subjects. That not the way of the humble. Christians are to freely give. That's going to be a lifetime lesson and challenge for me.

However, if we see a rich man stealing from the poor, or a religious leader abusing his flock or excluding others from worship, or a political leader trying to garner power by trampling on others, then not only is it okay for Christians to speak up strongly, it's a biblical mandate.

So, no, I won't apologize for calling Trump or Gingrich "Neanderthals." Christians should apologize to the world for following them...
posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Retiring these Chestnuts

"I get so tired of listening to the Black Eyed Peas. It's rock music for those who don't like rock, rap for those who don't like rap, and pop music for those who don't like music." 
- Robert California, The Office

Often, I feel the same way about Christmas music. Don't get me wrong. I love the festivities. I love much of the happiness. I love the sacred and profane songs that celebrate (or intimate) this time of the year. But there are so many songs that we hear pumped through the loudspeakers and car radios while going about our business (especially if our business consisted of going through retail businesses). So much of the songs and the interpretations of the songs (and the spoofs of those songs, or the novelty songs) are so bad, I just don't want to hear them again. They actually make Christmas a bit less joyous for me.

'Christmas Rush in Dublin' photo (c) 2004, Irish Typepad - license:

But I know that I'm not alone in this feeling. So I conducted in an informal survey via Facebook.  Of roughly eighty responses (most people voted for more than one song), these were the Top Tiring Songs of the Christmas Season:

  • Grandma Got Ran Over by a Reindeer (17 hits) 
  • Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk this Christmas
  • Rocking Around the Christmas Tree
  • I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus
  • Santa Baby
  • I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • Jingle Bell Rock
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
  • Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
  • Happy Holidays
  • Christmas Shoes (Edit. Overlooked this purportedly awful song)
  • Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire
  • 12 Pains of Christmas
  • The Little Christmas Stocking with the Hole in the Toe (1 hit)
  • Baby It's Cold Outside (ditto)

Now, let's follow that up with two questions.
First: What Christmas or holiday songs aggravate you? You just want to stuff them back into the closet of mediocrity or drown them in the pool of horrible dreams and forget about them. Let their names never be spoken of again.
Second: What Christmas or holiday season songs still send shivers down your spine - in a good way, that is? It could be a song or an album, or a particular version of a song.
An example for me, despite the obvious - Vince Guaraldi's theme music for the Charlie Brown Christmas special - I would have to say is Sufjan Steven's "O Come, O Come Emanuel."

Funny Money

Isn't all money "Funny Money"? Money has no intrinsic value. It's paper. With a face on it. You can't feed or clothe yourself with it. You can only enter into an agreement with others about its usage. And though we're made to feel that we control the agreement, we don't.

The worth of our money - such as it is - is determined by outside factors. We have an infinitely small control over such factors. We can haggle over our wages, but only a fraction of it. We can comparison shop to save ourselves a few loose dollars. But there is hardly any control over the cost or price of living for the majority of people in the world.

The value of money

Is it any wonder that those who make the most money in the world are those who help control and regulate the value of it?

We need more direct, more decentralized control of our economy. We need an economy that is directly linked to our needs, our values, our worth as human beings. We need an economy that is beneficial for our ecology. That works for more than just a fraction of a percentage point of the people in the world.

We need to regain control of our goods and services, rather than alllowing them to be set and manipulated by bankers and financiers.

We need an economy where people can agree on what their material, items, work, and worth is worth. Think of it as a truly democratic economy. Or, as a participatory economy. Of which parecon is one such model.

Please see other articles in the Local Sustainability topic for more introductory ideas along the same lines.

posted from Bloggeroid

Friday, December 09, 2011

Breakfast with Jesus - WoCIO,IYWI

Yet another in the series titled 

posted from Bloggeroid

I have to wonder if really only one member of the Christmas Sweater Party was in charge of this mission. If the others just kind of go along with her because she's a bit hard to go along with, or because she's such a strong character that they've confused that with leadership.

"Put on these ridiculous, loud sweaters and go on national TV to pretend Jesus cares about a statement going out of vogue? OK, if you say so, I guess."

Regardless, if Jesus were sipping some morning brew with you, what do you think the conversation would revolve around? What do you think would weigh heavily upon his heart?

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Portrait of Daughter as a Young Girl

Can I go back?

Lessons to Learn from Bubba Trump

Matt Lauer: [Newt Gingrich] made some controversial comments lately about the poor and jobs. I'll play them for you and get your reaction.

Gingrich on tape: "Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. so they literally have no habit of showing up on monday. they have no habit of staying all day. they have no habit of i do this and you give me cash unless it's illegal."

ML: Maureen Dowd in the Times on Sunday has he not heard of the working poor? The problem isn't that these kids aren't working, it's that they don't have time with their parents who often toil day and night at more than one job and earn next to nothing. Do you think Newt Gingrich mischaracterized what's happening?

Donald Trump: No, it may not be politically correct but it's the truth. one of the reasons he's surging is because he says it like it is. i like Maureen Dowd very much but in terms of what newt said, that's the way it is. he's looking at the inner city where Obama has done nothing, he has done nothing for the inner cities and he wants to do something to get them going.

ML: But the children in those inner city areas really have no role models who work?

DT: Well, I think you have a role model in president Obama. let Obama be the role model.

ML: In their own families, though?

DT: It hasn't turned out to be much of a role model. no, they don't have in many cases role models, matt, it's very sad. they do not have role models. so i know it's not a popular statement, but it happens to be true.
From an interview of Donald Trump by Matt Lauer on the Today Show.

In defending his fellow neanderthal, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump asserted and then repeated the extravagantly racist charge that there are no role models for "urban" kids. Now, exactly what he meant by that may be difficult to ascertain. Largely because Trump a) has always been about self-promotion and, b) is absurdly stupid.

There are many, many reasons why Trump and Gingrich are wrong here. And for most of those reasons, they will not garner the vote or respect of most mainstream Republicans, let alone moderates. In that sense, they and their words are irrelevant. In other ways, in the very fact that they are not active nor directly affecting poor and minority communities, and that they lie - they are ripped of power. And please feel free to rip into those in the comments section. But I wanted to focus on two larger lessons to be garnered here. Two ways in which the establishment and mainstream America disrespect poor, Latino, and especially African American people.

First, there is the myth of the monolith . One possible explanation for Trump's disgusting diatribe is that he may be referring to the lack of a singular, national leader. A Moses or MLK. Though I'm sure Trump and his associates would prefer such a leader to toe the line and keep the rabble and chattel in their place. Considered in this light, he is correct. Not right, but technically correct.

There is no ONE leader. There never was one leader. Sometimes, as in the early-mid sixties, there's a large consensus that one voice carries the weight for#. But even then, it's horribly condescending to assume that an entire people group consisting of tens of millions of people can possibly be on the same page - or worse, corralled like cattle.

Trump's not alone in this assertion, though. Even otherwise respectable media pundits - the mainstream news outlets - constantly assume that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton speak for all black Americans.

But nobody ever asks who all the white people follow.

And they shouldn't.

Because it's a ####ing ridiculous concept.

The second take-away from this too-close encounter of the stupid kind is that White folks have learned through generations of White Supremacist indoctrination (note: whether or not we're aware that we do this, and whether or not we're attempting to be malicious, we do tend to do this) to open our** mouths and judge entire people groups we know next-to-nothing about.

We do this time and again. And whether or not we say this stuff out-loud, the majority of White Americans have some pretty questionable and ignorant ideas about other race and ethnic groups.
Haitians? Yeah, why don't they have their sh+t together?
Blacks are always being pulled over because they keep doing illegal and/or questionable stuff.
Mexicans are rapists.
Muslims hate Americans and want to blow us up.

These are some of the more blatant lies that White Americans may believe about non-Whites. But then there's the more subtle, systematic lies. The ones where we ignore the fact that Black males are imprisoned roughly 18 times more for carrying small amounts of marijuana than white counterparts - even though marijuana usage is the same across the board. Or the almost innate and unconscious need we have to hold our possessions closer when we see a black male approaching. Or the gross segregation of Chicago and Detroit...

What Trump either doesn't know or won't admit is that he and his land baron brethren are largely responsible for the continued poverty of underrepresented minorities. So if he wants to start pointing fingers of blame, he can start with himself.

URBAN nature-another hole in the wall

Relatedly, poverty is violence. So when entire people groups are marginalized and explicitly denied access to jobs, adequate health care, political power, economic power - when the options seem to largely focus on using violence as a way of escaping the bludgeoning violence that is directed at them, then it seems obvious that a disproportionate amount of poor and disenfranchised youth will choose a method of violence•. Although it is not impossible to escape the jaws of violence when you are living and dealing and surrounded by violence, it takes extraordinary measures to not succumb. Those who live in despairing poverty and have yet to give up ARE leaders, ARE heroes, ARE worthy of commendation.

What Gingrich, Trump, and hosts of less-racist white folks may not realize is that the black and Latino communities have plenty of strong leaders. I'm privileged to know a few of them, some of whom were instrumental in my development. Men and women ion my life like Eddie, Myrna, Shirley, Tito, Phil, Amy, Juanita, Darnell, Gerald, Marque, Antoine, Felicia. Strong, beautiful parents and educators and youth workers and community leaders. People that I look up to because they are so good at what they do, and who they are. And they are fearless.

These courageous men and women don't need false accolades from the likes of Trump. But it would be nice if wealthier white folks would stop judging the rest of us based on their own false criteria.


*I include myself as a member of the White working class through my father and a member of a broader Latino identity through my maternal grandmother as well as my community background.

#Though any blanket study of history shows that not all black people agreed on even simple tactics at the same time. King and the non-violent method were widely derided amongst African Americans even at the height of their popularity both from the by-any-means-necessary militants and by a much more typical keep-your-head-down (the approach that even Herman Cain acknowledged he followed).

**See what I did there? Although I come from, acknowledge, and am deeply grateful for my working class and mixed family background, I also recognize my White privilege and proper college education. And, also, penis.

•This trajectory towards violence is not inescapable, of course, but the odds are stacked against it. But don't get confused, the cause is poverty, the effect is violence.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Trick About History Is Not Remembering It, But Re-writing It

I think Newt Gingrich may know history. And he hates it. He hates the fact that African Americans and poor Whites ever rose up and questioned the power structure that he represents.

And so he's trying to re-write it by the sheer fact of speaking. In his act of speech, he actively gives support to those who likewise feel animosity towards African Americans, even as they themselves are usually poor whites in slightly better shape than the African Americans they attack - but in far worse shape than Newt himself is in (no fat jokes, please).

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

The schema of the power base (the very base that conservatives support by their very essence, since to be a conservative is to keep the status quo as much as possible) is to keep the masses distracted. Much of that distraction comes from consumptive waste (hello, Christmas shoppers!), another portion from sports demagoguery, or from the cult of celebrity worship, from too much revelry, pop culture... We are distracted from our lack by our excess.

The largest distraction for who are actually interested in the political arena is the popularity contest of politics, of course. But the biggest distraction for those aware of their lack of political (and economical) capital is the tried and true game of Divide & Conquer.

Hence the relationship between the White Citizen's Council and the Ku Klux Klan. Between Newt Gingrich and uneducated voters who come to hear his coded tirades out. Chuck Colson and older Evangelicals trying to shut up their more social-justice-oriented Evangelicals - typically younger folks like most of you, myself, Rachel Held Evans, Kurt Willems, Fred Clark of Slacktivist... But also older, more established activists, believers, and groups that are both Evangelical and concerned about the 'least of these': Tony Campolo, Dr. John Perkins and the Christian Community Development Association, Rob Bell, as well as any Christian that dare have some connection with the Occupy movement.

To not attack dissidents subtly or boldly through getting fellow sufferers against them is a sure way for the power elite to relinquish power.

But let's reconsider the bond between the White Citizen's Council and the Ku Klux Klan. Although they both were prominent in the fight against the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties in the American south and both were fearful of the rise of black power and their lack of economic or political power therein, the constitution of each was distinct. Whereas the latter consisted of working class men, the WCC were the powerful elite: politicians and city elders, mayors and preachers, governors and leading businessmen. The Klan worked exclusively in intimidation and brute violence. The Council was a little more shrewd, however.

However, despite these tangible differences, the two groups worked in perfect symbiosis - each rubbing the back of the other. The WCC was able to say that they don't traffic in violence by comparing themselves to the obvious terrorism tactics of the KKK. Meanwhile, they spurred violence in their rhetoric given in public speeches (which were attended by Klan members). The Council was able to use the Klan as a moral guard (See? At least we're not like them!) while the KKK was able to use the WCC as a moral impetus. The Council sanctioned the violence that the KKK carried out, but then washed their hands of the bloody affairs (with a knowing *wink*), once the shootings or lynchings occurred.


Do you sense a pattern here? It's the pattern of the powerful. D&C and then re-write history.

When they take over property and goods and resources and any other means to self-preservation, they set themselves up as experts and gods. Then they tell those they've dis-empowered from that their real enemies are those people in even worse conditions. Then they watch, disengaged, as those struggling groups rip each other apart.

Of course, if the poor White and Black groups could work together, they'd be unstoppable and they could be secure in having enough food and land to secure what they need. But as long as the elite kept the poor whites and blacks fighting for scraps... well, people are hungry.

In my religious tradition - or at least for the last thirty years - that's meant that a Francis Schaeffer or a Chuck Colson or a Jerry Falwell or a James Dobson will tell the rest of us who or what our "real" enemy is.

And it's not poverty. Or violence. Or injustice. Or racism. Not in any sort of tangible way. Sure, they may allude to those matters, but they are not important. I suppose they believe that the poor will always be amongst us. But they are much more concerned about those pesky secularists, feminists, abortionists, gays, Muslims, atheists...

And though they'd NEVER {faint} approve of violence against Muslims or homosexuals, they lobby violently against them, doing actual damage of ostracizing, maligning, and humiliating those who are different. Non-Christians and non-straights are scorned and denied basic civil rights that others hold. Constantly held in contemptible suspicion, these crews are perpetually suspended in a secondary citizenship status specifically because conservative Christian leaders aim to maintain their power base of fear. And that's just their direct actions, - the specific lobbying and ignorant preaching against homosexuals, against Muslims and other non-Christians (secular, atheists, Buddhists, etc.), often against the poor, against those whom may threaten communism.

None of these tactics or topics, are advocated by Jesus, of course. But that doesn't keep them from being top priorities for the so-called Moral Majority. And if the leaders say those things are evil from their (bully) pulpits, what can the congregants do but to listen? And then to attack and hurt and bomb the mosques, or mock the little "butch" girl until she hangs herself.

This is the face of bullying. Bullying works most efficiently when it's a scare tactic of the powerful to maintain their own power and keep the rest of us occupied.

And so, (dialectic history lesson approaching!) a couple years ago, when Obama began in office and he was extremely popular, Newt Gingrich, of all people, figured that Republicans can attack Obama and, in so doing, may recover some prominence. He was right, politically speaking. By blocking and obstructing the Democratic Party, the Republican Party actually may have prolonged the recession (though that is debatable), slowed down any growth for many middle class and working-class families, and made Democrats look like spineless cowards. It worked in that sense, but it has done tremendous harm to the typical American family while income inequality has spread incrementally even more so.

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. And Newtron Gangly actually helped to make that possible.

So, what is his solution? Fire unionized janitors at schools and hire the students to clean up the schools. Because, he reasoned, inner city students (read: African American and Latino youth and children) are surrounded by inner city adults (read: African American and Latino adults) and therefore, have neither an innate desire to work for pay* nor any role models to teach them how to do an honest day's worth of legal labor. Never mind that this isn't true in the least (we will get to that in a separate blog), but the fact that he was scolded off the planet and IN FACT leads the Republican nomination now does not bode well for our country.

But it's okay, right? Because Gingrich's hands are clean. He's not going to actually go out and personally intimidate young children of working class, Black and Latino kids and refuse to acknowledge their humanity. Right? And his party would NEVER intentionally kick out large swaths of working middle-class African Americans, while simultaneously blaming them for every social evil in the planet - therefore setting the stage for a violent confrontation over non-existent means to survive. Because that would be evil. Right?

Wait. What??

So, yeah, N00t is trying to re-write history. And if we don't learn and share the lessons of history - of how the powerful elite claw and maintain their power through our shared sacrifices and in-fighting - then we will continue to lose out.

*Though they'll work for free? WTF??

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Muslim Brotherhood

Ok, the title is a bite of a mislead. I'm not talking about a religious CIA, Glenn Beck's secret caliphate, or men who give each other a high five after mutilating female genitalia. In fact, neither am I making an inter-religious pantheistic call to uniformity.

Rather, I just want to evoke the image of Dr. King's Brotherhood of Man language. For me, being raised in a fundamentalist Christian church, the BoM thought is nothing short of revolutionary - and somewhat heretical. I had normally reserved the title of brother/sister only to fellow Christians. Or, how I would define "Christians", which was an extremely narrow scope and excluded most of the Church. Martin Luther King, Jr. was referencing the fact that we are all connected and that when one is affected, we all are. Jesus called this being neighbors, and he himself extended this intricate connection to everybody - including both the Enemy and the Other. But seeing all the hubballoo that Christias make over the Other/Enemy, I'm not sure the revolutionary message has sunk in.

A recent example of this contradiction between what American Christians profess to believe and what they actually support can be termed the Terror Turkey episode.

This turkey is ready to attack!

When outraged and hysterical blogger Pam Geller mentioned that Butterball brand makes some turkeys halal-friendly, a small but vocal group of concerned anti-Muslim citizens became very, very alarmed. Watching it unfold was like a hysterical, sad, and daunting replay over the Cordoba House once again. Maybe it'd be progress for the American people to recognize just how awful the Islamaphobes are. Maybe it's progress that only a few people and outlets - the ironically-named American Thinker, worst person in the world Bryan Fischer - gave ANY credence to this story. Maybe it's progress that the Boycott Butterball Facebook page only had a few hundred fans, even though it was set-up by the main accuser, Gilly-Geller, herself.

But more likely, the story itself was just too outrageous and stupid to spread beyond the most virulent Muslimaphobes - the people who hate Muslims and Arabs so much that they've lost all sense of grounding in reality. You would think that was true of the story of the Cordoba House a bit over a year ago, though.

In case you' ve forgotten about the story of the Cordoba House initiative or, more likely, you recognize it according to the name that it got popularized by thanks to sensationalistic and garbage media outlets, here is a refresher:

The Cordoba Islamic community in Manhattan has been around for a hundred years. American Muslims, they were seeing that, unlike many other religious and ethnic groups in the city, there were no options for their kids to hang around and learn about their culture and religious background. They wanted to give them a community center, not unlike Christian-based ones in my neighborhood. A place to play sports and receive tutoring and just feel safe from the streets and unreceptive bullies and bigots. Additionally the comunity center would be open for all in order to spur religious/cultural dialog between members of the area. Additionally, the initiative was spurred by a Muslim who worked as a translator and aid for the CIA following the 9/11 attacks. This man was comended by none other than President Bush and even Glenn Beck.

But then the rabid Muslimophobes struck, starting with Gilly. They called the community center a Mosque (a house of worship that is somehow scary largely because it's a house of worship for Muslims. And all Muslims, we are told, hate Americans and most are terrorists. Amirite?? no, of course not) and the Muslimophobes called the center a 9/11 memorial, supposedly built on the land that Muslims conquered - even though it was several blocks from the actual site of the World Trade Center. Which, in Manhattan, constitutes as miles and miles away.*

And the rabid Muslimophobia went viral. Hate became the flavor du jour and buildings were burned and painted with the efficacy of bigotry. Meanwhile, the "good" Christians of the community washed their hands when they didn't blame the Muslims for provoking their own attacks.

The problem was hardly that a sensationalistic 24 hours news channel and its related blow-hards decided to focus on this. It's that any Americans, let alone Christian Americans, listened to them and gave them credence.

I'd like to think that we've evolved past that bigotry. That maybe the lack of approval for Pam's latest round of repressed kinkiness was due to the fact that most Americans don't know what a halal is. And that quite a few who bother to research it would find that it's largely indistinguishable from the kosher process.

But then there's the glowing, inescapable fact that churches in Michigan have tried to excuse themselves from anti-bullying laws in the state. On the grounds, of course, that it's okay to intimidate a non-straight if god says it's okay.

In other words, it is okay to not follow Jesus' primary commands when we can justify it on grounds that completely contradict the commandment of Jesus. It's okay to lie about, intimidate, harass, scare, and publicly humiliate Muslims and transvestites and pre-teen lesbians and Wiccan teens as long as we can pretend that we love them.

In Jesus' name!


It's all effing silly and doesn't make a lick of sense. But that's what hatred is. -