Monday, January 30, 2012

Greed and Charity (I)

How do we define the difference between greed and what we just described as envy? It strikes me as though they are different by degrees. One is the indelible mark of wanting what belongs to others and stealing it. The other may just be when it's become the consumption - not just a desire, but a life spent in living that way? Could that be a difference?

We've been so educated and conditioned to think that we deserve what we have (unless we have nearly none, then that is given to us by someone else's hard work and we are just maggots and leeches living off their hard-won bucks), and ironically, the more we have, the more we feel entitled to it. Perhaps greed is to envy what bitterness is to rage.

Consuming. Life-long. Disastrous. Life-defining.

We build entire rationalizations around our passions and entitlements. Especially when what we have belongs to another.

Like the institution of slavery.

Advertisement of slave sale: Leon County, Florida
Not just rationalizations. But infrastructures and superstructures of rationalizations. Theologians and pastors and scientists were employed to wipe the moral reprehensiveness of generational indentured servitude, brutality, and cultural genocide. And then when that system ended, it began all over again in various forms through Jim Crow laws and various political, spiritual, social, and economic factors that largely kept the Black man indentured to the White power structure in one way or another (I have had people argue that there was really no difference between pre- and post-Civil War for the majority of African Americans in the South. But that shows a lack of understanding of the full degredation of the slave institution at the height of its power). The white power structure, stinging with their greed and bruised egos, decided to redefine the Civil War as a tragic battle of states rights, and that White Supremacist tale continues to live on and grow strength.

And then there's a prominent Republican who bills himself as an anti-racist running around in front of giant Confederate flags and spewing nonsense about how the Civil War wasn't REALLY about slavery,

Ta-Nehisi Coates points out the ridiculousness of these statements. As we've noted before on this blog, anti-Civil War arguments tend to focus on the violence that could have been avoided upon whites, but ignore and/or trivialize the relational, familial, physical, sexual, psychological and spiritual violence that was daily and hourly forced upon black slaves.

[C]omparing figures obscures a larger reality--from the time slavery was introduced to Haiti to the time it left, there was violence. Slavery is violence and any survey of its history violence at its onset, violence at its height, and violence attending its end.

At the heart of this all is the idea that the slave-owners had every right to continue to own slaves until they were done with them. That they owned human beings and had every right to define when and how long and under what circumstances they would give up such rights to their "property."

This is greed in its fullest form. Most of us can now see plainly how evil and warped this form of all-consuming greed was. But it's much harder within the context. When the institutions around us - the literature, the sermons, the television shows, movies, educational system, think tanks,most op-eds, talking heads may say that greed isn't good, but support greed in most of its forms.

We are not allowed to even question our main economic engine for fear of being ostracized. But capitalism runs on greed. It runs on the idea that people are property. We can argue that workers and consumers enter into agreements with capitalist endeavors and are therefore not forced, but that's merely propagandist semantics when there are no viable alternatives for most people. If two thirds of the world have jobs that pay roughly $2 a day, how can we justify this as some sort of "freedom" of economic or social means?

To paraphrase Sartre, There is no exit.

To quote Admiral Akbar, It's a trap!

Yet if we were to look at many of the justifications used to keep the American/Confederate slavery system in place, we can see that Americans of all stripes are using very similar language to justify the global slave market and below-poverty-wage jobs in the US now. You may have used some of these assumptions before. I know I have.
Slavery was vital for the continuance of a superior Southern lifestyle which emphasized good manners and graciousness. Unlike the barbarians.
Slavery was the key to national prosperity—for both the North and the South; nearly 60 percent of U.S. exports of this era were cotton; the slavery advocates argued that if their economy were tampered with, the great industrial cities of the North would crumble; many Southerners viewed the North as a parasite, nourishing itself on slavery while at the same time criticizing it.
The coercion of slavery alone is adequate to form man to habits of labor. Without it, there can be no accumulation of property, no providence for the future, no tastes for comfort or elegancies, which are the characteristics and essentials of civilization.
Mudsill theory is a sociological theory which proposes that there must be, and always has been, a lower class for the upper classes to rest upon. The inference being a mudsill, the lowest threshold that supports the foundation for a building. The theory was first used by South Carolina Senator/Governor James Henry Hammond, a wealthy southern plantation owner, in a Senate speech on 4 March 1858, to justify what he saw as the willingness of the lower classes and the hegemony of non-whites to perform menial work which enabled the higher classes to move civilization forward.
"They [the North] have demanded, and now demand, equality between the white and negro races, under our Constitution; equality in representation, equality in the right of suffrage, equality in the honors and emoluments of office, equality in the social circle, equality in the rights of matrimony. . . . freedom to the slave, but eternal degradation to you and for us"
- William L. Harris, Mississippi's commissioner to Georgia, December 17, 1860

The economy needs it.

Some were born for such work.

They actually enjoy it.

If we allow them the same access we enjoy, we will lose and end up in slavery ourselves.

We do them favors by allowing them to work for us.

They are better off with it then they were without it.

We are teaching them the value of productivity so that they, too, may rise from poverty and into genteelness...

Do these sound familiar?

These are the psychological trappings of the great sin of greed. Forty-one thousand children are dying today from lack of food, and millions - even in the US - have barely enough to survive. Yet our economic system is built on prevailing assumptions that we need what we don't need or even desire. Therefore, what others don't have, what in turn forces them into selling children into prostitution, or crossing geo-political borders without permission, or lives of crime, even, is not our problem and therefore we are, according to our justifications, under no obligation to right those wrongs.

That is, unless we can name our greed for what it is: entitled selfishness and the unrighteous justification that allows us to continually steal from the mouths of starving babes.

The counter to this, of course, is charity. Not charity of individuals. But charity of society.

Not the charity as we currently frame the phrase - a few dimes thrown in support of a cause celebrè. But rather an over-reaching, fundamental power of investment and justice for those deprived of basic human needs and rights.

More on that later...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wrath and Patience

We struggle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.


This is where it gets personal for activists/slacktivists and others like me filled with, say, righteous indignation. It's right and good to be angry about certain things. But to be overcome by it is to lose grasp of the fact that we are in a long-range run.

The arc of history is long but it bends toward justice.

That means, for me, I must not grow weary in doing good. But I must not also stoop to the level of demonizing those I disagree with. And trust me, that's freaking easy. Someone accuses Black and Latinos pointing out institutional racism as being, itself, racist, and I'm ready to send them a verbal hell-storm.

But maybe being incredibly radical isn't about forcefulness of the mean as much as direction of the end. Maybe radicalness isn't so much about treating one group of persons as a protective class as it is about treating the (oftentimes ignorant, sometimes ignoble) oppressors as fully human persons and demonstrating that shared humanity in front of them.

I, for one, can learn much from the patience - and radicalness - of the Quaker John Woolman.

John Woolman believed slavery was unjust— that it was cruel for those in bondage and corrosive for the bondsman. So he wrote an essay explaining why (“Some considerations on the keeping of Negroes: Recommended to the professors of Christianity of every denomination”). And then, since he was sure that his condemnation of slavery was true, and that the truth of it was compelling, he set out to talk to those who disagreed.
One by one, meetinghouse by meetinghouse, home by home. He would speak to gatherings of Friends, or would arrive for dinner at the home of Quaker slaveowners, and he would talk to them about his “considerations” and concerns with this practice. After the meal, he would pay wages to those slaves who had attended him. And he would invite the slaveowners to liberate their slaves, paying them back wages for their years of service.
Crazy. But even crazier: This worked. Conversation, liberation, transformation. That was Woolman’s method and he continued it, unchanged, throughout his life.
Well, almost unchanged. He eventually switched to traveling on foot out of consideration that the stagecoaches he had been riding in were cruel to the horses.
If you live somewhere on the East Coast of the United States, anywhere in between New York City and Richmond, Va., then you’re probably not far from some old historic Friends Meeting House. John Woolman spoke there. He arrived there on foot and spoke about slavery until he had convinced the Friends who gathered there to condemn the practice and cease participating in it by emancipating their slaves and paying them for their service. And then he left on foot, heading for the next such meeting house or home to have that same conversation again, and again and again.
And that is how John Woolman changed the Friends, and how it came to be that the Friends would help to change America. 
That really happened. That is really how it happened.

A re-education. Others talk about violence being the only way out of slave conditions. Still others maintain (out of a belief that property rights trump all else) that the slave owners need to be paid for the loss of their "property." But I see that as a false equivalence. The best process is to demonstrate that there are better ways, while protecting the oppressed.

Homosexuals, bisexuals, transgendered, African-descendents, mixed-raced, Anglo, Latino, poor, rich, management, cops, protesters, the 99%, the 1%, indigenous, English Language Learners, gringos, straights, queers, agents, hip-hop heads, scholars, Africans, South-East Asians, long-distance drivers, manufacturers, union members, prostitutes, slave-wage earners,sweat shop workers, bureaucrats, Parisians, Kenyans, Afrikaans, day laborers, servers, activists, civil servants, farmers, pharmacists

Among this list are scattered oppressors and oppressees, with many carrying both titles. But all are human, even when they/we don't seem to be. The greatest danger, IMO, is forgetting that we, in our fight against the violence of oppression, do not pick up the tools of the oppressor and so become the oppressor - only changing the face of the game, but not the game itself. Compare Woolman's approach to Soviet Russia's.

Although sometimes the new masters are better and more benevolent than the old ones, it seems to me that history has taught us that we need a different approach, a different way of seeing reality than through our relation to our money and our leaders. These are abstract ways of viewing life and they serve the function of denying us the pleasure and reward of our own work, world, and relationships.

It is not righteous wrath that will deliver us out of the systems of oppression, but revolutionary patience.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Whitey Colonies on the Moon

Presidential hopeful Newt "Butterbean" Gingrich, if elected, promises, "by the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American."

He must be ironically referencing Gil-Scot Heron:

A rat done bit my sister Nell, with whitey on the moon
Her face and arm began to swell, and whitey's on the moon
I can't pay my doctor bills, but whitey's on the moon...

Newt Gingrich seems to pop up everywhere

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Envy and Kindness

We often interpret envy as when the poor person wants what the rich person has. It is usually a word used to further shame the poor. As if it is a great, moral sin to be poor and want some amount of comfort and/or leisure. Sometimes, however, that is the case. The Cash Cow, as sarcastic Christian entertainer Steve Taylor notes, bites everyone.

But the biblical use of envy isn't directed against poor people. It doesn't understand the Bill O'Reilly form of "class warfare." The bible, in fact, doesn't have a lot of nice things to say about the wealthy or about hoarding wealth.

Though few contemporary preachers would berate the rich, the earlier Church Fathers (before the Church got awfully cozy with the wealthy benefactors) were in tune with the Beatitudes, the Old Testament Law, with St. James' warnings against the rich and those who would cuddle up to them to the detriment of the poor.

Envy is the idea that the resources and people of the world belong to persons and can be owned and acquired for strictly personal use for the profit of those persons, when those resources belong to everybody. Envy happens when a corporation steals, bottles, and sells fresh water. Envy happens when stock owners demand higher profits for their dollars and so deprive workers of their livelihood only to hire other workers that can barely afford to live.

St. Basil:

The harshest form of covetousness is not even to give things perishable to those who need them. “But whom do I treat unjustly,” you say, “by keeping what is my own?” Tell me, what is your own? What did you bring into this life? From where did you receive it? It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theater, then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all-this is what the rich do. They first take possession of the common property, and then they keep it as their own because they were the first to take it. But if every man took only what sufficed for his own need, and left the rest to the needy, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.

Did you not fall naked from the womb? Will you not go back naked to the earth? Where is your present property from? If you think that it came to you by itself, you don’t believe in God, you don’t acknowledge the creator and you are not thankful to Him who gave it to you. But if you agree and confess that you have it from God, tell us the reason why He gave it to you.

Is God unjust, dividing unequally the goods of this life? Why are you rich, while the other is poor? Isn’t it, if for no other reason, so that you can gain a reward for your kindness and faithful stewardship, and for him to be honored with the great virtue of patience? But you, having gathered everything inside the empty bosom of avarice, do you think that you wrong no one, while you rob so many people?

Who is the greedy person? It’s him, who doesn’t content himself with what he has. And who the thief? He who steals what belongs to others. And you think that you are not greedy, and that you do not rob others? What had been granted to you so that you might care for others, you claim for yourself.

He who strips a man of his clothes is to be called a thief. Is not he who, when he is able, fails to clothe the naked, worthy of no other title? The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.

Shoe Chemistry
According to New Theological Movement, this is what the Church Fathers had to say:

  • St. Ambrose: “You are not making a gift of your possessions to poor persons. You are handing over to them what is theirs. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich.”

  • St. John Chrysostom: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”

  • St. Gregory the Great: “When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”

  • St. Ambrose: “It is the hungry man’s bread that you withhold, the naked man’s cloak that you store away, the money that you bury in the earth is the price of the poor man’s ransom and freedom.”

  • Thomas Aquinas: ‘One should not consider one’s material possessions as one’s own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.’

You shall give to him [your poor brother] freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, "You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land." Deut. 15:10-11

What the Deuteronomy passage here suggests is a communal effort, a state wide effort by the people of extraordinary kindness. This kind of kindness was carried out by the early church after the spiritual reawakening of the Pentecost experience (Acts 2 & 3) and carried through to anybody in need through the next couple centuries.

Now, millenia later, our churches enjoy unprecedented prestige, privilege and socioeconomic and political power and are exempt from taxes! I have to ask out of my deep and abiding love for the Church: Is the American/Western Church being kind or envious?

Are we like David and the Rich Young Ruler when we need to be like Nathan and Jesus?

I ask because if we are to have a voice of morality, and if the biblical witness is absolutely clear on this aspect, then should not the contemporary Church be at the front of this line? Why have we abandoned the terms of morality to the wolves?

Kindness is required. The kind of kindness that requires that every. Person. Is. Fed.

Reconsidering the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Very Awesome Virtues

One politician promises a return of manufacturing jobs and the primacy of the family -according to his definition of what "family" is. Another promises change we can believe in - but can't deliver. Another practically promises a repeal on child labor laws and guarantees that he can teach black families the virtue of hard work (apparently undaunted by the fact that the hard work of Black families built the wealth of this nation). Another promises to put his years of expertise at dodging taxes and profiting by firing people and raiding companies into good use as president. Another promises a Love Revolution that is awfully short on love but awfully risky for at-risk families (and the middle class).

These are our options, we're told. One of these men will lead us to The Promised Land.

I'm becoming more an more convinced that we do need a revolution, but that it cannot be centered around one person. It should never be centered on one person. We need a revolution of values, as Dr. King said. We need to see in each other infinite worth and value. We need to tuly assess what good we have to share and what assets we have to benefit from. A true revolution will start not by force or coercion or violence, but by the rising up of entire communities that are willing to unplug themselves from the Contemporary Empire System of Exploitation and see themselves as strong cooperatives.

This revolution cannot be forced. It cannot be charged. It must be commonly understood. It must be learned through re-education. Not forceful education. Not the same manipulative education that we have been subjected to under Madison Avenue, our political parties, the news cooperatives, Hollywood, Viacom, Universal, Old White Men. The type of education that forces us to be compliant and do our business in buying and participating in the CESE.

But an education that teaches us the connections and value of our selves, our neighbors, our work, our time, our intelligence and skills, our families, our energy, our earth, our resources, and the value and intricate worth of every other human and non human on the planet.

One way to look at these values is to reconsider the 7.

If you're like me, you know the Seven Deadly Sins from reading Shazam comic books. Or maybe you've seen the movie Se7en. They're not necessarily biblical, though they are part of the tradition of the Catholic Church, popularized through Dante's Divine Comedies.

We're probably, because of the emphasis of our Western Culture, mostly familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins:
Lust (Luxuria)
Greed (Avaritia) (pt. 2)

But each one of these has a contrasting Virtue:
Charity (pt. 1)

Sounds awfully didactic and Jack Kemp-ish, no? I'll try to make it less so over the next couple weeks. Be forwarned, I will take them out of order and not take a normal route with these.

No serial killing here. I promise.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hand-Maiden to the Fascists?

Chicago "L" Train

The Chicago Tribune reported about a multi-million dollar oopsie on Chicago's public transit system that is pulling needed and promised cars from the "L":

"This is not a public process that we are going to air in public," CTA spokeswoman Molly Sullivan said last week in response to repeated questions to repeated questions from the Tribune about the production setback.
The $1.14 billion CTA order for 706 Bombadier cars is taxpayer-funded.

Brilliant piece of editing, CT.

Now, maybe we can set those same journalistic instincts on the mayor's office when they decide to criminalize protests, or bash teachers and librarians. Or privatize schools. Or force teachers to work an extra two hours a day for less money than they were promised to make before the extra hours were tagged on. And then call them lazy and incompetent for refusing to take his crap. Or force libraries to close on Mondays because he can't "find" three million dollars - but he can find patrons to pony up $80 million to fund extra "police" protection during the WTO meetings.

And he can dispatch spokespeople to tell us why we don't need to know information about our transit system and the workings of our tax moneys, and he can hold press conferences to bully teachers and principals into accepting his moral obligations, and he can stock the local news with his staff to inform us why protesters are really evil professional anarchists bent on destroying our way of life for no other purpose than being evil...

And, for the most, our media watchdogs lap it up.

When I was watching the WMAQ news propaganda post with some spokesperson from his administration, nobody questioned the assertions that most of the aldermen trusted the wise and noble Emanuel - who, unlike the rest of these hicks, spent time in the Big City of Warshington and Knows How the Real World Operates (T) - to curtail our freedom and speech and assemblage for Our Own Good (C). The Sun-Times practically labeled him a hero on the front page of its Saturday paper ("Rahm Reinstitutes Mondays at the Libraries!") and waited until the last paragraph to give any word to the opposition. And story after story after story repeats the bold-faced lie that union teachers are lazy, that it's their fault that economically deprived schools continue to "fail" (by the chosen rubrics), and that privatized charter schools (mostly for-profit schools run with public money that can choose who can enroll and can kick poor-performing students out, which regular public schools can not do) are automatically better-performing than public schools - even though tests by their own rubrics show repeatedly that that's not true.

But finally, finally, we can point to one peace of evidence to say that the entire local media is not in the fascists' pockets.

We got a lot more to keep pushing for, though.

Let's Activate!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Take My Yoke

Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.
- Jesus (Matthew 11. New Living Translation)





A yoke is a wooden harness holding two oxen together so that they can complete the heavy manual labor they are assigned. It combines two independent beings to a cohesive unit to complete hard work.

The immediate context of these words - the way Jesus was using these phrases as understood by those in his audience - primarily suggests a yoke of a religious nature. A rabbi would have a multitude of certain, specific teachings and practices, and these together would constitute his "yoke." If a young boy (always a boy. Always a male) wanted to learn from the rabbi, he would be instructed to learn deeply all of the rabbis rules and instructions. And follow them. The young man would pull with the older and all the fellow disciples these burdensome tasks.

Boy and Ox Cart

We also understand yoke in a broader context. My load to carry. Expectations foisted upon us by social norms, by family, by employees. But mostly by ourselves.

This is how I'm supposed to be. This is what I'm supposed to do.

I'm supposed to save the world.
I'm supposed to be successful.
I'm supposed to hold on to this dream.
I'm supposed to be smarter than I am - or at least he is. I'm supposed to be strong.
I'm NOT supposed to cry.

As a result, we are weary. Overburdened. Crushed.

My burden is light.

Not because Jesus' teachings are easy. I can't think that healing the sick, comforting the afflicted, visiting the imprisoned, feeding the hungry, nor clothing the naked is easy. It's pretty demanding.

But do we need all the other stuff? All the rules, the regulations, the false expectations?

I am humble and gentle at heart.

God is a god of mercy. I've often heard this throughout my life. Often from people who were condemning others for not living up to their standards. So I don't want to press this. I don't want to burden you with the idea that if you just.
to Jesus,
everything would be all right.

Because that's not the truth.

The truth is, from my experience, Jesus doesn't care about our expectations for ourselves. He doesn't sweat our failures. He doesn't let us down when we let ourselves down.

Take my yoke...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Zinn Reader i

First in occasional series of direct quotes from the Howard Zinn Reader.

These quotes are all taken from the chapter entitled, "Abolitionists, Freedom Riders and the Tactics of Agitation"

At issue are a number of claims advanced by liberal-minded people who profess purposes similar to the radical reformers, but urge more moderate methods. To argue a case too heatedly, they point out, provokes the opponent to retaliation. To urge measures too extreme alienates possible allies. To ask for too much too soon results in getting nothing. To use vituperative language arouses emotions to a pitch which precludes rational consideration. To be dogmatic and inflexible prevents adjustment to rapidly changing situations. To set up a clash of extremes precipitates sharp conflict and violence...

To jump to the cry "extremism" at the first glimpse of the unfamiliar is like a boy with his little telescope peering onto the heavens and announcing that the star he dimly perceives at his edge of vision is the farthest object in the universe...

Anna Gardner
Anna Gardner (1816-1901) was a teacher, writer, secretary of the New England Anti-Slavery Society, worker for women's rights, universal suffrage, and temperance.
It is paradoxical that the historian, who is presumably blessed with historical perspective, should judge the radical from within the narrow moral base of the radical's period of activity, while the radical assesses his immediate society from the vantage point of some future, better era. If progress is desirable, and if escape from the bonds of the immediate is healthy, whose perspective is more accurate - that of the agitator, or that of the scolding historian?

James Russell Lowell wrote in 1849: "... the simple fact undoubtedly is that were the Abolitionists to go back to the position from which they started, they would find themselves less fanatical than a very respectable minority of the people. The public follows them step by step, occupying the positions they have successively fortified and quitted, and it is necessary that they should keep in advance in order that people may not be shocked by waking up and finding themselves Abolitionists."...

[Lloyd] Garrison was quite aware that most of the American population to which he was appealing was not sympathetic with his views, and he was completely conscious of how distant were his own fiery convictions from those of the average American. But he was persuaded... that only powerful surges of words and feeling could move white people from their complacency about the slave question. He said once in Philadelphia: "Sir, slavery will not be overthrown without excitement, a most tremendous excitement." He must lash with words, he felt, those Americans who had never felt the whip of a a slaveowner... "I have need to be all on fire, for I have mountains of ice about me to melt."...

The politician is annoyed and angry at the pushing of the radical reformer, and the moderate observer thinks the radical unfair and injudicious in making extreme demands of the man in office, but both critics fail to distinguish between the social role of the politician and that of the agitator. In general, this distinction is perceived more clearly by reformers than by office-holders. Wendell Phillips put it neatly: "The reformer is careless of numbers, disregards popularity, and deals on with ideas, conscience, and common sense... He neither expects nor is overanxious for immediate success. The politician dwells in an everlasting now... His office is not to instruct public opinion but to represent it."

James Russell Lowell expressed the idea in another way: "The Reformer must expect comparative isolation, and he must be strong enough to bear it. He cannot look for the sympathy and cooperation of populace majorities. Yet these are the tools of the politician... All true Reformers are incendiaries. But it is the hearts, brains, and souls of their fellow-men which they set on fire, and in so doing they perform the function appropriate d to them in the wise order of Providence."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Winter Wind World

Bruising, fighting, angry
Doesn't like my skin or maybe it's just damned indifferent

Lord knows I've played the victim oh so well
Lord knows I've laid the victim oh so many times
Singe singing times

Cofee's cold
Cup don't insulate
Against this battered plate
Ice flying like fragile dishes
Landing like shattered wishes

Open ears been boxed
to numbness
Reticent to touch
They will suffer in silence

Singe-singing times

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Evangelicals and Authoritarianism

Recently some very prominent Evangelicals endorsed presidential candidate and whorish monster Newt Gingrich. These particular leaders have made some tremendous blunders before, yet they are still seen as figureheads and representative of large swaths of not just older Evangelicals, but of a leading Baptist school as well.

The same Newt Gingrich who consistently spreads false rumors about the president, the same one full of inexhaustible arrogance, the same man who calls union workers and black families lazy, the same one who advocates child labor, the same one who cheated on two wives while they were terminally sick, the same one who pocketed millions from an "advisory role" with Fannie and Freddie, the same one who blames poor people for their own problems, the same man who says there are no positive role models in the barrios or hoods, the same man who likes to spout off ridiculous ideas like colonizing and mining the moon (does he think there's coal or oil there?) and proffers these ideas and obscure/irrelevant historical trivia as some sort of proof of his immense intelligence (and he has the nerve to question anybody else?).

This is who Evangelical institutions like Liberty University want to gather around? This is their Great White Hope?

I think I may know why. Mr. Newt speaks as if he has a lot of authority. He carries himself around as if he were a genius of sorts, a man with the ingenuitive know-how, moral compunction (now that he's a reformed Catholic) and expertise to rescue us from the Great Demon (whether that be Black Protestant Barack Obama or Mormon Mitt Romney).

'giant OBEY giant' photo (c) 2009, Joey - license:
Gingrich carries himself with authority. And he represents a particular brand of cultural politics that conservative Christians have recognized as their own as well. Not that that particular brand of politics is in any way actually biblical or Christ-like (it isn't), but it is authoritative to the core. And Evangelicals love authority.

Which helps to explain why "Pastor" Mark Driscoll is still so popular. After all, he's been known to act less than pastorly. This man likes to brag about how he yells at the men in his church. He asks Facebook friends to point out "anatomically male" worship leaders. Goes on interviews mocking the interviewee's wife for being a pastor. Equates masturbation with homosexuality. Constantly belittles homosexuals - and any person who doesn't live up to his confused standards of what it means to be a man or a woman. Tells story after story about how he sexes up his sexy wife (does the man know no shame?). Is fixated almost exclusively on sex, church "growth", and money - one thing Jesus was decidedly not concerned about and two that were done absolutely opposite during his ministry.

But he speaks with such authority. Not because he actually knows anything. In fact, like many Evangelical and Fundamentalist leaders, he is celebrated explicitly because he doesn't know better. His pride is that he only listens to his interpretation of God's Word. Which is a self-centered and individualized method of reading a holy text meant to be read and understood in community.

Evangelicals like to talk about community. But we tend to practice authoritarianism. Community is when a group of people collaborate in life and, in the process, identify truth and what it means to act out love. What we Evangelicals tend to do is take the words of a few, select (White, Euro-American-centric) men as to what truth is, and as to how we must operate. It's just so much easier to get our marching orders from on high. So much more reassuring, convenient, and safer, right?

The Nuremberg Answer, "I was only following orders," is a pretty neat escape clause.

I can't help but think that we see our leaders in this light because this is also how we view God. I find that a bit scary. As if God doesn't collaborate. As if God doesn't or can't change. As if God doesn't listen to our cries, our petitions, our prayers.

As if God is about the rules. As if man were made for the Sabbath. As if God's actions were those of a man unsure of himself, who needs constant affirmation and seeks it by belittling those who are different.

As if God were petty like us.

But rather, God invites us in. God walks with us and shares with us. God has and continues to break bread with us and weep with us when there is not enough bread. I can't help but think that God weeps for us when we allow these malcontents to rule over us ("like the pagans do," Jesus warned).

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Radicals

In South Lyon, we hold school on Martin Luther King Day so that we can academically and instructionally honor Dr. King and his work, as well as empower our students with his message and dream. We will take a school-wide approach that helps to demonstrate the importance of this remarkable man known as a heroic leader in the history of modern American liberalism and present him, as well as other events in the Civil Rights Movements, using a packet with various activities created by the social studies teachers.

A friend of mine posted this text from his local school bulletin on Monday. An explanation, from his local school board, not that they won't celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr's legacy, as they seem to emphasize here, but how they want to run the narrative of this day.

And I applaud them in one sense. Not for their honesty (they are _not_ honest about it), nor for their bravery, nor for their shrewdness. I applaud them because they sem to still understand what the state of Arizona understood in the late 80's, what Ron Paul and hosts of US law makers understood in the 70's and 80's.

What Stone Mountain understood in the sixties. What the FBI understood from the time he showed up on the scene.

That is: Martin Luther King was a radical whose ideas and message were and are dangerous to how America does business.

And I thank God for that.

He recognized that America is not the sweet land of liberty it had long promised it was - certainly not for all. He recognized that the United States was a nation at constant war with itself over its dual identities. On the one hand, we have the identity we purport to the world, that one that we love to think of ourselves as: The beaconing light upon a hill; The motherland and wellspring of democracy; the Land overflowing with milk, honey, and gold paved streets. In the other palm, squashed within the tight grip of the victors' histories, whitewashed Thanksgiving plays, scrubbed and sanitized media remembrances, are the ugly truths that the US has been and continues to be a nation built on genocide and slavery; that we've been more about competing powers than cooperating peoples.

King revolutionarily called us to cooperate by resisting against the powers. For that he was branded a radical, a Marxist, a Communist, an outsider, an agitator, a meddler. Some of those labels are misleading (Marxist), some blatantly false (outsider).

But that word "radical". Someone who tries to get to the root of the problem. It's always had some negative connotation, but particularly since the media and numbskull pundits have used it to identify terrorists (particularly of the Muslim variety... sigh), the word has lost its meaning.

A true radical desires a true revolution in values. A true radical is not satisfied with words or parliamentary procedures or minor changes that ultimately change back again. A true radical wants to see radical changes - even if she is realiatic enough to believe those radical changes will not come within her lifetime. (I have been to the mountaintop!) She says that slavery is not acceptable. Ever. For whatever reason. That genocide is a sin against humanity. That forced removal, criminalizing entire people groups, economic warfare, acts of militarisation on civilians, undering of natural resources, defending and apologizing for sexual assault, and other acts of rampant and brazen imperialism are plain unacceptable and not to be acquiesced.

The true radical is like a prophet: focused and unrelenting, her tongue is a fire set up in her bones that will. Not. Quit.

And she uses means to her ends. Usually, the means are secondary to the ends. They are thoughtful, usually. They are planned. Premeditated. Accomplishable. And, most of the time, nonviolent.

King took it a little further in the American conscience (not that he was alone or the first. He learned from the Quakers, for instance, as well as Gandhi and many others) to say that the means are inextricably linked to the ends.

And since King wanted to end the racist, classist, war-profiting hegemony to cease its hold on the rest of us, he should still be respected as a dangerous radical.

Not that that's the kind of lesson that South Lyon would teach its children. That would also be radical.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Democracy Means No Idols

I don't view the Occupy movement as a sustainable political movement. Partly because the organizers never saw it as that either. It's more of a long-term, several-site teach-in/demonstration/experiment.

And a darned good one too. This isn't meant to belittle the Occupy's. They serve many functions and bring awareness and an energy to social justice issues sorely lacking in the US and throughout the world. And, equally important, they help to envision what true democracy can look like.

Which is very different from what we consider to be democracy.

We tend to view democracy as the process of voting. Which is a part of democracy, but not the essence of it. Democracy is rule by the people. Though we are taught what we are participating in is democracy in the United States, we must be honest: it's oligarchy - rule by the few, the elites, the powerful. That is how it's been set up since the beginning of our nation. That is a root cause for the American Civil War: the right of slave states to count their "property" (slaves) as representative votes without extending to the slaves the right of those votes (thus, the slave "owners" will have the power of voting for as many slaves as they have without allowing them to self-determine. Quite brilliant, really. But also eerily familiar to current political practices [cf, Florida]).

We citizens have very little say in how our nation is run, but rather we pull a lever for a person that we believe will rule to our benefit. Every once in a while, however, we are infused with a dynamo, a leader that we are led to believe will or has lead us to new heights, a true leader that represents our best interests at heart. A benign sovereign. A messiah.

John F Kennedy. Bobby Kennedy. Theodore Roosevelt. Abraham Lincoln. Franklin Roosevelt. Thomas Jefferson. Bill Clinton. Ronald Reagan. Barack Obama. Ron Paul.

President Roosevelt op kameel /American President Roosevelt on a camel in the desert

These presidents and presidential contenders have endeared themselves to legions upon legions* of devout followers. They inspire. They have an aura around them to make us believe that they can fix what ails us... given the opportunity and enough power.

And so we give them that power.

And they always disappoint. Always.

fp030909-03 And so we turn our focus to our next leader, hoping for better things.

It's a game, really. Not to repeat the ridiculous charge that each politician is just like the other and that we might as well all vote for Animal from the Muppets (although that would make a great poster), but the focus of all of this is to siphon off and centralize our own power. That's the focus and scope of Republican and Democratic leadership since at least as long as they've been in power.

I believe we need to self-determine within the context of our communities and the surrounding context. And the route to that is not through more oligarchy. It is not through another Great Leader. It can not be through putting our eggs into such fragile baskets who always succumb to the ragged entrails of personal authority.

The problem isn't that we have the wrong people/person in authority. The problem is authoritarianism. The idea that we should and need to give all of our power into the hands of a person or group of people who can save us.

Rather, we must put our eggs into invest in each other. We must actively seek to empower ourselves to act in community, to listen to each other, to find out where and how we can collaborate and act together. It's in acting as neighborly, finding what we can all bring to the table, how we can help each other, how we can benefit and trade our goods and services in ways that are complementary to each other.

*Deliberate word choice, yes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ron Paul's Other Wars

Because I'm such a big-mouth anti-war person, I meet a lot of other people who are also anti-war. Some of them have a very identifiable Christian-based consciousness against all things empire-a-violence based. I count as good friends Kurt Willems, Ian EbrightPN,  and other Christians who are opposed to war because they believe that war opposes the person and practices of Jesus. I also meet others who are opposed to war on principled and practical grounds, some of whom have first hand experiences of the ravages of rampant militarism and wars, which I, gratefully, do not. They may or may not be against all forms of violence. They may be atheists or Muslims. They may be progressives or socialists or libertarians or anarchists. But they're important allies. So if I disagree with them on a certain point or two, it's water. If I don't need to get into an impractical rant, I'd rather not (well, not always).

Many of these latter - and some of the former - group allies, however, also belong to the Ron Paul camp. I can understand their fascination with the only current major political candidate that is against occupational wars as well as the only candidate who's even openly suggesting ceasing the costly, ineffectual, dangerous, and racist war on drugs. For these alone, I commend whole-heartedly Ron Paul and his supporters. However, these efforts do not stand on their own, and Paul acolytes fail to see the dark side of the gynecologist's views and faith. I propose that while Rep. Paul wants to end three very detrimental wars, he is advocating for several other detrimental wars.



  • War on Terror

Unlike most of the GOP field, Paul doesn't seem to be or even pretend to be disgusted or scared by Muslims or Arabs or any of the Scary Other. He has correctly pointed out that the terrorist attacks weren't as a result of some weird, non-sensical "hatred of our freedoms", but as a backlash against our intrusion into sacred and public spaces of those we have no business intruding. (I would add, however, that the attacks also were directed at our the greatest symbol of our financial institutions and we should consider the attacks a statement against the financial ruin that the multinational corporations are committing in the so-called developing world).

Ron Paul has made it clear that he desires to end our empirical invasions into sovereign nations, whether through financial "aid" (military hardware support) given to allies such as Israel and used to propagate ethnic cleansing or against the nations' own people, or through the presence of our standing armies intruding into their lands (although I'm not so sure what he feels about removing all Americans with large guns from the sovereign nations... but at least those from the US government) or through drones and deadly covert operations carried out from far away.

  • War on Liberties
Additionally, and in many ways as important, is his willingness to vote against the strikes on habeus corpus and the Bill of Rights that have disguised themselves under the newspeak of "Patriot Acts" and related bills. It's not that I don't want to get into any further business on this topic, but I think writers like Glenn Greenwald have this much more exhaustively covered than I do.

Outside of Ron, and (gulp!) his son Rand, there doesn't seem to be many dissenting voices left on capital hill against the big brother invasion and the police state that we are becoming. This is another reason to take him somewhat seriously.
  • War on Drugs
African-Americans and Latinos do not use drugs any more frequently or per capita than Whites and Asian Americans do. And yet they are arrested, charged, and imprisoned for the crime of possessing small amounts of marijuana at a ratio of up to eighteen times as much as their white counterparts. To be brief about it, this is what is properly deemed The New Jim Crow Laws, set in place to incarcerate and incapacitate large sections of the minority population in America that the dominant culture finds threatening.

This is not to mention the hampering and violence that the illicit drug trade has caused in so-called Narcostates like Northern Mexico now or much of Colombia previously. The WoD is an immense, racist, classist, losing battle pursued only for political purposes. It helps the Prison Industrial Complex by making these private companies that specialize in building immense structures of torture and detention look like they're providing a necessary and good public service for all communities by locking up such a large segment of the young population. The WoD is a way of controlling a seemingly subversive people group - and it effectively robs large segments of the African American and Latino communities from competing with Whites for better-paying jobs as well distancing them from their right to vote and the ability to hold political sway.

The War on Drugs is a win-win for the White power structure and, as such, a challenge against it from within Washington is a welcome change-of-pace.

However, having said that, let's look at the flip side. Ron Paul would be

Starting or continuing:

  • War on Government Protection
While his desire to end the Dept of Ed may be questionable (I'd rather overhaul it completely. As it is, it serves the Educational Industrial Complex. Not get rid of it, mind you. Fundamentally change it), it's not as dreadful* as his wanting to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency, for instance.

Paul and other Free Markies trust that the free market would force businesses to self-regulate. However, Free Marketstry is a bad religion; it's blind faith having absolutely no connection with reality or history or logic. Business, by its very nature, is concerned primarily with the bottom-line and needs checks against it to have a sort of conscience. Consumers, fittingly, consume what they consider to be the biggest bang for their buck - especially when they have little bucks with which to bang. Which is why Wal-Mart, with its horrible employment practices and crappy clothes, is pulling in much more money than much more ethical companies. I'd name some, but since every other major company is following their model, there really aren't many to highlight anymore.

Negro going in colored entrance of movie house on Saturday afternoon, Belzoni, Mississippi Delta, Mississippi (LOC)
Boycotting a product not meeting up to moral or ethical standards doesn't work on its own. Especially if those with the most to lose are those with the least amount of consumer, purchasing power. Ending the EPA would effectively and quite literally kill the most vulnerable people (the poor, which are disproportionately people of color), as they are those most in need of protection from topical erosion, poisoned water and earth, lead paint, mercury, toxins, heavy air pollutants, etc. And this is but one example.

Another example? How about his continual and bizarre criticisms of the Civil Rights Act? The nicest that can be said about that is that at least he's honest that he's still against the bill. In a HuffPo article,

Paul explained that while he supports the fact that the legislation repealed the notorious Jim Crow laws, which forced racial segregation, he believes it is the government, not the people, that causes racial tensions by passing overreaching laws that institutionalize slavery and segregation.

It's a core Paleo-Conservative argument. It's always some smooth variant of this: "Racism is caused by those N####-lovers and the fact that they're always trying to shove the Black Man's equalness down our throats. If they would stop trying to be equal, we wouldn't have no racism!"

Or how about Paul's continued suggestions that women frustrated by sexual harassment in the workplace should leave the work force because they're not suited to the environment? In one of his books, he makes it clear that it is not the government's job to get involved in such affairs. Paul also said, on the air fairly recently, that harassed women should not bring the courts in when feeling sexually abused because of "some joke."

I don't know what Paul envisions government's role to be, but it would not include protection.

  • War on Financial Stability of Ethnic Minorities and Women

While it may be true that African-Americans traffic in drug peddling more frequently per capita than their white counterparts, that is largely due to it being a means of economic survival to some within a people group systemically marginalized economically and politically. Underground economies are necessary when communities are largely restricted from the over-ground economy - which is not to say that the Black Economy is centered on illicit drugs or illicit trading, nor that most blacks are not working at over ground economic jobs (though often that work needs to be supplemented by hairdressing or child care work, for example). And while Rep. Paul is right to point that out the error of the War on Drugs, he doesn't seem in the least concerned in the reasons why Black and Brown folks are disproportionately identified with illicit trafficking. Paul focuses on few of the symptoms of White Supremacy without acknowledging the root causes or even the bark of racism.

It's as if, when we get rid of illegal drug trafficking and decriminalize drugs, then Black men will no longer be disproportionately imprisoned and they will be welcomed into their choice of living wage jobs. (Oh, and the streets in their segregated neighborhoods will be sparkling with gold cakes!) But since Paul wants to additionally take down some of the few equalizers out there - including the Department of Education - and since he seems interested in curtailing the Justice Department so that it doesn't get involved in the discriminatory affairs of the workplace, it is excruciatingly obvious that he thinks very little of the economic survival of those most** exploited in this country's racist history. Rather, he is only FURTHER exploiting them.

Or, as I read on one tweet, "'I'm against the War on Drugs' is the new 'I have lots of Black friends!'"

But it's not like poor White people are going to get much of a break either. Since he favors unrestricted business, don't expect to make a living wage at your service job (if you have enough luck to actually get and maintain a job in the US). And if you're not making enough to get by, don't expect any monetary assistance from the government.

Or, really, any sort of assistance...

Also, since the roads are being privatized, you're gonna have to start paying for the privilege of traveling, too.

Good luck trying to maintain those middle class buffer jobs...

  • War on Identity of non-White Cultures

Paul's solution to racism? That each person would be treated as an individual (read: White person. Of the Caucasian genre). It's more of the same "color-blind" approach that liberals, moderates, and conservatives (of the non-paleo variety) have been pushing for the last sixty years and that only exacerbates racial conflict. The color-blind theory says, "If we tell people to stop bringing up race and refer to ourselves as only belonging to ourselves - with no anchoring in history or culture or family or traditions - then everything will be good."

People need anchoring. We may like to believe that we are independent free-spirits, but no person exists within a vacuum. If there is no tie to our roots as people, we drift to the dominant culture and whatever they tell us they want us to be.

Worker bees.
Toy Soldiers.
Company Property.

That's ignorance, and Paul's blatant about it. Yet he continues to call himself an "anti-racist." I have heard that same foolish language from people who defend caricatures of blacks characters (or should I say, they defend their right to usurp what they figure to be linguistic characteristics of Black speech and thought for comedic levity) and from the fine Freepers at Free Republic. And assorted other White Supremacists.

The color-blind apologists are missing some major points, though. 1) We are people. And people are grounded in history and culture. I am proud of my Irish and Puerto Rican heritage. These are strong people who've faced much oppression and fought and continue to fight against the dominion of empire rule. That's just but one example. 2) To try and erase our racial/cultural/ethnic histories and identities and start with any sort of clean slate (which is the premise of color-blindness) is to rob people of their identity, leaving them only with the moorings that corporate society sells them (pop culture, for instance). Of course, this is ALREADY happening. It's just that Ron Paul's wants to ramp up that procedure - whether or not he admits it or believes it.

Paul's concern with racism isn't as a sociological factor and an institutional means of subjugating so much as it can be a political tool. On the one hand, he can claim to be against racism by being against the War on Drugs and even the War on Terrorism. But on the other hand, he sends clear signals that he is also against the "racism" of Affirmative Action and other so-called preferential treatments of people of color. It's the same old dog-whistle used by White Supremacy without acknowledging the root causes of racism or why we need such anti-racist actions (flawed though they may be) as Affirmative Action.

  • War on Democracy

Democracy is much more than the concept of voting for one of two or more choices. It means that all are treated as equal and each has equal access. Paul's brand of libertarianism proposes that all rights are inherently property-based. The rights over the self begin with the acknowledgement that we are our own property and then it extends from there to whatever else we may own. Which is nice if one has plenty of property.

Actually, I don't see how his philosophy is any different than the corporatists out there now, except that his political practice is genuinely Corporatist. Where other Tea Party pols and candidates give lip service to reducing government's involvement in the affairs of private business, RPizzle is the real gold-danged deal. His entire platform is to centered on the idea of getting that old intrusive government out of the way of the Free Market hand. The Free Market, if you are not aware, is an entire religion into itself with its own priests, gods, hierarchies, sacraments, demons, theological framework, sacrifices (usually of the human variety, but en masse, like little seen in religion since the Crusades and the Reformation Wars), and mystical whimsical powers. The Hand of the Providential Free Market knows all, guides all, "frees" all.

Which is to say that the way in which businesses and financial institutions operate, when unhindered by the restrictions of governmental interference, will institute a New Morality. Wrongs will be righted. Unless they're re-enforced, that is, and institutionalized. Corporations will have unlimited power and people will have little access and little say - unless they are wealthy enough to be a majority stock-holder. That is anti-democratic. Ron Paul and the rest of the current GOP crop) are advocating for an America ruled by the few, for the benefit of the few.

  • War on the Public Welfare

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States

Gutting and phasing out of Social Security, unemployment benefits, Medicaid, financial aid, food stamps...

For someone who expressly runs on the idea that he [alone!] can guarantee the salvation of the Constitution of the United States of America, he sure likes to play loose with some of the actual Constitution. I know there's some debate about the actual "general Welfare" clause, but I can guarantee it means that roads should not be privatized.

In fact, Paul went on Fox News to debate with Chris Wallace, of all people, that Medicare is unconstitutional and that only EXTREME liberals/Democrats argue otherwise, disregarding the fact that even Justice Scaliani disagrees.

  • War on Immigrants and Any Openness to the Rest of the World
IMPERATOR - Immigrants & luggage (LOC)
Ron Paul sees immigrants as a burden on the US, rather than as, say, people and families that actually benefit America. As such, he is strongly against both a "welfare state" and against easy access to citizenship, both of which he sees as drawing in immigrants (you know, like bugs...).

Paul has stated that he wants to complete an impenetrable border fence around the US. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be around the whole of the US, or just around the Mexican-y parts of it. He also wants to send all undocumented immigrants out of the country (nice cost-saving procedure. Oh, wait. It isn't).  Additionally, he wants to change the fourteenth amendment so that anyone born in the States to non-citizens is not a citizen by birth. He also wants to bring our troops home so that they can guard our borders.

Some of my Paul-ine friends are against these desires, as it betrays their loyalty to both human dignity and the anarchy part of anarcho-capitalism. But it's really just a part of his grander scheme of not just non-interventionism, but complete withdraw of the US government from responsibility to the rest of the world.

He not only doesn't want to support the Zionist genocide against Palestinians that costs the US millions of dollars a year (and the reasons for his lack of love for that don't seem very clear. he has been accused of virulent antisemitism), he also doesn't want to have ANY relationship to international bodies of accountability.

Except for international conglomerates. They are free to roam about - and rape and steal from - the world unhindered. Not their money, so much. But their business...

  • War on Non-White, Non-Hetero Personhood

Now, I'm not going to say that Ron Paul is himself a racist. I don't think he is, at least not in the classic sense. But he doesn't seem to understand the ravaging effects that his policies (save the WoD, which he overemphasizes) would have on people of color or anyone wishing to marry in a non-traditional (read: heterosexual) manner. He's no worse in many ways than his Republican counterparts (especially that douchebag Newt Gingrich) who openly revile Blacks, Muslims, the GLBTQ community, Latinos, women, liberals, the poor, non-Christians, anti-capitalists, etc, etc. But even they aren't affiliated with neo-Nazi and aggressively White Supremacist groups. Even they, as far as I know, have never had letters addressed in their name that they published.

The white supremacists, survivalists and anti-Zionists who have rallied behind his candidacy have not exactly been warmly welcomed. “I wouldn’t be happy with that,” Mr. Paul said in an interview Friday when asked about getting help from volunteers with anti-Jewish or antiblack views.
But he did not disavow their support. “If they want to endorse me, they’re endorsing what I do or say — it has nothing to do with endorsing what they say,” said Mr. Paul...

What Paul fails to acknowledge here is that the White Supremacists are endorsing him because his policies are very identical to what they desire.

Although he could make a distinguishable, unilateral break from them and their philosophies and what they stand for, he doesn't. There has never been any ownership of his part in or apology for those newsletters, which were a part of building up his base and raising money for his ventures while he was taking a break from the House.

But he and his proponents constantly point to his stance on the War on Drugs as if that somehow excuses his racist ties and policy. As some friends have pointed out, it's disrespectful and disingenuous to associate people of color solely with drugs and criminality. The majority of African Americans do not do drugs, the majority of them are not nor have been imprisoned. Legalizing drugs also does not mean that African Americans and Latinos will automatically be given proper treatment before the law. It does not guarantee fair treatment before judges, juries, lawyers, witnesses. It does not mean that the color of their skin and their dialect will not automatically impugn a false and damning sense of guilt upon them before White people.

Some pro-Paul bloggers have even gone so far as to dig up old photos from his medicine-practicing days to show that he's not a racist. "Notice his body language," they demand us. "He obviously feels comfortable around black people."

Ok. You know who says stuff like this? Racists trying to prove they're not racist.

For White people who are not clear on the comcept: It is demeaning for human beings to be treated like trophies and show pieces and trotted around as if they are domesticated pets. And that's how Ron Paul's fans are treating Africa Americans in relation to Paul's racist policies. Humiliating and belittling entire people groups is NOT conducive to demonstrating that one is NOT racist against those same groups.

The sooner Paul and his fans realize this, the more respect they will be given. Unfortunately, it may be too late for Paul's career.

I propose we find another anti-war candidate to get across anti-war ideas. Preferably, one who is not trying to start several other wars...

PN: I apologize for the incorrect spelling of my dear friend's last name, but Ebrite just sounds so much more nostalgic and, ergo, awesome!
*In my estimation, maybe I'm missing something. Oh yes, federal aid for college students. I haven't heard of is plan for that, but I assume it has something to do with block grants and the "artificial inflation of university tuition." The bottom line is that that may be defensible.)
**I haven't heard him refer to American Indians, but I'm sure he has some explaining to do when referring to property rights in this country...

Related links:

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Ten Lords-a-Leaping

I come from a part of the city where the title "Lord" usually doesn't refer to a so-called genteel master (How many slumlords can be considered genteel anyway?). Although the title carries some weight and respect inside the churches and out in the streets of Chicago's West Side, they very much mean very different things.

It is with this definition that the image that just popped into my head upon thinking of this lyric was both active and hilarious. Ten Vice Lords or Spanish Lords jumping out of their skulls. There are things that scare even the most hardened criminals.

But that's also a bit frightening. I hear, in the thick of the beginning of winter, tale after tale of brutal violence committed within my wonderful city. A girl gang raped outside a local rock theatre blocks from my house. A string of robberies right off the train stop of my temp location. An off-duty cop shot dead outside the store he was working at over a few dollars - just a mile and a half straight north of there.

A half dozen cops mercilessly beating a robber suspect (and the city trying to keep it quiet). This is the world we live in, to quote Genesis. And i don't want this world for my daughter.

Yet the Lords, the gang-rapers, the muggers, the cops are but symptoms of the problem. Our world is soaked in violence because we allow it to be. Because we can't imagine a cooperative world - and when we try we're called foolish. Violence has made itself our Lord.

Are we merely its subjects?

Monday, January 02, 2012

Nine Ladies Dancing

I love dancing
Dancing ladies

I wish I had rhythm.
Dancing in the waves

It has a certain healing energy for me that little else matches.
Dancing lady in red

Even images of dancing have a certain evocative effect.
Lady in Red

My daughter is taking dance now. I admit to feeling more excited about that than about her taking piano. But maybe because she's more ready for the discipline.
Ballerinas dancing at the Red Cross Fund, Brisbane, 1942

Did I mention the evocative effects of dance? Released endorphins and all...
Lee Celledoni dancing the Jitterbug, 1947

Hey, did I mention the evocative effects of dance?

So that's eleven. So sue...

Eight Maids a-Milking

A job apparently suited for unmarried women?

I'm gonna miss milk in March (I didn't man to alliterate). I know I can do soy and other substitutes, but I doubt I can afford it so much, and it's not quite the same. Especially for a coffee drinker like myself.

And, I just thought of this while writing this, but, my birthday is in March. I mean, no ice cream (although I'd be OK with some Trader Joe's Soy Cream) and I don't even know what to do about cake - though I prefer pie anyway.

Sunday, January 01, 2012


Seven is commonly understood to be the number of completion, at least in Christian mythos. Fitting, as this day is the beginning of the New Year. Which, come to think of it, is why the arbitrary choosing of the New Year is a week after the for-whatever-reason choosing of December 25th for Jesus' birthday.

Or maybe it's the other way around. Maybe since they needed to Christianize Winter Solstice celebrations, they decided to make the Christ Mass then. But since January 1st is a fixed date, that would be the beginning of the new year. Rather than Christmas being ten days before the new year (on solstice), it would be seven days. Thus the 25th.

Obviously I'm stretching. But I really haven't heard any theories to explain these rather random placements of these holy dates that quite satisfies me.

However, I'm starting to think the choice was a good one. Winter Solstice is an acknowledgment (well, in the Northern Hemisphere) that the sun is coming back, that the days are getting longer, that hope is alive, that things WILL get better. The Christ Masses made a point to emphasize that Jesus' birth signified light coming into the world, a new dawn has appeared, a new hope is on the horizon.

And isn't that what New Years is really all about, Charlie Brown? A time to collectively mourn, reassess, and reconsider and all that last year had for us and regroup and generate new hopes for the next year?

I pray that we can garner new hope as this new year begins and work towards meaningful and lasting and maybe even substantial happenings in our lives.

Here's to you!