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Sunday, February 17, 2019

IN FAVOR OF STRIVING WITH GOD

For some time, these thoughts have been taking shape, helped by this memory, this quotation, this idea and that notion.
Within the bounds of those who are, or claim to be, 'spiritual' people there's a division which cuts across traditional religious lines. On one side are those for whom, like myself, faith is a process which works through doubt and is thereby deepened and strengthened. This is sometimes a quiet, but always a robust, faith as measured by these criteria: such a robust, living faith welcomes questions, can answer criticisms cogently, gives mockery a pitying smile and spurns any state's efforts to 'strengthen' it.
On the other side are those whose 'faith' seems to be chiefly based on the denigration of others on any basis handy, be it 'race', ethnicity, recited creed, sex or sexual orientation, not to mention economic class. This in and of itself is enough to mark such a 'faith' as dry, brittle and moribund. It seeks with desperation to squelch questions, criticisms and mockeries even to the point of begging the state to help shore up its shell. Their adherents seem to associate bliss with not having to think a whole lot--or at least are told to believe this by their clerics, whether imams or priests. This by itself flies in God's Face--the God which we are commanded to love with all our mind as well as heart, soul and strength. Switching off one's mind is the opposite of this and leads in turn to walling off one's heart to be shared only within Our Group, by whatever other name it may be called.
As a Christian myself, I am instructed to use the life of Jesus as a 'lens' through which to read Scripture. I don't know what 'lenses' Jews or Muslims may so use for theirs although I can't help reflecting that Spinoza was a lens-grinder. Maybe for them it's on more of an individual basis, but this much I do know: such lenses have to be crafted for growth of each of us with and towards God. No one ever did Islam a greater injury than the fool who said some eight centuries ago that 'The gates of ijtihad are now closed.' 'Lenses' built with the intention of blinding or bullying people into submission cannot be of God but are of the Enemy!
Those with a living faith eagerly grasp at the idea of being able to become children of, and eventually co-creators of, God's Realm. Those without such a faith usually have difficulty with this notion and wind up committing one of two mistakes. Either they conclude only We are God's True Children OR they say, 'God does not need children. We are his slaves.' Can such a God be all that Merciful and Compassionate? Seriously, Worst of all, sometimes they can say one and act out the other.
Well, it IS true that God does not need children. But with God, His needs (He has none) are not the point. But God wants us to be able to become His children and help Him create His Realm here on Earth! Is this not what a God Who is Love would want for all of us? We all need to do some serious re-examinations of our various faiths and practices and see what helps us grow in heart, mind and soul in our faiths--and what does the opposite! Get rid of what stunts such growth and nourish that which encourages it, wherever we find each item.
This is deep matter, so don't be afraid to dive into it as often as each of y'all needs to. Blessings to all of my readers!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

TO THE POLITICALLY DISENGAGED

This post is primarily for those who have, for whatever reason, disengaged from the political process and the corresponding functions — especially that of voting.
Now, I know that many, indeed a dangerously growing number of you, are simply too tired and otherwise taxed to take much if any notice of politics. While I, having worked as a caterer, can certainly understand this, even to you I must repeat: elections have consequences. And the consequences of the last election are at work making, or at least aiming to make, your already-difficult lives even harder. I can understand that, between worrying about your own health and the disaster a serious illness would be and the need to hold down two (more?) jobs or keep that tiny business going simply to feed the kids and make sure they stay safe at school, you feel there isn’t enough of you to be a real citizen instead of a mere subject, a helot, a serf to the criminally and obscenely wealthy. I suggest you start thinking again about politics, even if you can only do so during your commutes either in a car or on public transportation. Start with how hardly anyone — IF anyone — speaks for you. Then ponder what you might be able to do under current circumstances. It might be as small a thing as a potluck or a cookout with neighbors on a day off where you can all seriously talk about how you and many others like you might actually participate in active change for the better. Take it step by careful step; I don’t want y’all neglecting family (including pets) or anything else you cherish for ‘bigger things’. I’m all for doing ‘small things with great love’ as a recently canonized saint put it.
Now, to those who have disengaged for less urgent reasons, here come my sternest words. You, without the pressure of necessity and under the illusion that politics is extraneous to ‘real life’, have chosen to degrade yourselves from citizens to subjects. And by so doing, you may have also become a fit instrument to degrade others into subjection as well. Maybe most of you are more ‘I-do-my-thing-you-do-your-thing’ types, but if you are, tell me this: when a wannabe despot says to you, “You ain’t doing your thing no more; all of you WILL do MY thing and ONLY my thing.”, what will you do then?
 I suggest you take serious stock to see whether you’ve lost the habit of common action either for certain improvements OR, perhaps more importantly, against internal threats that come disguised — that is, they’re not dark-skinned with black berets or shades. Nothing has brought me closer to despair than to see how many breaches of rights, how much blatant and unapologetic corruption it takes to get y’all to grab the nearest pitchforks, torches or whatever else may be at hand!!
The two main parties are NOT all the same and at least one still has an active wing for real change! I wanna know, what will it take to get y’all to step up to the level of citizens and TAKE PART?! I can certainly understand it if big money and the corruption that comes with it has disgusted you; that’s the basic reason I didn’t go into politics in the 1980s — I could see where the incessant begging for money was going even then!
I’m making myself a candidate for President of the United States with an entirely different campaign. This campaign will be largely online and I won’t be asking for ANY money if I can avoid it. For this campaign, the process is a big part of the point. If you support my platform (to which there will be a link at the end of this post) and like the idea of an entirely differently-engineered campaign, you can share this post along with an earlier one titled Is This Really Such A Loony Idea? with as many others as possible. Find out when the earliest date is to begin collecting signatures to be on the 2020 ballot (and how many are necessary in your state) and then get going on collecting them! I’m conflicted whether or not to be part of a primary or go in as an independent, but time will tell.
As the great Athenian statesman Pericles said two and a half millennia ago, “You may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.” Politics are a condition of human life and Jane Goodall has told us our nearest cousins the chimpanzees also practice politics. That’s right; google it for yourself. If you don’t want to be pushed round by politics then push back — now.
Here’s the link to my current platform — and don’t feel shy about suggesting additions or revisions either. Only one thing anyone needs to give up in this campaign: hate.
http://nopartyline.blogspot.com/2011/06/to-all-my-fellow-americans-especially.html

IS THIS REALLY SUCH A LOONY IDEA?

One morning last October, I read a pair of columns with which I couldn’t agree more. One was by Jim Sleeper and was basically a rant about the spinelessness of most powerful Democrats. This column and another one by Charles Blow which I read this morning have my mental wheels moving. Allow me to quote Jim Sleeper’s last paragraph immediately below and then proceed to my main topic.
“Until and unless Democrats are forced by well organized movements to challenge the regime of casino-like financing, predatory lending and consumer-bamboozling that they’ve done so much to sustain under the falsely compensatory drapery of United Colors of Benetton “diversity,” the true and urgent claims of #MeToo and Black Lives Matter will always lose to the belligerence of the Brett Kavanaughs and the bitter resentments of the less “entitled” politically incorrect.”
Maybe ‘guerrilla’ political campaigns are a way to do this. I’m thinking harder than ever about launching a ‘stealth’ campaign for president (and encouraging others to do likewise for Congress and state legislatures if and when necessary) which , I hope, can also prove to be an end run around big money. There’ll be a link to my current ‘platform’. at the bottom of this post. What I want to do is share the platform with the clear understanding that the overriding job for all of us must be ‘save the planet’. Some concerns at least appear more urgent, but none are longer range. And in order to tackle longer-range concerns than we’re generally doing now, anyone who runs for office under this platform has to have at least two, maybe three, essential traits:
1) The ability to listen without an ‘override’ style
2) A strong sense of themselves quite apart from being politically powerful persons
3) An understanding that there ARE rule-or-ruin groups and individuals (like patriarchalists, fossil-fuel billionaires and Islamists, to use three examples) and they MUST be dealt with very sternly indeed across the board!
Since I have neither the means nor the time to travel, I will ask political friends and allies in all the states if they’d circulate petitions to put me, and anyone running for other offices, on the ballot there. I’m not even sure they need to let me know; maybe I too should be surprised in November 2020.
You may think this a quite loony idea; well and good. But just let it simmer and imagine ‘stealth’ campaigns using low-cost communications and making an end run round big money by people who won’t feel themselves non-entities without more power than the rest of us! And imagine the MSM caught entirely, or almost entirely, by surprise on Election Day — but this time for something really good!
I admit to having no political experience but I have watched and studied politics for half a century (since I was almost 12). I also know a good deal of history, geography, theology and the Bible. I also itch to throw the ‘religious’ Right off the ground I see them as having usurped. In any case, my observations and knowledge dwarfs the current usurper — yeah, not like that’s too difficult, I know.
If, after mulling this over, this appeals to you, please share it with those who you know to be political allies in each state so we can get things rolling. Let’s make this a campaign where the people can say, “We did it ourselves.” Another post, more to the disengaged, will follow hard upon this.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

STRATEGY ON 'MONDAY MORNING' AND ONWARD!

OK, everyone. We won a sizable victory last night, but now is not the time to rest on laurels by any means!
I suggest we're in a position like that of the Allies in September 1914 after the First Battle of the Marne (the 'miracle' of the Marne battle). We haven't won the war but just that battle: we have saved Paris from the Hun.
Let's be thankful that last night turned out to be analogous to September 1914 and not to June 1940 by all means but let's also remember that First Marne determined no more than that World War I would continue. Our enemies (and, yes, I use that term as, by whom and, more importantly, WHAT they've supported and continue to support they make themselves our enemies and the enemies of the best things in our common country) will retrench. They are still strong, still a host mighty in battle and still with utterly no scruples what they do to either take power and wealth or to hold on to it. We need mimic them only in pulling no punches, but they supply us with so much material we needn't lie about a thing; just lose no time in throwing all THEIR lies back in their teeth, exposing ALL their hypocrisies, hammering home the ramifications of everything THEY want for everyone and, also, marshalling images dear to most of us except maybe the hardcore racists. Remember the 7-9 million people who voted for Obama twice and then fell for Trump: we need to welcome them back. Don't waste time with trying to curry favor with those who, consciously or unconsciously, are ruled by their bigotries. Continue organizing, teaching and engaging people who have (and, mostly, not without good reason) grown disenchanted with the whole business of politics. Continue teaching others how to tell truth from lies and continue learning more of that ourselves. Some of you may need to ask yourselves if you've fallen for anything coming from Pallywood. It isn't that hard to swipe uniforms and weapons that at least look 'Israeli'. But that's all on that for now. The main point is, the war continues. Let's be thankful we won this battle (although I ACHE at losing four Southern elections--two gubernatorial and two senatorial--by whiskers even while I'm heartened our people only lost BY whiskers!) and prepare for the next ones, starting right now. Again: continue organizing, teaching and engaging! That's the best preparation for the coming fights!
God bless y'all; God save the United States and enable us to build democracy anew and extend its practice further than ever before!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

THE THREE 'LEGS' OF REAL MANHOOD

I don't know if this administration is one of the last kicks of white male patriarchy, aka white male assholery, or whether it's a serious comeback. I want to believe the former! But in any case, I suggest that such assholery is the absolute negation of what I understand to be REAL manhood. And in this post I'll say a bit about what I understand to be the three legs of the tripod of true manhood.
1) INTEGRITY: Your habit is to speak what you have seen to be true and just. You speak out against bullies and speak out against those who bully others before yourself. If possible, settle the hash of such rotters yourself. But understand having your ignorance be made plain is NOT bullying you; then it befits you to ask questions as to what you may be missing! In NO CASE do you lie to a woman in order to lie with her or try to inebriate her to the same end! And remember: real men apologize if they've done wrong or have made mistakes. It's the overgrown frat BOYS who can't or won't do so! You make a habit of the truth--NEVER of lies!!
2) RESPONSIBILITY. You make a decision and abide the consequences. Real men may and should seek to mitigate the ill effects of a bad decision (especially to others) but don't make excuses--and learn the difference between excuses and real explanation! Acknowledge your part in mistakes without varnish. Again, real men apologize and do what they can to make real amends to others affected by such decisions. You do not build yourself up by tearing down others; rather when you build up others who are struggling you may find you build up yourself as well!
3) COURTESY. Unless someone has already shown his/her assholery already, let your language be civil and courteous to all--to a janitor as to a judge. The flip side of this is making it clear, when faced with assholery, that's what's happening.
A real man does NOT allow his hormones to overrun someone else's stated boundaries but rather is master enough over his hormones even to the point of being able to halt them like braking a car just in time. But if you feel you're being dishonestly 'played with', especially by a girl or woman, civilly take your leave and GO. If they want to know why, tell them. If they still try to snow you, then leave. If they genuinely try to apologize or explain honestly, feel free to reconsider. Otherwise, withdraw! Take differences of race, ethnicity, orientation, etc., in stride and do what you can to bridge such gaps. This is done usually by careful listening and asking of questions with a frank acknowledgement of your own ignorance in the matter at hand.
This may be the beginning of something larger; I don't know if I'll have more to say on this matter, but suffice it for me to say: three things, and only ALL these three things together, make a man out of a boy, overgrown or otherwise: INTEGRITY, RESPONSIBILITY and COURTESY!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

THOUGHTS & SHARINGS ON NONVIOLENCE

This is the first new post published on this site under its new name, L'Ami Du Peuple.
This time I've quite a bit to share and to ask. Allow me to begin by sharing two articles from Daily Kos which I think can have some significant bearing on the issues discussed here:
http://click.actionnetwork....
http://click.actionnetwork....
What looks to me like a sticking-point is when someone else (Nazis, Islamists, Christianist Talibans) declares their dignity and/or destiny fulfillment requires your extirpation and/or extermination. My understanding of the Sermon on the Mount has been shaped in large part by Walter Wink's masterwork, Engaging The Powers. He makes the point how the most 'difficult' parts of that sermon are actually ways to assert one's own human dignity while also respecting that of the other. But when that respect (according to them) mandates your absence from your land and, indeed, from the whole earth, what can one really do but defend oneself? This, by the way, has been the viewpoint of most 'Palestinians' toward Israel, including their leadership, but it's a viewpoint they'll only express in Arabic between themselves and after being as sure as possible that no Western bleeding hearts ('useful idiots' to them) can hear or understand.
On the other hand, that God has placed this dilemma before the Jews can be a wonderful riposte to the 'supersessionist' heresies: this is probably something humanity as a whole needs to learn, and guess who's learning it first? God's original 'pilot group'!
Jesus speaks to us to the extent that we can 'hear' him today; his meanings were and are primarily directed at that first crowd, nearly all of whom were in positions not where someone else's right or dignity demanded their genocide, but one where they endured a thousand daily slights from parents, husbands (let's be brutally honest), upper-class Jews and occupying Romans. The examples Jesus gives are meant as forms of moral jujitsu, where you use your opponent's weight to throw him/her.
Nonviolence of this kind is a way which can and should be used at every stage in fighting injustice short of actual genocide coming at one and one's marked group. But acknowledgement of the oppressor's humanity is a necessary part of it; otherwise it degenerates into a 'mask' for hate-fueled violence. This is why all the 'Palestinian' attempts at 'nonviolence' (at least most of those we hear about) have failed. When either party has no conscience to be touched, nonviolence short-circuits and cannot work.
I don't know if this is part of nonviolence training as yet, but I had an idea for an exercise: to look the adversary squarely in his/her eyes with openness and see what happens. If s/he looks away or 'halts', even for a New York nanosecond, you may have touched something alive in them. Now, it may be you will see death, or nothing alive, in their eyes. That, I think, will be either the sign of one with no conscience or a narcotized or broken one. I don't know even if there is a way to tell one from t'other, much less how to do so. But I guess that's a matter for further study and lots of prayer. God bless and keep you all and I hope I haven't ranted and rambled too much.

Monday, May 28, 2018

CAMPAIGN ADVICE FOR 2018 AND BEYOND

Chemi Shalev hits on something important today in his 'Chemisphere' briefing, something REALLY important for all us libs and progs: he points out, again, that our Sincere Virtue in opposing the right-wing program that I call Trumpery (it's an actual word; look it the f*** up!) won't gain us victory. Even money from me on that WITH our own positive message getting us there! What we need to get us over the top for real is getting AWAY from that awful pedagogical 'eat-your-veggies' style shared by WAY too many of us!
For an example: I supported Bernie two years ago in the primaries, but that was because of what he wanted to do and I was able to get past his personal style, which can charitably be described, I think (Sorry, Bern!) as 'clunky'. How many actual or possible voters EVER get past the personal style of candidates? We need uncompromising honesty about this!
We need more candidates who take THEMSELVES a lot less seriously. People who can campaign with more than a little personal pizzazz, who can leaven their speeches with interesting-sounding quotes, lyric lines or take-your-pick--people not afraid to laugh at themselves and with the courage to invite their audiences to join with them in doing so!
Yes, we need to take our platform seriously but for victory's sake don't be so dam'...heavy-faced about it. Take a clue or two from 'Scaramouche' as Sabatini wrote him up. Don't hold back on scaring our audiences with, say, the consequences of NOT tackling climate change or inequality further widening! I have at least a few ideas about such dystopian images; feel free to ask about 'em!
And on the same note I'd advise my brethren on the religious Left to, while I hope they preach and, far more importantly, LIVE love of all, to also edge--but ONLY edge--their sermons and speeches with a tongue or two of fire and the same number of whiffs of brimstone. I think it'll be good!
We also need to encourage people to contribute in non-monetary ways. I know I hate that candidates and organizations never stop begging for cash! But it's also important to have people see what they CAN pitch in with. We need to be much more Disraelis than Gladstones here. Less impressing others with OUR purported brilliance and more illumining the brilliance in members of our audiences. At any rate, let there be no more cause for us to wail the lament of Charlie Brown's ever-losing baseball team: "How could we lose? We were so SINCERE!" Puh-LEEZE!
Finally, when we DO need to 'teach', let's do so not in the oh-so-superior style of the most irritating teacher in the school, but in the style of a coach calling his players out for doing less of a good job than they could have done--and expecting that, thus chastised and instructed, they WILL do better!