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Monday, November 26, 2012

WHO ACTS ENTITLED?

'Entitled' is on my mind today. Especially concerning those who really act that way and who project that  beauty-full addytood (as we say in the Philly area) onto others who, more likely than not, don't really share the 'entitled' attitude with those who were born on third base and never cease trying to convince themselves they hit a triple! Trumpty Dumpty might be the outstanding example of such creatures, along with the Mittster.
Some months ago, Newark mayor Cory Booker learned whether he can last a week on a SNAP allotment--you know, the one which gives people $4.30 a day to keep from starving. He seems to be a smart man and as such he's surely learned that SNAP ain't no hammock, by a long stretch! I could wish slavecatcher Limbaugh, Beck the simian, Hannity and O'Reilly the barstool pontificators and all the rotten Republican politicians they've supported would do the same but I think none of them would last even a day on the current allotment. Now would anyone care to tell me how much entitlement that program, along with WIC, TANF and Medicaid is likely to foster? If anyone on these programs feel 'entitled', it's likely those who had jobs till recently and who paid into the social-insurance system, such as it is, while they worked. And under such circumstances, feeling entitled may be a saving grace unless Rush, Trumpty, Mitt et al. want such unfortunate people to die of shame. Perhaps it is what they want; I put little past them.
Not every rich person shares the 'entitled' feeling by any means: an increasing number have joined the Patriotic Millionaires' club and now lobby the government to raise their taxes because they're smart enough to know their own stake in a flourishing and expanding middle class. These people know that the better off more of us are, the better off they are too and are champing to pony up to that end. Some wealthy families have learned to act with the sense of noblesse oblige and public service behooving those born to the 'purple'. They don't share the sense of 'entitlement'. Neither do those who have become wealthy through success as inventors or artists for the most part. Here I return to an earlier post I wrote about real and counterfeit elite members: those who are members of the real elite think of themselves still as scientists and/or artists, as opposed to being Wealthy People.
One needn't be born wealthy either to share the sense of 'entitlement'. If I'm not mistaken, many a hedge-fund traitor (deliberate!) wasn't born wealthy. Neither was John Schlatter, aka Papa John and maker of bad pizza, or whatever that fellow's name in Florida who's building a replica of the Versailles palace. But I've heard he started out as a scam artist. It would seem that those who weren't born wealthy but share their feeling of entitlement are those who become rich either by means of franchises OR by selling things with no real substance to them--i.e., all the paper snake-oil Wall Street's been selling for at least the last ten years! And for them (if not necessarily for the Trumps, Romneys et al.) the feeling of 'entitlement' might well be as much a cover for how very un-entitled these pirates (I include the rightwing fear-merchants in this gang) know themselves to be! And since they've been so damnably (literally) good at getting something for nothing themselves, they resent anyone else getting even a pittance! People, if we've been listening to this lot I think at least some time spent in sackcloth and ashes is warranted for us!
Now is the time to repair and renovate our infrastructure, including speeding the switch to clean and renewable energies and ensuring a level educational playing field for real. The Bourbon sense of entitlement exhibited by the wickedly stupid rich must go, and all those who want a job should be able to find one at wages which will enable their greater participation in a growing economy. The last time we did something like that, the lifted-up were grateful enough to vote that party's way for thirty or forty years! Now again: to whom does 'feeling entitled' belong?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

MISTAKES (AT LEAST) IN TANDEM

I must be returning to my 'normal' self in the election's wake. I read Paul Krugman's post which ends on how blithely much of the developed world is repeating the economic mistakes of the 1930s. And then it occurred to me, not only economically are the 1930s mistakes being repeated: in Europe, hatred of the Jews is at a level unseen since the 1930s. True, such hatred is in decline in North America (throughout the hemisphere?) and Israel is, thankfully, building or re-building good relationships with both Oriental (including India) and sub-Saharan African nations. Still, how much do these relationships 'weigh' when compared with the Islamist propaganda machine churning out anti-Jewish lies on a scale that would turn Josef Goebbels green with envy plus the increase of such rancor in Europe, abetted in large part by 'Muslim' immigrants?
Back in the 1930s, when the Jews needed refuge, the whole world turned its collective back on them. This will never be forgotten in Israel and among Jews outside Israel, nor should it be! Now let me ask: if Israel were not there, where would there be refuge for fleeing Jews today? Indeed, would there be any refuge at all for them? Let none treat this question hastily; take your time over it. Treat it with respect and consideration--that is, differently than how the Jews of  the 1930s were treated! That said, how much respect and consideration do the greater part of today's immigrants (at least to Europe) show their host societies? Or are the silently assimilating majorities obscured by the minorities trumpeting intent to conquer? If so, I hope the majorities put the minorities in their place, which I've heard is starting to happen. As an American who knows his country's history better than most, I know that most immigrants assimilate and change their adopted countries to some extent in the process as well.
Considering on the one hand Europe's real and/or imagined problems with today's immigrants and their slamming their doors in the Jews' faces in the 1930s, they're showing a remarkable consistency in making the wrong choices then and now. Jews have almost never brought anything but real benefits and imagined problems to their host societies; can the same be said of today's European immigrant minorities? Unless I'm mistaken, weren't today's European governments were under the impression that they were 'paying forward' the debt they owed to murdered Jews by admitting other 'refugees'? Or were they simply pursuing their own perceived interests and using 'paying forward' as window-dressing? I'm inclined to believe the latter myself. To me it is plain that the grinding of the faces of the poor and middle class labelled 'austerity' and growth in anti-Jewish sentiment go hand in hand, whatever bloviations come from the politicians on either side of the aisle or the Pond. I do believe the decline of anti-Jewish feeling in North America is joined somehow with the unpopularity of austerity here, and vice versa in Europe. Notwithstanding that fact, I still ask: how welcome would 'stateless' Jews be here, even today? And because I'm profoundly doubtful of a welcoming answer is a big part of my gratitude for the state of Israel!
A repeat of the bankrupt economic policies of the 1930s and another one of anti-Jewish rancor, now using the excesses of an unjustly beleaguered Israel as a fig-leaf. When mistakes are repeated, they come not single spies, but either in battalions or at least in pairs. How often will humans need to have their lessons written in blood, preferably their own, before they get it right?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

STILL THE 'PILOT GROUP'


In this post I put a new spin on history as I look back and then point out a thing or two about the present and future importance of, and necessity for, the resurrected state of Israel. That most people who don't deliberately blind themselves to inconvenient facts agree on the necessity for a place where Jews can be organized to defend themselves against the next outbreak of hatred against them is hardly worth debating anymore. But there's more than that in favor of the necessity of Israel. Allow me to begin with some interesting (I hope) observations about the earthly time of Jesus and ramifications arising therefrom:
1) The Maccabean theocracy begun 150 years before Jesus's birth degenerated with remarkable speed. A rabbi I spoke with said it happened in about 100 years. The Sanhedrin were a vestige of that theocracy with mostly 'ecclesiastical' powers by Jesus's lifetime. I mention it because I think it can be argued that Jesus was a victim, albeit foreordained, of the evil known as the religion-state connection. And the following idea (for which I expect to be clobbered from a number of quarters) is directly related to that: from the time of Hadrian to the re-establishment of a Jewish state, Jews had no power to enforce a religion-state connection, except (maybe) for the time of the Khazar empire being a Jewish state. If anyone knows more than I do about how long the Khazar state lasted and how far conversion was extended and by what means, feel free to inform me further. Just cite your sources so I can check them.
In any case, my point is that Jews had next to no power to enforce what both Christians and Muslims could--and did, often ruthlessly, enforce: the religion-state connection. As has been the case before, G-d may have tried something new with Jews first--in this case, taking a separation of religion and state some steps further than had been the case in ancient Israel where there was a separation of priests from both prophets and judges. Christendom has now done so to a great extent from our Bill of Rights forward, although we also still have fools who refuse to understand that separation is indispensable for the health of both the state and honest religion. Who was it again that said, 'A man cannot be convinced when his salary depends on him not being convinced'?
And the separation of religion from state, for the better health of both, is in my opinion the linchpin of the task of modernization before Islam. Ataturk began it, with (it seems) limited success which the current Turkish government is attempting to undo. Frankly, they're going in the wrong direction. Islam also probably needs to resurrect the Mu'tazilites as well. Modern Israel yet has a thing or two to do in this respect, too: neither Conservative nor Reform Judaism are recognized as separate groups in Israel.
2) Someone told me once (although I haven't been able to verify it yet) that Annas and Caiaphas had to work to convince Pilate that Jesus's expelling the moneychangers was a mere internal dispute and NOT the start of a revolt against Rome. I think it's safe to say that they, and their 'party' in the Sanhedrin, were pretty frightened men, don't you think? There are some lines in the Gospel of John which indicate this.
3) Most of us know the story (not in the Gospels, though) about how Nicodemus learned of Jesus's trial only by accident and how he hurried there and found it to be a 'rump' Sanhedrin session--no one who agreed with him and Gamaliel (who, btw, was the Sanhedrin's president then and also not present at Jesus's trial) had been summoned; only those of the Annas/Caiaphas party. To me Jesus's 'trial' sounds a lot like the Wisconsin state senate ramming through last year's anti-labor bill! I thought that then and I still do.
Anyhow, the point of all this is that most Jews had NOTHING to do with Jesus's trial and crucifixion AND that, among those men who railroaded him, I'd say that Caiaphas & co. and Pilate were pretty equal partners. The writers of the Gospel did do a certain amount of toning down the Roman part in that--but then, they also believed Jesus's return was right around the corner. That is, they never thought the consequences would be as far-reaching as they were, and still are.
And so, for eighteen centuries or so, the Jews have been almost completely innocent--yes, that's right, all you b*****s and sons thereof, I said innocent and I mean exactly that--victims of Christians and Muslims, some of whom now have the chutzpa to pontificate on the Jews' 'vocation for suffering' and lament how the existence of Israel may mean that the Jews will lose this oh-so-precious vocation! Easy to say, when it's not your vocation for suffering, or that of your people, being granted and/or tested, isn't it? Nearly all of you, at least corporately, still have innocent blood on your hands--much of it Jewish--and somewhere inside yourselves, I say you know it! Apply to God directly for absolution, not to Israel--and remember Jesus's words from the cross and ask yourselves if you can be included in those for whom Jesus asked forgiveness as you knew not what you or your ancestors did!
Jews will never be easy to f**k with anymore and the rest of you sorry lot better get used to that!! And as long as Israel remains an effective democracy, I think it safe to say that it won't lose the spirit of compassion that, since Biblical times, G-d has taught first to ancient Israel, then to the Jews and, through the Jews in general and one in particular, to the rest of us. The extent to which we've learned such lessons is, will continue to be, and indeed should be, always open to debate. But I see no reason to doubt that the Jews continue to be the 'pilot group' whenever G-d has something new to teach us all. Much of which is now happening in Israel--especially as regards 'green' technology, renewable energy and desalinization of seawater, to name but a few items. And if and when there is peace between Isaac and Ishmael (Arabs) we can expect to see the Middle East transformed for the better!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

TO MY FELLOW SWMS

"It is with deep feeling I beg my 'white' brethren, especially in the South, not to fall for this jive again!! Last time you fell for it, you took up arms and died for a system not only unrighteous, but which actually kept you down along with the slave. Were there schools where you could learn to read, write, think and cipher? You know there weren't. The planters deliberately priced education out of your reach so you wouldn't figure out what was really going on!! And because you were marginally higher than the slave, you believed the hokum the planters fed you!!
'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.' Well, what'll it be this time? Will you have the courage to treat those who are different as equals and fight against our common enemy (the greedy planters) this time? Or will you fall again for the planters' lying racist narcotics? This election is America v. Amerikkka. That means all of us working together helping each other v. everyone trying to rob each other, or trying to rob a large number of us, by force, lies and/or legal stealth while most of us sink back into poverty, the commons become irredeemably polluted, and death by starvation makes a comeback--which many might not hear about because Faux News would never mention it!
This November--choose America. Tell Amerikkka to get lost and stay lost!"
These words are how I concluded an earlier post on this website, titled America v. Amerikkka, which is one way I see this year's election. And I feel the need to amplify that, especially in regards to other SWMs, as is the personals' abbreviation for straight white males. It is mostly to them that I address this post.
First, when someone else--a woman, a person of color, a 'gay' person--refers to us as 'privileged', that is pretty much a fact. But that's no reason to either yell back about all your hard work (I don't doubt most of you have; that's not the point--but the point is germane, so bear with me a little here) or run for the sackcloth and ashes and start lamenting; that is so useless I can hardly find words! Nor do I wish you to think of yourselves as 'bad'; I know as well as you that dam' few of us (if any) sought any unearned privilege; in this country it kind of comes with the territory of being born white males and having our hormones flow the 'straight' way. If most of us needed work to get where we are, then (and you are entitled to ask) you ask, where's the 'privilege'? Here are some examples:
1) Do you take it for granted that you deserve to be listened to?
2) Have you ever been stopped either on a city street or on the road and had your person and/or car searched, and none too carefully, for contraband?
3) Have you noticed differences in how differently other people treat you, as opposed to a woman, etc.? Are you 'automatically' treated as if you carry more authority than a woman, etc.?
4) Assuming bullying is something you avoid doing, when's the last time anyone 'got in your face' just for fun?
My fellow nerds and geeks probably still have memories of that last, but c'mon dudes, has it happened since  high school? I can say, for me it hasn't. Anyhow, what privilege we yet have shows up mostly in that very last point and variations thereon: if something important to others isn't at stake, are members of any other group getting in our way? No. Only if we consider our liberty imperiled by not being able to bully and wipe our feet on others can we think that. Those of us who understand the indivisibility of freedom know this. And from that principle is where we must take a plan of action. OK; as straight white males we do have more authority; so where do we go from here?
1) Listen. With our hearts as well as our heads, listen to how the world looks to women, people of color and so on. Sure, look out for con artists; they also come in both sexes and all colors. And as we try to shape new realities to include us all, remember that as long as we have such unasked-for authority it behooves us to offer the handshakes first as it were.
2) Learn when to speak and when to be silent. Let's use our 'authority' to encourage others to speak up as well as ourselves. Many of us do come from homes where we were neither listened to or encouraged to speak up (except perhaps when a parent was angry)--well, if we know how it feels, shouldn't we encourage others rather than monopolize the speaking? What would you expect of a genuinely mature man?
3) Do not assume we're the 'natural' leaders, moderators or whatever: we want to expand that template and do so by example. These are for starters and they are broad guidelines.
Finally, as we encourage others to speak out and help them climb the ladders of advancement, let's remember that the more openly expressed talent we have around, we are all the richer for it! I'd say my point is, finally, is not that we SWMs didn't have to work for what we have (most of us did) but that we have the least roadblocks in our paths! Whoever has explicit or implicit roadblocks in their path has to work that much harder to either clear or get around them, right? And I say that merits respect--and that we needn't resent the government's attempts to ameliorate that either.
Societies based on unearned (and unasked-for) privilege stagnate and regress: no more than 53% of Confederate soldiers could read or write, compared with 94% among the Yankees. So, fellow SWMs, let's use what 'privilege' we have to make our country fairer for all our fellow citizens, wherever and whenever the occasions arise. And I suggest a straight Democratic vote this fall be part of that for all of us!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

HARDSCRABBLE--AND WHAT WE DO WITH IT

After hearing innumerable 'Republican' politicos dilate on their, or, more often, their parents'--and still more often, their grandparents'--hardscrabble backgrounds, coming from nothing, basement apartments, tuna casseroles, etc., etc., ad nauseam, it occurred to me: if these bozos actually believe that being born poor and having to work hard for all they, or their families, now have is a virtue in and of itself, then they're only half-right at best. As with nearly everything with humans (including the DNA we inherit) so much depends on what we make of it! If either they, their parents or grandparents, came from nothing and worked their way up to wealth and power, why--literally--in God's Name are they pulling up the ladders to such success behind them?! Or is that actually the reason? Do they consider their families' success to be so precarious that they're afraid of those who would otherwise follow and they conceal their fears behind their hardscrabble anecdotes? Or, maybe, having heard these stories at a tender age, were they frightened by them (that is, by the idea what they now had could be taken away and then even they, the children, would have to go down the coalmines or into the mills), never outgrew that terror and, hence, are determined it'll never happen to them again? Or do they actually believe they inherit even their parents' or grandparents' presumptive virtue as a result of their way up the ladder? That last is so preposterous, even for 'Republicans', that I hesitated over it--but in 2012, who knows?
One thing none of them seem to mention, or maybe weren't told about, were those friends of their folks who, for one reason or another, fell by the wayside and never made it to the middle class or higher. Surely they had such friends; why didn't they mention them if only as cautionary examples? Are all these families so persuaded of their own superior virtue? Regardless of what they think, they're sure acting as if they really do believe that about their families and themselves. And since it looks that way, I have a hard time thinking of any group (except sociopaths and psychopaths) to be less trusted anywhere near governmental power, whether elective or appointive, than this lot! My own mother grew up poor until she was (I think) about fourteen or fifteen; so did many of the kids with whom she went to school at P.S.#221 and Tilden High School. Today, she is a pediatric oncologist recently retired from leading her department at a nationally known children's hospital. But I know of no one from her classes (including herself) who believes in their own exceptional 'virtue'; most of them remember and respect the people who helped them along the way. All her friends and relations from her girlhood I've ever known were, or still are, in favor of strengthening and broadening the upward ladders; all of them execrate the very idea of chopping them down! And this sentiment isn't just something I inherited but it's been reinforced through my adult lifetime almost every time I looked round to see how others besides myself were doing--and I think that's all I should write about that as I've no desire to vaunt myself herein.
A pair of sayings of G.K. Chesterton's are, I think, relevant here. 1)"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly." 2) "Satan fell through force of gravity." And not Newtonian, either, but the kind which turns one's mouth's corners determinedly downward. If these scribes and Pharisees of today really believe (and from their actions, it is only too clear that they do) in their, and/or their families', exceptional virtue, the best thing we can do for our country (and maybe for the souls of our Pharisees as well) is vote them all--and I mean all; let none survive as an officeholder or candidate--out of office by as wide margins as we can honestly manage and don't let them or their descendants anywhere near political power for at least forty years! And this applies whether they have 'religious' affiliations or not. The disqualifier is not any set of religious beliefs but a belief in their own superior 'virtue', or that of their families. If a hardscrabble backgound produces such a misguided belief, it's very wrongly construed. If, on the other hand, it feeds a desire to make things not as hard for those that follow, and enable more to follow, then that is a blessing of such antecedents.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

FACTS AND SURPRISES

Without the Jews, without Israel, what would their land be now? Nothing. That's right--nothing.
It would be no different than the desolate, denuded and depopulated stretch of desert which Mark Twain described so vividly in Innocents Abroad.
When Twain published this book in 1870, there were no more then 250,000 people scratching out profoundly bare livings(if that) in what is today Israel proper PLUS Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Fifty years later, in 1920, the population had doubled. Now why would this have happened? The Arabs of 1920 were no better nourished (and, hence, more resistant to diseases) than those of 1870. Nor had Western medicine penetrated in what became the Palestine mandate. So--whence the increase?
Because the Jews had started coming back, that's why. And they brought jobs and business opportunities. Which, in turn, brought in Arab immigration as well. Also, the Jews started returning 15 years before Herzl's Congress of Basel in 1897.
So both the Arab and the Jewish populations increased by immigration--so that by 1920, Eretz Israel was populated by 500,000 'Arabs' and about 75,000 Jews. And between 1920 and 1948 (the 'Mandate' years) Arab immigration continued to be a bit more than Jewish immigration: 558,000 'Arabs'; 498,000 Jews. By 1948, the Palestine mandate contained 650,000 Jews and 1.2 million Arabs. Nearly all this population, both Jewish and Arab, had immigrated to Eretz Israel within the previous sixty years!! The 'Arab' population has no greater right to Eretz Israel than do the Jews and I for one say that the only way they have equal rights to the land is if they wake up and recognize the Jews as their brethren. For that, according to the work done by Tsvi Misinai in his Engagement Project, is exactly what they are!! Misinai has taken DNA samples from a large section of the 'Arab' population of Israel, etc. and found Jewish--not Edomite, not even ancient Hebrew or Israelite, but Jewish--DNA 'markers' on better than ninety percent of the 'Arab' population!!
Which gives rise to an interesting question: why did these 'Arabs' immigrate to 'Palestine' as opposed to their neighbors in Cairo, Damascus, Jiddah and so on? By the time they came to 'Palestine' they were, on the surface, indistinguishable from their Arab neighbors. When life came back into the Holy Land from Europe, was their something in these 'Arabs'' DNA or, more likely, their unconscious, which said, 'Time to go home'?
Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, so I hope I can venture even Mitt Romney was at least not wrong to say, 'Culture makes all the difference'. The 'Palestinians' (with the apparent exception of Salam Fayyad and his acolytes) are far more interested in murdering their brethren than in building their own institutions. I just pray (literally) the 'Palestinians' haven't been completely ruined by being part of such a death-deifying culture!
I expect this post to infuriate a large number of people on both sides for many different reasons. But allow me to ask this question, which is especially addressed to all those who have begun to walk with, and know, G-d: isn't one of the things He is at least likely to do is to bring enemies to a face-off and then somehow arrange for the 'masks' to be removed and have brethren rediscover each other as such? To me (and, not meaning to boast, G-d graciously walks with me) it is very much something the G-d I know would do: part of His ways is often to either stand our preconceptions on their heads OR to knock them ninety degrees askew. I also invite my readers to check my facts (they can all be googled) and also to look up Tsvi Misinai and the Engagement Project. It's all there; it's all true.
Finally, however unlikely it may seem, I'd advise the Israeli government to prepare to 'assimilate' as many 'Palestinians' as may be possible to do over any period of time. The Haredi population might prove of considerable help in this, I'll venture! Or, in an Israel that needs all the secularity it can get right now, would that prove counterproductive? I don't know, so I'll leave those judgments to those on the ground of Israel.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

ELITES: AUTHENTIC VS. COUNTERFEIT

Elites are on my mind today: cultural, economic and those who, at first glance, appear to belong to both but, on closer inspection, still by and large act as members of the cultural elite. The (Paul) Newman family looks like a good example of this to me: Paul was, and Joanne Woodward and their family are, unquestioned members of both the cultural and economic elite. However, they still behave much more like members of the cultural elite than the purely economic elite: so far as I know Newman's Own still donates all its profits to charities and I imagine they pay their taxes pretty scrupulously too. Their primary class ties appear to be, still, with the community of media artists--that is, with those that follow the same professions by which the Newmans made their money in the first place. They don't seem to have ties with 'money' per se.
And this is true, by and large, of most members of the cultural elite. It is also true that most members of the cultural elite liberally defined as such are not among the economic elite. But those who become part of the economic elite as well (such as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Barbra, Oprah, etc.) still define themselves as members primarily of the cultural elite. Thankfully, they correctly see themselves as not having common political interests with the crooked three-card monte dealers now running the banks and Wall Street nor with the earth-rippers of the fossil fuel businesses but with fellow artists, educators and conservers. In this they are joined by some business builders (Bill Gates and Steve Jobs come to mind) and a healthy share of inventors, scientists and other technogeeks. I say if someone builds a business doing what they know and love, they will usually continue to identify themselves as that particular 'occupation' rather than as someone who got rich, regardless of how rich they actually become--and, hence, their politics will not change with growing wealth. And it is the cultural elite which shows, by far, many more of the traits which we in the West associate with an authentic elite: the traits covered by the wonderful phrase noblesse oblige, the anchoring and other strengthening of the ladders by which they themselves climbed so that an increasing number of talented and hardworking people can follow them up, arising from the understanding that as more real talent arises and as we increase our renewable resources--we all become richer, and not just monetarily either!
If a business person becomes an honest success doing something they can respect and enjoy, they too can become members of the authentic elite. Uncle Warren looks like that to me. Another part of the authentic elite is what's called 'old gold'--here, families such as the Adamses, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Roosevelts, Kennedys, etc. I would also include public servants who actually seek to serve all their constituents in this designation.
To me, the counterfeit elite are those who did what they did only, or even mostly, in order to get rich. Then they flaunt their ill-gotten gains even as they seek to pull up the ladders by which they climbed because, whether they admit it or not, they are consumed by fear of those who might climb after them and devour them in turn! Those who know or suspect they're really 'nothing special' except for their money (hey, Trumpty Dumpty!) are the worst in this respect--Trump, Romney, Ryan, Stossel, Hannity, Limbaugh, Koch, etc. Fred Trump was a more authentic member of the elite than his son is!
I have no problem with anyone wanting to improve their monetary lot by honest hard work and/or real talent. I have lots of problems with those who seek to do so by means of legal theft and then claim elite status by virtue of their ill-gotten gains and then seek to pull up the ladders behind them and try to buy our government and convert it into their scapegoat as they increasingly impoverish the rest of us!
Every human society has, and will always have, an elite. The question is and should always be: what does the elite add to (or take from) the general well-being of society? To sum up (I hope!): an authentic elite cares for more than fattening its pockets and, when the society which enriches them in the first place may require it, is prepared to forgo such fattening for a time--because their status as elite members relies only secondarily on their wealth. The primary staff of their elite membership is their ability to continue to exercise, and exercise well, those strengths or talents which brought them into the elite in the first place. And that's also why the counterfeit elite must continually, unremittingly, fatten its pockets (and increasingly to society's detriment) or lose its elite standing altogether. The authentic elite may advise those lower down to make do at need, but not to the point of 'want of necessaries', to use an appropriately Dickensian phrase. The counterfeit elite will say even to children, 'thou shalt starve ere I starve'--and they always, or nearly always, fancy themselves a few steps away from starvation themselves!
Last point, I promise: the authentic elite remembers the struggle of early days and seeks to mitigate it for those that come after as they look and listen for real talent and a real variety of voices. The counterfeits seek to do the opposite and seek to convert our country into their country club and comfy echo chamber. I hope and believe our authentic elite mirrors our desire and our spirit far better than the counterfeit elite!

Monday, August 13, 2012

AN OPEN LETTER

This is an open letter to all who consider themselves part of the 'religious' Right.
First, I'd like to say that if you know our common Scriptures as well as you claim (you certainly make a great show of it, something I recall our Lord warning his hearers against) then you also know that while Scripture contains hundreds of references to the poor (especially in warnings or diatribes against those who 'grind the faces of the poor' and/or 'sell them for a pair of sandals', etc., etc.) while it contains barely a half-dozen on homosexuality. And the 'relationships' condemned by Peter and Paul are directed against the Jerry Sanduskys of their time, not against pairs of consenting adults. And the only place where the sin of Sodom is defined, it is defined as follows: 'She (Sodom) was arrogant, overfed and unconcerned with the poor and needy.'
But let that aspect go for the moment. What really riles me is that the lot of you, apparently, have indeed sold the poor for a pair of (Gucci?) sandals! Some of you will wail and waul your denial and use your line that you only want caring functions to be handled by the church as was purportedly the case before F.D.R. ruined those oh-so-good old days with the completely awful New Deal! Well, if the churches were organized to handle such functions in a fair fashion instead of sporadically and spottily, would the New Deal even have been necessary? And nearly everyone except the biped dragons already sleeping on beds of 'plunder' agreed at the time, it was indeed very necessary.
However, could it be you've organized yourselves better since then? Are you, and the other churches, synagogues, masjids and temples organized enough to help the poor, sick and aged on a reasonably regular basis? And with voluntary contributions for these express purposes? Were you so, maybe that would be worth a try. But I suspect something else, considering what snakes your polemically political clergy are by and large: I have strong suspicion that your leaders intend to use such a scheme as a backdoor way to get their greedy, oily hands on tax monies--which they'd then use for purposes anything but charitable!!
How can you persuade me otherwise? Are you non-coercively charitable? That is, are you using charity as just a way to increase your flocks and incomes? Or are you ready to aid all, without pushing your beliefs on anyone? If you can show me you are, then I'll listen. Then again, why should you care? After all, who the heck am I to you? Just a 'fellow Christian' who considers the lot of you as pawns of today's Belshazzars and moneychangers and, hence, desecrating our Father's House again by reconverting it into a den of thieves!! The whip is being braided which will drive you and your real masters out of our Father's House, so consider yourselves warned: show real fruits of repentance or, sooner than you probably expect, you'll feel cats o' nine curling about your shoulders as your masters' benches are overturned. Show me I'm wrong and I will desist, but I'll say right now I don't expect you to pay a nanosecond of attention. Which will, in and of itself, reinforce for me and many, many others who your masters really are!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

THE REAL WORK AHEAD

That we progressives have serious work ahead of us in order to re-elect the President, vote out as many Smackwaters (aka Tea Partiers) as possible from both Congress and the state legislatures and replace them with progressives, is obvious. But even when (I'll be bold here) our efforts pay off on November 6, that will not be time to stand down. No, the real work will still be ahead of us regardless of who wins the election. A Democratic victory will make that work easier (not to mention it'll save our country from the resurgent Slave Power) but will by no means remove the necessity for it.
As of this moment, the polls tell us that 90 percent of us have already made up our minds which way we'll vote. But one thing we don't know is, even assuming the courts do their duty and strike down the odious voter ID laws passed by the Slave Power's minions, what percentage of those eligible will vote? If I recall correctly, some 64 percent of us voted in 2008. Far fewer voted in 2010, which gave us a House and too many state legislatures controlled by the Slave Power. This needs very much to change, and it's a change we, as progressives, must bring about. We need to increase voter turnout bigtime and across-the-board, for all elections from local to national.
How can we do that? We should probably start by looking over the registrations and seeing who's voted recently and who hasn't. In any case, our target here is those who haven't voted, either recently or for a while. We-you-coming-to-get, P.J.!! We need to find out who and where the non-voters are and ask them why haven't they voted for x amount of time. If their answers run along lines such as 'My vote makes no difference' or 'Big money buys the election anyway' or 'What's the difference?'--there's our 'target market'! Next, we ask our non-voters as to what would bring them to the polls. If they want their votes to at least have a chance of making a difference, find out the difference they'd want their votes to make. If the difference they want to make is largely in line with the changes our country badly needs--the repair and renewal of infrastructure, including educational and the 'greening' of it so that we rev up the switch to cleaner, renewable energies, the democratizing of capital and the economy, the shoring up of the wall between religion and the state (and the encouragement of state secularizers abroad) and above all the bypassing and then the breaking of the power of big money over our electoral process--then these are the people we want to organize!
We'll have to begin with a hard truth: the only way to counter the power of big money is with relational power. We all need to spread the message and do whatever we can to help these citizens organize. Yes, it's work. But maybe many of us can find some time to do less of such work than if we were doing it fulltime. And we may have to make time for the sharing of the message and the forming of relationships which will form the 'threads' in the 'honeycomb weave' of the progressive network we need to form. There are many progressive organizations that can help in this work--if they reach outside of the 'silos' into which many have put themselves and look beyond their particular pursuits and/or passions. This too is essential; we all need to work together. The cords of strong, honest and respectful relationships are what can form a strong progressive network that can both pull the Democrats away from Wall Street back towards Main Street and also be an independent progressive constituency. Next, we agree that too much money spent puts any candidate under suspicion of trying to play the squid (hiding his/her real agenda) automatically. The two essentials of such a network are active and respectful engagement with our fellow citizens and thinking for ourselves. Both are work, but if more of us do it, we each need to do less. And part of engagement can be asking each other the kind of questions that will encourage us to question the images fed to us by political admen. This is work, but if we want to not only keep what democracy we have but to make it flourish again, perhaps as it never has before, it is necessary work and we must all do our part! If we have it in us to do this, we could have a progressive, nationwide, local-to-national-office campaign ready for 2016 and, God willing, we may retake the Democratic party that year!
I can already hear a lot of snide observations from hammocks, followed by the clink of ice cubes as the cynics down another on the rocks. Let's try and prove them wrong, shall we? Let's get rolling on the real work ahead--now. Right now.

Monday, July 23, 2012

STEP UP, ORDINARY NRA MEMBERS!

For the past 48 hours, I have been smoldering with anger. Yesterday, I was in church rendering up that anger to God. Today, it might be less voluble but it smoldereth yet; I believe God has refined that anger and returned it to me.
This morning, I read that huge preponderances of both rank-and-file NRA members and non-NRA firearm owners favor sensible gun-control legislation including information-sharing between federal authorities and local police, the keeping of lists of those forbidden to own firearms and also the closing of the gun-show loophole. In short, most of the members of our 'national militia' favor proper regulation as the authors of the 2nd Amendment presupposed there would be. Huge majorities favor laws to at least curtail, if not end altogether, the ease with which psychos and other criminals and/or nutcases (psychos are often both) and maybe even the vile-tempered paranoiacs I call smackwaters (thank you, Carole King) can all buy guns and ammunition.
If it is not a sin crying out for at least justice (if not vengeance) that James Holmes was able to buy a military-grade semiautomatic weapon and six thousand rounds of ammunition on the Internet--I don't know what is! I call upon the decent people who are the NRA's rank and file to take back their organization from those who now control it and wield it as a club in Washington. Namely, the mercenary liar Wayne LaPierre with a pumping apparatus (I don't believe whatever pumps his blood can be called a heart!!) probably given away by his name, which means 'stone' in French, his minions and, most importantly, his masters! And who are his masters? The arms manufacturers, who now show themselves to be merchants of death indeed on a scale which would turn Sir Basil Zaharoff green with envy! And by telling outright lies and (at best) half-truths they have cowed nearly every local, state and national representative from even discussing sensible control measures by the constant shout of 'NO regulation, nowhere, nohow!' LaPierre is succeeding with firearms in doing what Taney might have liked to do with slaves: annulling nearly all state and local gun-control laws!!
I plead with the NRA rank and file and other non-affiliated gun owners to show how guiltless of the innocent blood shed in Aurora (and other mass shootings) they are by deposing LaPierre, drawing whatever clear lines are necessary to keep the arms manufacturers from ever owning your organization again and supporting sensible regulations to keep arms in the hands of sober,solid and coolheaded citizens and at least making it harder for smackwaters and worse to get hold of them!
Wayne LaPierre, your hands are caked with innocent blood and the pockets of your masters are stuffed with BLOOD MONEY!! And when you and they stand before the Judgment Seat the blood on that money will be on YOU and I can imagine part of your 'reward' may be to clean the blood off the Judgment Hall's floor and never be able to finish it! Mull that over, O ye bloody-minded and hatefully greedy bipeds, and repent while you still can!!! Maybe you should begin by helping ordinary NRA members to take back their organization. Then we can rationally discuss ways to regulate our 'national militia'!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

SERVITUDE AIN'T TRANQUILITY

"If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude as opposed to the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. Crouch down and lick the hands that feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."
Sam Adams said that in early 1776, probably to a group of Tories and maybe highly placed ones, though I don't know for sure and anyone who does is most welcome to say as much. I think it highly relevant to our situation today, although not necessarily in ways one might think.
First, let me suggest that the Wall Street Wild, Wild West, where crooked riverboat gamblers now pretty much run the whole show, is not what cousin Sam had in mind by 'the animating contest of freedom'. No, I think he meant the stress that comes with not following a crowd and making one's own decisions as opposed to just following with blind obedience. If there's no choice to make, that can remove some stress. I think it highly unlikely that a man whose dream for America was to have it a 'Christian Sparta' could be in favor of such gross Belshazzarian excess. Let me hasten to add that such a dream is not shared by me; even Sam's cousin John was cool to such an idea. John agreed that we neither were, are nor should be 'Spartans in contempt for wealth'. I agree with John that wealth is a useful spur for honest work and creative talent; I happen to feel we're in trouble when it's treated as the only legitimate reason for industry and I'll venture cousin John would agree. The Founders' feelings on 'luxury' were very mixed indeed, with good reason.
Second and most importantly, cousin Sam was only partly right in characterizing servitude as tranquility. To the millions of us now working for a pittance we need to stretch like bubble gum toward the end of each pay period and having to stretch less further all the time, well, that's not tranquility but it sure feels a lot like servitude. When so many of us have only just enough (and not always that, not by half!) to keep ourselves and our families barely fed, clothed and sheltered and there's nowhere else to go because the economy is still so anemic, isn't this servitude?
And our masters in their unslakeable greed have made our servitude progressively more stressful. As the late great Senator Kennedy asked on the Senate floor, when does the greed end? The answer may prove to be, when the greediest do the airdance before a large crowd. Let us hope that justice needn't be as severe as that, although I don't bar the possibility of it. And those who need to stretch their little ever further know how stressful their lives are and how the stress continues to grow. No, indeed, servitude ain't tranquility.
Finally, I must disagree with cousin Sam about the last thing he said. No, let's not forget that such were our countrymen; indeed, I say we forget that at our peril. As one Founder (I forget which) said, we have no inherent virtue in ourselves rendering us immune from temptations--including those which soften our spines and drain, slowly or quickly, our will to resist those who now, indeed, bid fair to take everything from us as they seek a back door through which they may well attempt such evils as reintroducing outright slavery. And this is not from government but from the buying up of what should be our government by men already superrich and seeking ever more, more, more. It may be necessary to crush them completely, although I hope simply clipping their wings will do this, in order to restore domestic tranquility--and freedom-- for most of us.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

AMERICA v. AMERIKKKA

"I can say without equivocation that the president hates this country."
So said the pill-popping, obese descendant of Missouri slavecatchers with a veritable passion for their jobs. I have to ask myself, just how deliberate is that lie? I have something to tell you: Limbaugh and his minions and imitators are not American. Yes, you read that right. Whether or not they know how American they aren't is a debatable matter, but they're definitely not American regardless of whether or not they know it!
No, what they are can be called one of two things: either resurgent Confederates or Slaveocrats OR Amerikkkans. Amerikkka and Amerikkkans are, by definition, anti-American!! They detest everything that makes America what it is: equality of opportunity backed up by strong laws and an infrastructure (including an educational system) kept in good repair by fair taxation and open to all, liberal welcome for the stranger who seeks a new life here, and a relatively rigorous separation of religion from the state from which follows the integrity and vitality of the sciences which leads to an abundance of scientific creativity and discovery. Indeed, I think is safe to say they want to stifle nearly all that is open about our country as they seek to privatize the commons as much as they dare. There's an old English poem that shows what they are:
The law locks up both man and woman
That steals the goose from off the common
But lets the greater felon loose
That steals the common from the goose.
The only thing they want to open is the freedom to deceive, humbug, pollute and bully the naive, the not-too-bright and the humble so that the con artists, polluters and bullies become unimaginably, and indeed unrighteously, wealthy. They seek to rebuild and expand a planterocracy as it was in the antebellum South, with no public education, technological stagnation, close collusion between churches and the state and the newcomers and people of color returned to slavery while the 'whites' of modest means are again humbugged into believing that they're also 'planters', equal to the rich in all things but wealth. Yeah, right. It is with deep feeling I beg my 'white' brethren, especially in the South, not to fall for this jive again!! Last time you fell for it, you took up arms and died for a system not only unrighteous, but which actually kept you down along with the slave. Were there schools where you could learn to read, write, think and cipher? You know there weren't. The planters deliberately priced education out of your reach so you wouldn't figure out what was really going on!! And because you were marginally higher than the slave, you believed the hokum the planters fed you!!
'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.' Well, what'll it be this time? Will you have the courage to treat those who are different as equals and fight against our common enemy (the greedy planters) this time? Or will you fall again for the planters' lying racist narcotics? This election is America v. Amerikkka. That means all of us working together helping each other v. everyone trying to rob each other, or trying to rob a large number of us, by force, lies and/or legal stealth while most of us sink back into poverty, the commons become irredeemably polluted, and death by starvation makes a comeback--which many might not hear about because Faux News would never mention it!
This November--choose America. Tell Amerikkka to get lost and stay lost!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

WHAT KIND OF LIBERAL?


     Quiz: What Kind of Liberal Are You?

My Liberal Identity

You are a    Social Justice Crusader, also known as a rights activist. You  believe in equality, fairness, and preventing  neo-Confederate conservative troglodytes from rolling back fifty years of civil rights  gains.
Take the quiz at
About.com Political Humor

Thursday, July 5, 2012

'BETTER THAN....???'

"If you ain't no better'n a n****r, who you gon be better than?" If I'm not mistaken, the father of Gene Hackman's character in Mississippi Burning asks him this--and feel free to say so if I am.
But to the point: "Who you gon be better than?" How much of our system and our psyches is built on at least trying to answer this question? Most of us already construe being 'better than him or her' in a deeply mistaken way; some of us try to use the question in hopes of avoiding the justice which we see coming our way. One of our major political parties is built almost completely on the desires of plutocrats and peckerwoods to continually show the rest of us how much 'better' and more deserving of life's benefits they are (even while most of them know otherwise in their hearts but will be drawn apart by wild horses before they admit it) than all of us.
Wanting to show oneself 'better than' isn't the original sin, but it's (literally) damn close. Original sin was wanting to be like God and know good and evil for ourselves long (?) before we were ready for it. However, the desire to be 'better than' appears in the story of Cain and Abel. Here are some things to know and remember about this story: Cain was a farmer, Abel a herdsman. Farmers and herdsmen have been in conflict probably since large-scale agriculture began. If herdsmen drive their animals through the farmers' fields of grain, expect the farmers to be pretty p.o.'ed about it. And the field--the place of contention between farmer and herdsman--is also where Cain kills Abel.
In addition to this, farming people have traditionally looked down on more pastoral people. This may be a subtext in early Sumerian stories such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, but I became aware of it by reading a historical article with quotes from medieval chronicles that bespeaks that attitude quite clearly--in this case, how the agrarian French, Normans and (some) English looked down on the more pastoral Welsh and Irish. Especially, they pulled no punches on how lazy pastoral peoples were when compared with their allegedly more industrious farming neighbors.
"In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Gen. 4:3-7, NIV)
Now there are some jackleg, and should-be jackleg, preachers who'll say Abel's sacrifice was accepted because it involved bloodshed, but I for one refuse to buy! However, I think it can be said that while Cain offered God a dividend, Abel gave over some of his working capital to God. Still, that's not even the main item yet. No, the main point here is (if farmers' attitudes towards herders is anything to go by) that Cain probably offered his fruits with thoughts such as, 'Here, Lord, are my firstfruits which the ground has produced through my hard work. See how much harder I've worked than that lazy dreaming brother of mine!' That is, whatever real gratitude he might have felt was shot through with and consumed by jealousy of, and desire to exalt himself above, his brother. If that ain't a wrong attitude with which to put offerings to God on the altar, I don't know what is! Abel's sacrifice was accepted because he offered it with real gratitude, and let us hope some joy as well.
And I suggest that wanting to 'prove' oneself (to borrow Tina's line) 'better than ALL the rest!' is NOT the same as wanting to do one's own best at whatever tasks are at hand. Nor is it the same as pushing oneself forward because of what one wants to do and, let's hope, share with as many others as possible. But if someone just wants to be king or queen--LOOK OUT!! My ignorance is NOT equal to your knowledge; likewise t'other way round! We are all blessedly different, but no individual is set above the rest, either politically or economically, by other than human hands either actively participating or silently agreeing. And the desire to be thought 'better than' is, well, maybe we can call it the 'original + 1 sin'?

Monday, July 2, 2012

STEP OUTSIDE!

"What is this capacity for self-delusion that we are not about to be sold into serfdom?"
I know I'm quoting not quite accurately but I think I've the sense right. Anyhow, so crieth out Chris Hedges this morn in Truthout. Let none here mistake me: I consider Truthout a valuable source of honest and true information and I agree with Mr. Hedges on quite a few points. I even agree in large part with Mike Papantonio about Hedges being something of a prophet for our times, even while I need to point out that Hedges and co-defendants recently won a great victory for freedom in the courts they also call 'completely rigged'. Not that they aren't skewed by race and class; we all know otherwise. But I'd also say their happy victory argues against total rigging. Chris, I can even understand you discouraging yourself from resting on your laurels, but if you ever do I'll squint at the sun to see if it's standing still. Take a few breaths at least and dance a bit while I take a stab at answering your questions, which I have also asked somewhat less hyperbolically.
I live in what is actually quite a pleasant middle-sized town. It's a university town, a county seat, something of a gastronomical mini-mecca and part of a large metropolitan area to boot. Yes, I read the news online from Alternet, AddictingInfo, Truthout and The Daily Beast. I watch news on Current and MSNBC. Still, even for what angers me, it can seem somewhat remote. But what do I see when I leave my house and tool around the town? Fellow citizens of every shade (I admit mostly 'white') going about their everyday business as we have all done throughout my adult life. Services are still present and quite functional, thanks ever so. Even the public transportation buses are still present (fewer than formerly, yes) and operating. Back in the spring repair even finished on a pair of bridges (over creeks, I admit) which had needed them! My point here is, at first glance and on the surface, things at or close to home still seem pretty OK to a lot of people.
However, I can think of one sign of an at-least slow economy still: vacated commercial spaces stay vacant quite a lot longer than they used to. It also takes a lot longer to sell or even rent houses than was the case before the crash. But unless one's own property is involved, noticing this probably requires stepping out from, or at least enlarging, the circle of one's own concerns. And one has to be willing to do that. And, perhaps, that's where an answer to these questions begins.
When our own concerns feel heavier and we're used to being able to and/or believing we should be able to deal with them ourselves, we may feel a greater sense of guilt, shame or other inadequacy but will we share such feelings? In this culture, mostly no. Maybe women, being so acculturated, will share them amongst themselves more but men mostly won't. I forget who said 'silence always serves the oppressor' but in this case it's only too true. All of us--every race and both sexes--need to break out of the sociocultural atomization we're all too used to and really speak with and listen to one another! It's not an easy thing to do; I can feel the difficulty of it within myself. I'm trained not to inflict my rantings on others who don't ask for them and 'ranting' is defined by the listener. But we all need to learn and/or remember, and inwardly digest, the necessity of breaking out from our individual circles of shame if we are to be a free people again as opposed to a malnourished (in more than one way)and disorganized lot of serfs!!
West of my town, my county has two other 'cities'. Both were once industrial towns. One (the one closer to us) has experienced a partial renaissance; the other hasn't. It is horribly easy for those of us who are still doing all right to forget those who aren't and to think of our fellow citizens living there as seldom as we think of the other side of the moon! But that's also another thing fast becoming a necessity for all of us: to ask, both inwardly and outwardly, how are the rest of us doing? And it's important to phrase it so as well: the rest of US!
Chris, one thing you're right about bigtime: the cost of comforting lies as opposed to hard-to-digest truths is now way too high. I thought it was too high in 1980, but as Stevie sings, it's only me-e. And now the cost of those security blankies is through the roof and I don't know about you, but I'd sooner swallow and digest the truths than compel our descendants to pay the heavy price tag for comforting lies. So let's tune out the TV and start some real conversations about the state of things, individual by individual, lunch-table by lunch-table. Pray for the necessary strength to step out of one's shame and to concern ourselves with our neighbors' welfare as well as our own. Once the 'honeycomb' of such conversations reaches a critical mass we will reclaim our government for ALL of us and either banish big money from politics or cut its role far down to a manageable level. Start now; time is short before climate change may be irreversible! And as you see, this does and will involve a number of issues.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

PRIVATIZATION=DISASTER!

As I observe the growing lust for privatization on the part of so-called conservatives, I'm reminded of another time when government was largely privatized. One corporation, duly chartered, had everything--and I mean everything--in its hands. What happened? The officials of that company became, with horrifying speed, 'drunk' on power and on greed. Many of this company's employees spent most of their time illegally accumulating fortunes rather than attending to business. One way of getting rich quick was to force the land's inhabitants to buy company goods from them at gouger's prices and compel those same inhabitants to accept (literal) starvation prices for their goods. As a result, famine gripped this actually quite rich, and fertile, land because the corporation and its servants were sucking it dry! And yet, because the corporation's servants were so engrossed with making themselves quickly rich, the company itself was chronically on the edge of bankruptcy until the body that had chartered it (and many of whose members owned stock in it) put together what we'd call today a 'bailout package'.
At the same time, there was another land where the officials were reasonably paid and known by the people they served. And they were dependent on the people for their jobs through the people's chosen representatives. Knowing this, they did what they were reasonably paid to do and sought no dishonest gain. They had no reason to seek it and plenty of reasons not to. The land thrived, not least because the working people were highly paid and had money to spend and thus, as the money moved, so also did goods and services. Any guesses as to which is which, and when?
For answers, open a copy of The Wealth of Nations and go to page 84 of the paperback Modern Library edition. Also, look on page 93 for what Smith had to say about the beneficial effects of the liberal reward of labor. Then consider those who want to revoke even the minimum wage as part of their obliterate-the-middle-class program and propose to substitute for a decent wage the pinch of real hunger on most of us coupled with empty by-and-by false promises!
I would say that those who now push less government and more privatization are acting with all the greed, rapacity and almost the brutality of the East India Company in the 1760s. I also say that the end will be at best deplorably similar. At worst we may see real famine for the first (and let's hope only) time in our country's history. Government is all of us together both helping each other and keeping a watchful eye on those who might be bullies if we weren't watching. Properly supervised government bureaucrats cost a lot less than corporate bureaucrats preoccupied with fattening their own pockets and this is why Medicare for ALL will also cost a lot less per person than does our current system with overpaid executives (i.e., bureaucrats) at the top!
It's worth remembering that the real Tea Party was an act of protest against the collusion of government with corporate power. Many colonists knew the bad rep of the East India Company and the reasons for it. I think it's also worth remembering how corrupt Parliament was then and to ask ourselves, does Congress (and our state legislatures) have all that far to go before their corruption by money equals that of Lord North's Parliament? I wonder. I hope you do too.
Privatization to the current extent is not a good idea at all. Government of, by and for the people needs to be brought back and privatization scaled way back--if not completely abolished, but let that judgment wait a little. If anyone can tell me a reason why privatization will work better here than in the Bengal of the 1760s, speak now or, indeed, forever hold your peace!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A TIME TO CHOOSE LIFE

"Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"
 So the Ghost of Christmas Present repeats Scrooge's own words to him when, for probably the first time in years, he is actually distressed on someone else's behalf--specifically, that of the ill-favored children, Ignorance and Want, that cling to the Ghost 'appealing from their fathers'. The Ghost warns Scrooge, "Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cries the Spirit as he stretches his hand toward the city. "Slander those that tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes and worsen it! And bide the end!"
Scrooge cries out, "Have they no refuge or recourse?" and that's where the Spirit repeats Scrooge's own words to him.
It's not for nothing we say, "If you think education is expensive (or troublesome, as in doubt-producing) then try ignorance." Seems Dickens already knew this 170 years ago when he first published  A Christmas Carol. And I can see powerful forces in today's world that, ignorantly or deliberately, attempting to push us back to that! As we give wealthy and greedy men a direct monetary interest in seeing large numbers of people incarcerated in for-profit prisons and, maybe, stand on the brink of resurrecting debtors' prisons and privatizing them as well and also, simultaneously, making both higher education and technical training more expensive so that hardly a student emerges without such a load of debt on their backs as will probably preclude any upward change in their standard of living or anything more than staying just out of those newly-built and for-profit debtor's prisons, we are laying the groundwork for a new slave society!
It will be a society of all but the very rich either in those factory-prisons or bound to the land as serfs, with all but the very rich also voteless and, hence, voiceless. Perhaps the masters will hold out the bait of living debt-free for a lifetime of unstinting hard work and blind obedience and, right now, I feel as if I can't bet against a majority of us falling for it! Not to mention that too many of the mega-rich became so not by real creation of real wealth but by tilting the monetary table their way and/or plundering the commons and leaving their messes for us to clean!
Such a society would have much less 'societal capital' in the forms of mutual trust, neighborliness, etc. and would thus be much more violent than currently. Yes, Virginia, that is only too possible. Just look at Somalia or, say, Pakistan to see what it would be like.
We are still the world's largest economy and have produced some real wealth-producing innovations over the last thirty years--most notably, improvements in informational technology including the Internet. But we also should have heeded Carter when he started the push to cleaner, greener forms of energy. But the fossil-fuel lobbies told us we'd lose electricity, have to walk everywhere and scrounge for wood for heat and we of course fell for it! Well, folks, the time is now here when we either switch to those energies or, starting with Florida, the Outer Banks and maybe Manhattan and Long Island, we start to lose our shoreline! We have the technology to switch now and not lose anything by it except what we waste anyhow--and as we do, we will create a lot of new wealth, replenish and add hugely to our 'societal capital' and we save both our planet and our society. How? Because as we switch to solar, wind, geothermal and probably fusion in time we will need to  democratize our economy and reduce the wealth gap. I say reduce, not abolish--humans will always have varying capacities and a democracy's stakeholders need to be as many as possible.
The most sickening aspect of the current regression is that many seek to cloak something profoundly immoral and impious with moralism and pratings of 'Lord, Lord' (see Matt. 7:21). Some even have the gall to say it's irreligious to care for Creation when God makes it clear He wants us to care for it as He does! Caring is key--for our own relationships with God, for ourselves and each other, and for Creation. I know I may be rambling a bit here but I hope 1) I tie them together at least passably and 2) I show the choice before us: a cleaner, greener future with good education, good work and more freedom for all (and, remember, the rich do well when we do, too) and between a future of debt slavery, prisons, corporate neo-feudalism and worsening environment (including less land to live on). The choice is ours, fellow citizens. I know my own choice; I pray you all choose wisely. Listen to God and choose LIFE. I think you know where that is.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

OFF THE TREADMILLS!!!!!

 Some quotes from an interesting Alternet article:

'Incumbents have reacted to this new world by running faster and faster on their fund-raising treadmills.  Incumbent Senators have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a month—every month of their six-year terms.'
 And more:
'Harvard Law Professor Larry Lessig has written a new book called Republic, Lost, in which he argues that our campaign finance system is destroying our ability to have a functioning government.  He does not claim that Members of Congress are venal and corrupt—to the contrary he says that they are largely good people, stuck in a system that focuses overwhelmingly on the need to raise money from interests who have it and contribute to influence legislation.  To give you a sense of his book—which I commend to you—a couple of the Chapters are called:
WHAT SO DAMN MUCH MONEY DOES
HOW SO DAMN MUCH MONEY DEFEATS THE LEFT
HOW SO DAMN MUCH MONEY DEFEATS THE RIGHT
As you may have heard, Jack Abramoff is now back in Washington, out of prison and having seen the light.  “Ban contributions from lobbyists”, he says, “and from the executives of companies that employ them.”  Not because lobbying is bad, but because in his own personal experience the involvement of lobbyists in campaign fundraising can dominate the legislative process.'
What all this means is that staying in office is becoming confused with attending to our business (WE are the people!) and that staying in office and, most importantly, acquiring enough funds to mount the next campaign is rapidly crowding out the necessary business of government of, by and for the people. Most of our 'elected' representatives have neither the courage nor the creativity to get OFF this treadmill which is killing--that's right, killing--our democracy! That being the case, the stopping of this hamster-wheel falls to we the people.
What can we do then? Simply this: at least until there is serious reform of campaign finance, we must vote for the candidate who best understands and is most forthright about what s/he wants to DO in office. Pledges to return to private life once these things are done won't come amiss either--or real explanations, as opposed to obfuscations, as to why they're staying in office. And if one candidate spends far more than the rest, that has to warrant close examination and uncomfortable questions. So, members of the media, quit chasing cotton-candy gossip and do your f***ing  jobs right!!
Neither we the people nor the press should acquiesce in the political blackmail by which our country's gambling casinos, aka the big banks, can say to good candidates: you'll do what we want or we'll carpet-bomb your campaign with our money. The media has to step up to carpet-bombers with uncomfortable questions and we the people must treat carpet-bombing campaign techniques as a disqualifier! And candidates must see that those candidates who say less for their program and rely instead on tricks and slogans which stay unexplained when the candidates are asked to expound are on a sure road to defeat! And that will probably give us more of a real choice between candidates. At least it'll make the candidates running behind think more as they articulate the 'reasons' why they, and not their running-ahead opponents, should be elected! That ad hominem or ad mulieram attacks should be treated as disqualifiers for the person running them goes almost without saying. However, that might necessitate explanations as to the difference between them and the 'raising of questions of character.' Well, fine, sez I: any citizenry can only be enriched and sharpened by serious and thoughtful discussion of such questions!
But while our elected representatives and even the Board of Elections refuse to act, the responsibility to do so lies with us--as it always should in any country honestly calling itself a democracy. I've suggested certain guidelines as to how to act; now, my fellow citizens, it's in all of our hands. No democracy will survive long without an actively engaged citizenry. The enemies of democracy know this and are using every parliamentary trick they can dig up to knock as many as possible off the voting rolls and discourage at least as many as they seek to exclude. Let's show these b****es and sons thereof that we won't be discouraged and that OUR government is NOT FOR SALE!! Not now or ever!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

THROUGH A NASTY WITCHES' BREW

I know for a fact, sexual orientation is not a choice.
Toward the end of 1970, I was an ordinary high school freshman whose hormones hadn't yet started flowing. At that point, I could take or leave females (mostly the latter) depending on whether I actually liked them or not as persons. Four months later, my hormones were rising, my head was full of pictures of women dressed, naked or in various states of undress and I was jacking off like fury, sometimes as often as thrice daily. That summer, as I babysat for two fairly attractive divorcees, I was also accompanied by Mrs. Robinson fantasies of both. Not to mention unmarried female teachers!!
The following forty years have seen both good times and bad between women and myself. There have been long droughts, relatively 'moist' times (OK, that was deliberate) and two happy marriages, the second of which is still going on. (If anyone wants to know, I was widowed almost three years ago.) But, even in the middle of the long droughts, I never had any thoughts of switching my sexual orientation. It simply never occurred to me. Nor was there anyone, parent, teacher, other authority figure or even any peer group  'shoving' me towards the girls; my hormones did all that and forcefully enough indeed! The point here is, my hormones rose and brought my libido to the fore and they also made it crystal clear where they were pointing me--that is, to women and women only. For those nitwits who seem to think that a little male bonding doing such stereotypically 'masculine' pursuits sech as huntin' an' fishin' ('Son, yo' daddy jes' wudn't 'nuff like BIIIIG Daddy!) can 'cure the gay', allow me to say my dad was never either of those things, and my love for him was mixed with little if any fear. It's only fair for me to say he was very much present in my life. But I also believe his presence to be quite irrelevant to the way my hormones flowed.
And when my wife and I enjoy marital intimacies, I honestly feel that nothing that either two men or two women can do for each other can possibly hold a candle to being 'one flesh' with the woman I love. I'm saying how I feel here, not that it must be so across the board. But the point here is, feeling such sensations as those, I can't believe being gay is a choice. No way, nohow. Not to mention there are still plenty of primates who look at gays with either fear, apprehension, dislike or homicidal desire or intent. Life is still plenty harder for gays than for straights. In the face of all this, who would choose to be gay???
The answer has to be, they don't. The question then has to be: why would anyone even entertain such a loony notion as being gay is a choice? I have a few suggestions, none of which are at all pretty. And as I take the lid off this kettle, you might feel the need for a hazmat suit.
The top element appears to be anxiety about one's own masculinity and, hence, the same old tiresome need to overcompensate. That element, though noxious enough, is also familiar and boring and we needn't discuss that further. Go down further and we find something really wicked: a lot (and I mean a lot) of unacknowledged hostility to women. The same nasty slime that fuels the desecrators of God's Name on the political Right as they seek to circumvent Roe and push back contraception availability as well. I suggest that only those sitting on a lake of unacknowledged hostility to women could even begin to entertain the lunacy that being gay is a choice. And the extent to which 'Momma' is made into a plaster saint doesn't help either. If anyone has other ideas as to whence springs this rot, I'm ready to hear them.
Imagine living with an abusive mother who everyone warns you to respect, yea sanctify, lest you be branded 'unnatural' and threatened with hellfire! Sounds like a brew for criminal insanity to me! And even if no one tells you these things, you might be getting them out of the ether. Another noxious element is probably the remnants of St. Augustine's anti-sex attitude, which probably adds to the resentment these men (and women?) feel towards their own hormones. Finally, there are those who feel attraction towards their own sex and work overtime to keep it tamped down. Sorry, guys and gals: if that's where your hormones point you, that's not about to change. Without re-examining and re-working your understanding of God and then 'coming out', the best you'll probably be able to do is bear it as a thorn in the flesh, to use Paul's phrase. I feel for you. Really. I wouldn't want to be in your shoes, and I'll pray for you. But also cleanse yourself before our God. Start asking Him questions again. Seek out progressive clergy if and when you need some clarifying. Don't listen to anyone who says you're unnaturally made, or anything close to it. Support one another, and let we progressives know who and where you are so we can help you. Then you won't care so much, if at all, about what the rest of us do behind our bedroom doors.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

'RIGHT RELATION' AND MARRIAGE RIGHTS

With all the ado over marriage equality, I feel the need to look at it in the light of what I wrote last month titled 'It's All About Right Relations'. First, let's examine the 'troublemaker' verses in both the Old and New Testaments. These verses all have a common context which is set forth as follows: 'I am the LORD your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God.' (Leviticus 18:2b-4) What follows is a lengthy list of actually mostly wholesome rules forbidding sexual relations between a variety of blood-relations. Nowadays we tend to think of these strictures as commonsensical, but remember that Abraham and Sarah were children of the same father and put these strictures in that context! I suggest what God is after here is to keep relationships as clear and as unentangled with or by other relationships as might be humanly possible. Not to mention that Israel then shared at least one characteristic with Israel now: lack of size. Then, God called them the 'smallest of the nations'. And one thing that a tiny nation in the midst of much larger and almost perpetually warring nations needed in those pre-WMD days was warriors. Lots of warriors. Which meant that every healthy Israelite capable of procreating had to do so early and often and with a minimum of (if any) non-procreative sexual distractions. Finally, the cardinal point was (and still was when Peter, Paul et al. wrote disparagingly of homosexual intimacies) keeping Israel separate and distinct from the pagan nations around them. This point was still valid in the Apostles' times as such intimacies were then closely associated with, and may have been part of, worship of the Greco-Roman gods. But I don't see such an association today, nor does it look like a 'necessary' association--i.e., worship of other gods doesn't necessarily follow from such relationships.
One objection which I've heard is, 'Such relationships are sterile; only a man and a woman can produce new life.'  This comes from those who hold that the sole, or primary, purpose of marriage is procreation. I used to agree, but that was years ago before I met, married and (after 11 1/2 years of happy marriage) saw home to God a truly wonderful woman with the biggest heart I've yet known and who, unfortunately, could not have children. And how much good is procreation 1) without the home being reasonably happy and, hence, able to raise children who will be assets to and not burdens on the larger community and 2) in our increasingly and almost alarmingly crowded world? Don't mistake me here; I know it's still necessary but just how necessary is now, and deserves to be, a debatable matter.
No, marriage has another purpose anterior to, yet necessary for, the rearing of children if not for their conception and gestation (though it's best for that too): to quote the Book of Common Prayer, marriage 'is intended by God for their mutual joy, for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity'. And so long as it's that, how much difference can the sex of the partners make if they feel themselves right for one another? Finally, I'd like to say that, not only are same-sex couples just as capable as raising healthy children as are traditional couples, but there's even a bit of research which suggests that children raised with two mothers do better than any! I don't know how extensive this is, but it's definitely worth some further examination.
 Reverend Barber has the right idea, hands down. If we err, let it be on the side of rights expansion and not on the side of going backward by contracting them. And same-sex marriages marked by commitment and mutual joy may well fall within the circle of 'right relations' and, in any case, isn't it much more consonant with God's Spirit to give them the benefit of the doubt? Here and now, I say it is.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

DEMOCRACY=COMPETITION (AND WE NEED MORE OF IT!)

Competition is a good thing.
It is an especially good thing for political, economic and religious ideas. Why? One reason is because that's the best way we have of sifting out what works from what doesn't. Another reason is that, because we are different, this allows for the satisfaction of different religious styles. Still another is that religion as a whole flourishes as never before when they compete peaceably with one another. It's also a useful reminder of how far we've yet to travel along the road to God; that none of us, individually or societally, are 'finished works' or are likely to be so while we live on earth.
And another very good reason is, whenever an imposed-from-above system, be it religious, political or economic becomes, for all intents and purposes, 'the only game in town' it's never taken too long, till now, for the folks running the system to behave in ways that are discreditable, sometimes egregiously so, to the newly monopolistic 'system' in question. Not to mention how long it can take that same system to shake off the ill effects of once having been a monopoly even if they're not that any more. Exhibit A here is: the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church protecting pedophile priests. Not to mention the probable (and still mostly unreported) horde of imams doing the same (literally) damned thing!
One system fortunate in not having been a monopoly for too long yet is capitalism. Since the Berlin Wall fell and we won the Cold War, capitalism has been largely considered as the only economic system that can work. And for the last decade, have we or haven't we seen capitalists acting in ways that are profoundly discreditable to that same system? Beginning with Enron through the housing bubble and previously reputable brokerages betting against their own clients and culminating in the greatest crash since 1929. Not to mention the questionably deliberate near-gutting of our industrial base, the assault on public education which is still an extremely vital part of our infrastructure, much of which has been allowed to crumble! And it must be said that the Clinton administration, a scant five years after the Wall fell, paved the way for this with the repeal of the Glass-Steagall law, among other things. The over-skewing of wealth into the hands of the uppermost 0.1% is part of this profoundly counter-productive cycle, as is the concomitant loss of real democracy in our politics.
What should we do? Quite bluntly, we need to redistribute wealth to some extent! Justice Brandeis said it in 1927: "We can either have a few very wealthy people, or we can have democracy, but we cannot have both." Most of us are thankfully inclined to opt for democracy. First, the highest tax bracket needs to be at least 50% (which it was under Reagan). Second, public education needs a lot of repair, renewal and stregthening--as does most of our infrastructure. Third, the 'greening' of our economy needs to be pushed forward. This, more than anything else, will produce the number of necessary jobs. Fourth, every business of a certain size or above (I'd recommend this wherever the employer starts not to know all his/her employees) needs to give its employees a chance to 'buy into' the business. As far as possible, employees and stockholders need to be the same people.
We  have always said (and we've seen it to be so), people work better when they work for themselves. Well, let's start putting it more into practice! And if they're owners, will they or won't they take better care (including of each other) in, and of, that facility? Surely the answer is 'yes'. Most businesses which are co-operatives are still with us. Even the Grange still exists, although we could do with it being more influential. Now is the time to democratize our economy and the returns from it!!
Co-operatives can and should show a healthier alternative to the capitalism lately turned vicious and downright piratical. This will still take time even if it starts to happen on a larger scale and we need to not allow ourselves to be distracted by divisive 'wedge' matters. I don't even want to call them 'issues' because they don't deserve to be. We do need to listen deeply to one another so that we can speak with one another. Fellow environmentalists, start hearing issues of class. Then let's expand each other's understanding of bread-and-butter matters like jobs. Never mind anyone else's domestic arrangements so long as the families are healthy. And we all need to recognize, and fight, injustice in whatever color it comes!
There will continue to be wealthy and (relatively) 'poor', but a vital, functioning democracy with Judeo-Christian underpinnings needs brackets for both. None so rich as to bid defiance to the government which receives our input and is thereby empowered to act on behalf of all of us, none so poor as to need to scrape in order to stay alive. And there continues to be a vital 'commons' available to all of us. I hope and believe this to be a reasonable 'yardstick' for free societies.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

WHEN I WAS A LAD

When I was a lad the To-day show
Fea-tured good important things to know
Frank Blair gave us weather and McGee the news
And Barbara Walters did good in-ter-views
(And Barbara Walters did good in-ter-views)
But now with Sarah Palin on the show
To-day is just the biggest media ho'!
(But now with Sarah Palin on the show
To-day is just the biggest media ho'!)

Monday, April 2, 2012

IT'S ALL ABOUT RENEWAL & RIGHT RELATIONS

"The new anti-clericals did not perceive that those who used the [Gospel's] language to serve slavery [and its successor Jim Crow] or 'private initiative' or 'the American way of life' were [and still are] in fact perverting the Gospel and betraying the great tradition of revivalism in America. They did not themselves (italics mine) understand that the word of true evangelism is not this bad word that everything must stay exactly as it is [or, worse, regress to some mythical 'golden age] but the wonderful and emancipating word that all things are being made new." Including us--but we must choose to be so remade!
The above passage, without my bracketed interjections and italics, is from the excellently seminal book From State Church to Pluralism by Franklin Littell. What Littell describes here is a cardinal reason why many educated, cultured and intellectually curious people became, and are still becoming, disenchanted with the church. And as the number of such people grow (and, whatever we think of the 'vitiation of taste' and other such elitist chatter, their numbers are growing, especially amongst young adults and especially where intellectual curiosity and honesty is concerned) the churches' influence will continue to decline.
Unless.
In this case, unless we wise up and proclaim as we may not have proclaimed it since maybe the Great Awakening, or the Reformation, or maybe even since Theodosius made Christianity compulsory for Roman citizens in 390, that Christianity is NEITHER the bad word that everything must stay exactly as it is or as we pretend to remember it from Leave It To Beaver days NOR the worse word that we must re-attach religion with state and regress to some mythical golden age BUT the wonderful Word that God makes all things new!! And that in and through a relationship with God through His Word--and, best of all, His Word made flesh--we can choose to be made new. Yes, we need to choose almost every day to be so remade; this requires persistence. But I hope it helps to know that, you ask God for that persistence day by day, you'll have it! And the making new will usually take the rest of our earthly lives and into the next life. But, again, probably the most important thing is to persist. Stay engaged with God. Rage at Him when you need to. He can take it and, if David raged, moaned and kvetched at God, so can you. Who else won't you annoy with all that? And God welcomes all honest questions; just don't necessarily expect immediate answers. Be alert for them, though: they can and do pop up when you least expect 'em.
Ingest and always remember this: a robust, living, vibrant faith welcomes questions and challenges, can credibly answer criticisms and smile at satire. It is a weak and brittle 'faith' on the verge of collapse anyhow that fears and/or seeks to suppress questions, challenges, criticism and satire! If you encounter a gathering which looks alive but where questions--or certain questions--are 'not asked', then it's phony and the 'life' of the congregation is but froth on the beer!
One thing which most serious believers try to do (I know I do) is to harmonize our earthly requirements with being called to the Gospel. To do this, here's what I hope are some handy and helpful guidelines:
1) Know the difference between needs and wants: we all need to eat, drink and breathe. We all need a place to sleep and call home. We need connections with one another and with nature. We all need some kind of work that leaves us with some sense of doing something real. Even the handful of us rich enough to not need the money need some kind of work. And nearly all humans want such work, too--ESPECIALLY the poor among us! We need some means of getting around, either private or shared. But I challenge anyone to convince me they NEED a Humvee, a private jet or a beachfront mansion. There is enough for everyone's need, but not everyone's greed!
2) Do whatever we can to help more of us meet needs and to keep greeds within some kind of tolerable bounds. Maybe that would be to be as sure as possible that no one's need is endangered by another's greed.
3) God welcomes questions and has given us all free will; we're the ones that seek to deny or destroy the free will of others. Hence, isn't it upon us to work in ways that open more possibilities to more of us? This means, as FDR said, 'schools must be the last thing on which we economize'. And it means the schools not be test and/or indoctrination plantations, but places which actually encourage critical thought. And this is also why strict separation of religion and state is indispensable to the state's benevolence and to the flourishing of real religion. Real religion is alive today where the government is neutral towards it--including and especially here! Roger Williams was right: "Forced religion stinks in God's nostrils."
4) God makes room for a lot of different things to 'play' together; so should we. This means multiple uses of  areas--but excluding what's likely to annhilate all other uses and/or destroy the life therein. Balance is the key here. Keep the ecosystems vital, but not unchanged.
5) Most importantly, put relationships first: the relationship which we each have with God, healthy relationships with one another and with other creatures. By 'healthy' I mean helping each other grow. NO stomping allowed--neither physical nor verbal! And don't be taken down any deceptively easy path: be as sharp as serpents and guiltless as doves. Be shrewd and keep your hands clean. Telling the unpleasant truth is NOT getting your hands dirty, although some will try to convince you otherwise.
But let's start with God, and God's Word (including made flesh) making all things new, and doing it not from the top down but from the bottom up!! There's a world of difference between seeking to infuse society with God's Spirit from the bottom up and seeking to take over the government and enforce top-down conformity of worship and behavior. Nothing is more destructive to real religion and civil society than the latter; nothing vitalizes both like the former. That Spirit can never be forced; it flees from force.
The God we worship is the One Who makes all things new; let us follow in the Way as God gives us strength! Amen and amen!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

DEBUNKING 'REPLACEMENT' THEOLOGY, CONTINUED

Everything about 'replacement' theology bothers me, but lately there's something about it which bothers me even more. Possibly one reason it does that is because I haven't really examined it till now, and it's this: behind 'replacement' theology is the colossally spiritually arrogant assumption that, of course, the Jews got it all wrong because (fill in the blank) but most often it has to do with how ruthlessly legalistic, vengeful and letter-oriented (as opposed to spirit-oriented) they were as opposed to we sweet Aryans, Africans, Arabs or whatever. We are truly loving people. We are the good little boys and girls who are sweet and docile and because (especially when compared with those wicked, ungrateful, kvetching Joos (how would Michele Bachmann mangle that word?)) of that, we got it right! Nyaaaaaahhhh! Nyaaaaahhh! Nyaaaaahhhh!
Right. We would never allow the letter to tie us up in legalistic knots and hair-splitting. We would never avenge one of our eyes with both our enemy's eyes and his relations as well; we would never seek revenge at all! Except on God's enemies, of course. Anyone notice how our enemies are classified as God's enemies as well?  While it's probably true that the first Gentile Christians greeted the Good News without the 'baggage' which  most Jews carried then, it didn't take them long at all to start accumulating their own 'baggage' and attaching it to God's narrative, now did it? Can we, in good conscience, deny that our eyes (especially the jaundiced eyes of the powerful) might be just as blind as were Annas's and Caiaphas's party in the Sanhedrin (it's worth remembering that 1) they didn't usually meet at night, 2) they didn't summon members likely to disagree with their agenda--sound familiar, Scott Walker et al.?--3)Gamaliel, then the president of the Sanhedrin, was not at Jesus's 'trial'--in short, the Sanhedrin's majority party stacked the deck!) and the eyes of the 'loaded' Jerusalem mob the next day? That we can either accumulate too much extraneous 'religious baggage' and/or be too frightened of losing what we have to see what, and with whom, God is doing? Make no mistake, Annas and Caiaphas and those they led were terrified! Not so much, probably, of Jesus himself as of Pilate and the  Romans: I've heard that when Jesus drove the moneychangers from the Temple, Annas, Caiaphas & co. had almost all they could do to convince Pilate this was only a 'domestic disturbance' and not the beginning of a revolt against Rome. Anyone ready to say they wouldn't be terrified under such circumstances? Any guesses as to how much Attila terrified Pope Leo I? Or how other barbarians terrified his successors? Take a long look at both Christian and Muslim history and tell me how much 'baggage' they, and we, didn't either keep from pagan days or didn't accumulate!
The Muslim community, majorities and minorities, is now in the throes of struggle of liberating spirit vs. the lethal letter. Among us, the lethal letter's force is weakened but the Spirit still needs nurturing and strengthening. Even in Israel, that battle is still being fought.
We so have no business, none whatsoever, acting as if 1) God was a man to dump Israel for us, 2) we're more 'spiritual', or spiritually fruitful, than Israel, 3) God's promises to Israel now belong to us. All that is a steaming, noisome pile of taurine droppings. The only way in which we Christians are the 'new Israel' is the same way that the states in the United States from Vermont forward are 'new states'. The original thirteen might be the 'old states', but they never stopped being states. And God never has, nor ever will, abrogate His covenant with the elder Israel. To say so is like saying our original thirteen states are no longer under the Constitution! No, our business is to stand with Israel as our senior in communion with God, as the trunk to which we branches have been grafted, as our miner's canary who tells us whether there are noxious gases seeping into the mine and as civilization's frontline in (by our 21st century lights) a profoundly savage region.
Let us pray that God may open our eyes to these things so that some of us may turn from our misguided folly regarding Israel and her enemies to where we all need to be for God's Kingdom and our civilization. This is one instance where the interests of both actually do coincide.