The Other Beautiful America

I have always loved what America has the ideals to be.  As my friend Jen apparently knows as a history teacher, those ideals can be found somewhere between the Magna Carta, The Plymouth Covenant, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Constitution — each laid claim to in Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech and his understanding of “the Beloved Community”. Since King, there have been moves toward equality of the sexes, and President Obama’s decision to support gay marriage, as a new generation stakes its claim to America. So much of this is under threat with the current administration, but the ideals of the country still hold in many places among people who care for each other, who still believe that human beings have dignity and worth, that they are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

“Seek first the community where God reigns” — my paraphrase of Matthew 6:33

As of this week, my blogs  “Like It Matters”  and “Because It Matters” have reached a combined 20,000 hits so I want to celebrate those people who make up the America I believe in . 

This should in no way diminish the incredible natural beauty of America — the one of song and story. Having toured America and  written about it in the blogs, I can tell you that the Grand Canyon is a miracle of nature and there is so much more which reminds you that no human being could keep up with God’s creativity. Yes, the natural beauty is also threatened by the current administration, but everybody talks about that. This blog began out of frustration that I wasn’t hearing opinions or stories I could relate to. I was astounded after writing the very first blog that other people shared my opinion. I had begun to believe that good religious people and liberals no longer existed. They do. This blog has become about them and their stories, their thoughts, for all 20,000 hits. 

So, enough about me. Let’s talk about the other beautiful America.

Every church in America — if it talks about Jesus — has the right intent. Nobody starts a church with the intention of hurting people. If it takes Jesus seriously, however, it is part of the beloved community that makes the world –via the people around it– better off. Most every church in the UCC and liberal Protestant denominations believes in kindness and taking care of each other — until recently the norm, now radical concepts.

When I want to listen instead of talk, the Society of Friends (Quakers) is where I go to be filled.

Certainly, without a doubt, all of the clergy or ministerial types mentioned in these pages do that. People with specific stories here (or mentioned) include:

Gordon Sherman and Cy Sherman, Rick Fowler, John Hudson, Jeff Brown, Pat Speer, Lynn Carman Bodden and her husband Peter, Char Corbett and her sister Sioux Wilusz, Greg Coles, David Ratz, George Harris, the late Prophetess Gerry Claytor and her late husband, Rev. Benny Claytor, their daughters, Kim and Bennyta (now called “Bee”), Caroll Cyr  and the staff of Silver Lake, Cat Chapin-Bishop and her husband Peter, Peter Wells, my wife Michelle Madsen-Bibeau, Todd Farnsworth, Linda Lea Snyder, Lisabeth Gustafsen, Ken Ferguson, the entire staff of CYC Senior High camp, and Camp Wightman, staff and campers from the now defunct Deering Camp and Conference Center, the late Newt Perrins and his still very  alive wife, Val and the staff of Skye Farm. The late Charlie Crook .

While I like them doing “charity” work, my friend Pat Speer (covered in a blog) and his organization Christian Activity Council believes the church is called to push for justice, so that churches don’t need to do charity. Until Jesus returns, I’m ok with both.


“People are people, so why should it be, that you and I should get along so awfully?” — Depeche Mode

(thoughts on beautifully American groups…)

There’s a group of people I grow to respect more and more in this country, precisely because they have no reason to be kind, but do it anyway: the LGBTQ community. A few weeks ago, a lesbian saved the life of a Senator in Washington. She’s married. He doesn’t believe in gay marriage. If it were up to him, she’d have a much harder life. When it was up to her, he got to keep his life. She could have forgotten how to use her gun, or lost her way to the Senator’s location, but she didn’t because it would be a dereliction of duty and apparently out of character for her. After this event, she could go home and look at herself in the mirror. Could he?  Of course, not all gay people are like her  and not all Senators are like him, of course. It’s just that there’s no reason for either of their behaviors and she did the Jesus-type thing.

I make the case also, because I know my friend Leigh McCaffrey — an ordained minister in the UCC and a lesbian herself. She lives near Orlando, Florida and when a hateful man from another religion killed a room full of gay folks, that community came together. They didn’t go Muslim-blaming. They didn’t flip out about terrorism, they didn’t attack back. They came together, became tighter, supported each other, celebrated life and grieved the loss. Given that there still many place where Leigh and her partner Sue can’t go, for fear of death, that seems incredible to me. Still, Leigh knows Jesus personally, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I just am.

In these pages, I have talked about Patty Bucchieri, whom I called “the nice lesbian” because she was, and is, good to our children. In our church, there are lots of nice gay folk. Patty is just so kind and a good Christian, I wanted to highlight her . In these pages, there are also in-the-closet gay folks covered — but of course, I can’t say who they are, just that they changed my life.

NAACP, Bridgeport’s IMA, Black Lives Matter, Jeff Brown’s ministry of peacemaking in Boston, Bridgeport Food Pantry, The Geraldine Claytor Magnet School in Bridgeport, CT, Boys and Girls Clubs of Rochester, NY, Beyond The Moment

I’m old. I like old causes, obvious causes, things that make sense to me. Race relations makes sense to me. Promoting harmony and rights for some of the coolest people I know makes sense to me. It seems like many of my friends have moved on to new causes, but this one still remains  unfinished. We ended the war. We’ve had the sexual revolution. We have had the equal rights movement, but pretty much racism has gone unchanged in this country. Yes, the women’s movement has lost ground for years. Yes, it seems that every single good thing is being threatened by this administration. But somehow, after the Civil Rights movement and MLK’s death, everybody else realized they could get their rights, and the fight against racism went untouched by the White community. Like the last case of smallpox, it came roaring back stronger than ever over the last few years , as some pockets of America want to go back to straight-out oppressing Black folks. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to finish one project before I move on to the next one so I have tried to write blogs about racism and racist violence whenever it happens. I now write prayers at night because it took too much out of me to write and grieve that much — sometimes 3 times in a day. There is so much to treasure about Black culture (No, I still don’t like most rap, or dance songs that are only about sex, but my kids do) that I hate to lose it. The groups above or individuals, like the rest of beautiful America, cares when it’s hard and still talks to White culture even though the abuses of that culture should have had us written off years ago.

That said, there are other organizations that make the world better and deal with some of the issues: The Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, N.O.W., People For The American Way and National Coalition Builders Institute in Washington, D.C.

Some organizations making the world better every day aren’t run by anybody, or anybody you’d know: Alcoholics Anonymous and every other 12-Step group in the world is an incredible gift to humanity.  You can change your life, find meaning, and be a part of change for free at these places.

In the same vein, there is Celebrate Recovery that my friend Dave Ratz (mentioned in blog years ago) ran a local chapter of in New Britain, CT. Also a fine group, the religion piece of it might be off-putting to some and life-saving to others. In New Britain, at 500 Main St., there is an offshoot  of CR called Recapture Healing and run by Marie Bachand.

Jean Milo is now a big mucky-muck with Save The Children.

Organizations don’t have to be big to do good things. Cunningham Tire in N. Reading, Massachusetts, will balance and install tires for free. Bob and Derek are brothers who want to help motorists for free. They consider it a ministry, and it is. They are great guys.

I know I have already discussed churches, but under groups, I want to acknowledge the no-longer kids of Center Church Lynnfield, MA, Union Congregational in Hall, NY, and Mountain Rise UCC who have grown up to make the world better in so many ways. I remain in awe of them for the kindness and intelligence they share in the world.

Also covered in a blog: Ability+ Sports who get people with any number of disabilities to the slopes in Vermont and do incredible work creating spiritually/emotionally whole people who are better skiers than I am.

Finally, I have decided recently to get involved with “food justice” issues. Who could be against people eating? Let’s not go there…. Who is for people eating? WhyHunger, started by the late musician Harry Chapin and Bill Ayres, its mission is to end hunger, by connecting up with grassroots folks all over America. They do incredible work and their monthly newsletter is full of agencies and organization that connect to the cause. Literate and intelligent and caring all in one organization.

***** healers and helpers *****

“There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul” — hymn

America is full of teachers,therapists, social workers, nurses, doctors who help people every single day. This became apparent especially after a Deering Reunion where people talked about what they had done with their lives since camp. Shout outs to:

Dawn Cunningham in Massachusetts is a great school teacher. Liz Solomon Wright is a college professor in Texas. My friend Cat Chapin-Bishop won the non-existent  “Mary Lou Brewer Award” for teaching in these pages, honoring both Cat and Mary Lou, ML is my favorite teacher of all time.  Barbara “Bobbie” Fox at Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT is a teacher of healers. All of the staff at Charter Oak Elementary, Sedgwick Middle School, and Conard High School have taught my daughters to be fine citizens. Pam Shuman is a psychiatrist and teacher at Brown University (or was).

My former sister-in-law Marlene Sanford has worked with the developmental delayed for 20+ years.

My mother, Donna Rae Zoller Bibeau, was –and wanted to be — a nurse for most of her life. Deb Bercovici is a nurse. Maryanne Maccullagh is a chaplain to nurses … and patients. Karen Ross Gardener Gatchell has been a nurse for years.

The staffs of River Valley Counseling in Chicopee, MA, Petaluma People’s Service Center in Petaluma, CA, South Bay Mental Health in Attleboro MA, BHN in Springfield, MA and the staff of the Institute for Living in Hartford, CT ( at this age, I’m old enough to have worked at most of them) help clean up the messes life inflicts.

The Virginia Satir Global Network is, for me, the mother lode of all good things in family therapy and systems theory.

****** Arts and Artists**********

“Paint a pretty smile each day./loving is a blessing/never let it fade away/it’s all about love” — from “All About Love” by Earth, Wind, and Fire

“If I had a hammer/I’d hammer in the morning” — Pete Seeger

In the blog, I have featured/reviewed many an artist’s work.

MIchelle Beebs is one of the kindest people I know. She has an incredible ear for music. Both solo and with her band, the Money Makers, they are enlightened indiduals who kick butt as a tight-knit group with a groove.

Joan Osborne has a musical dexterity and a love of the world of roots music I admire. I have yet to pick up her new CD tribute to Bob Dylan, but I will.

Chapin, Chapin, Chapin…. The late Harry Chapin is one of my heroes. I have had the absolute pleasure to interview Jen Chapin, whom I admire in so many ways. The Chapin Family, The Chapin Sisters, Tom and Steve Chapin, the Jen Chapin Trio, Howie Fields, and Big John Wallace have all been positively reviewed here.

The Blues Brothers changed my life.

Larry Baker is a great author.

Ron Bottitta is involved with 99-seat theaters in L.A. And does good, provocative work with Rant and Rave out there.

Comic book and comic book movies show us the best in ourselves. The most recent one, Wonder Woman, is incredible.

TV show “Chuck” is a great show about kind people thrown into a very unkind world of danger.

This is the America I know, the beautiful human America. There isn’t a militarist or a corporation or Russian spies among them. They are just people with a belief in a just and kind world. And these are just the people I know or know of. No doubt, reader, you know people just like these. On this 4th of July, 2017 acknowledge and celebrate this beautiful America. Feel free to add organizations or people who also in the comments section. If any of it has typos or you’d rather not have it included, let me know that as well. 

Resisting with Peace,

Hate Hurts Quickly, But Love Wins In The End

I am a pacifist. I have been most of my life, but I have to say that these past few years have nearly killed me by breaking my heart. This last week’s news and visuals were too much to watch at times, because human suffering, especially if we could have stopped it, is horrible to watch. In the case of Afghanistan, I believe we will find more to explain why it fell faster than anyone could have imagined it. To take over an entire country in 11 days is the pace of simply walking across that country and that shouldn’t be possible.

But that’s not the point of this piece. I finally had an answer to the question of why good things can fall prey to violence – and why Martin Luther King, Jr and Gandhi before him were right about love through non-violent means winning in the end. The answer came this morning on NPR with a discussion of the fall of Viet Nam in the 1970’s. After our army’s attempt at “nation building” in that country, the slaughter of innocents began fully. Now, in 2021, our new brightest ally is … Viet Nam. Love wins for the same reason hate never does – memory.

Once we have been to a country and attempted to bring Western Freedoms to other countries, to the extent that we have been kind and loving and living without repression happens, people’s hearts are gladdened.  They remember what it tasted like. It’s hard to identify a group of people who feed and clothe and house and listen to you and give you justice as “terrorists” or “oppressors”. When they are gone, it’s harder to remember them that way, because of experience. This is what the Marshall Plan taught us after we destroyed Germany and Japan. It seems the same in Viet Nam.

They will know we are Christians by our love” is a hymn because it speaks truth. “They will know we are Christians because we say so” and “They’ll know we are Christians by our hate” are not hymns because no one would believe that – and if they did, it would only be time-limited, at best, until reality set in. This goes for any country, and group of people, any military, any system. People do not forget freedom and hope and any experience of justice. Once a dream becomes real, it becomes real in people’s heads. That memory lives on, unless it is entirely snuffed out, but even that is impossible, it seems.

Two of the things we learned in this past year are about the combination of the Tulsa Race Massacre and the origins of Juneteenth, a celebration of the journey to freedom, kept by Opal Lee, who survived her family’s house being burned by the KKK in 1939.  After the destruction of Tulsa, in 1921, something must have survived because 18 years later, she wouldn’t let hate get in the way, and it took until she was 100-plus years old because her memory refused to let it. Does this mean that her one memory was worth all of the people who died at the hands of racists? No, it does not. But, as the old camp song says, “It only takes a spark/to get a fire burning”.

The memory of that burnt house survived all those years, as did the Massacre. What she did with it in the name of love will live on. People remember love when they have experienced it. If people in Viet Nam became our allies, they didn’t do it because we brought Napalm to them. It must be something else. I suspect it is kindness from soldiers who – despite the mission – didn’t want to kill anyone. Those men brought a realization of what kindness can do. Those men fathered children with the women there and went back to find them and their children and give them a better life without the war machine.

[Stop! Do I hear myself? Am I claiming pacifism prevails because war is a good thing?! This is the voice screaming in my political mind, but somehow, I think I believe it.] It’s not the war that made peace possible. It’s the love within the ridiculousness of the conflict and despite people’s worst intentions, it’s the humanity that never dies when people connect as humans that continues. By the same token that Tulsa’s Race Massacre wasn’t the cause of Juneteenth, war isn’t the cause of love for each other. Love, and that seeing of humanity (I would say bestowed by God) in The Other, is stronger than hate because it continues on as a marker to the path where others have been, and future generations can go again.

All of the women and men and children who have lived in Afghanistan will probably feel angry and betrayed at the US pullout – and they have a right to be. In those that survive, that anger will turn to loss when they grieve what they knew. It won’t be us that are doing the killing, maiming, corrupting, and torture that the Taliban is apparently capable of. To the extent that our people, or our mercenaries (“contractors”) did that killing, maiming, corrupting, and/or torture, we deserve what we get in the future.

But creating a climate of freedom for women to be educated, for children to grow up safely, for people to have stable food supplies is the closest thing to justice we know. Justice and acceptance/ lack of oppression is the working model of what Jesus called us to do. It is Agape. It is love. And it is seen in peace.

Does this seem like a sustainable model? Lose thousands or millions to violence and gain 1 long-term life of love? No, frankly, it doesn’t. But I swear to you, I believe it’s true. Life finds a way, healing happens. Healing is a horribly difficult path, but I see it in traumatized clients every single day.  Recovery is hard progress. Forgiveness is like pushing a rock uphill. We do these things anyway because something within us calls to want better in life. That something is memory, enervated by the Spirit to become hope. It is the steadfast resolve to not let hate or evil win because we’ve seen the right thing prevail sometime, somewhere.

So, in short, love wins because it survives. People run out of the anger that caused lashing out. When they run out of anger, they see with their rational minds choices that they could have made instead. Pacifists try to help society skip the step of violence and get to actual realm-building. It sucks to be us, but we will win in the end. Even when chaos and anger and mistrust and lies swirl about us, the truth of love and peace remains grounded in the core of our being, the reality of the Spirit of God within us. Because God will survive, love and peace will survive, and hate will lose in the long run. If we pacifists only run one or two legs of the race, the race goes on until love wins.

Resisting with Peace,


A Trauma Therapist’s Take On the Select Committee Hearing

I just spent the past 3 hours watching The Select Committee on January 6. I was surprised by a number of things that occurred during this first session that others may not have noticed, but have an impact on the wider world, so I thought I’d highlight them.

First, a semi-political piece: The Committee was chosen very well. On the Committee, there was a Black chairman, White people, at least one Hispanic person, and at least one Asian woman. There were men and women, and yes, Democrats and Republicans. Each and every one of them was affected by the events of that day. Traumatic events effect everyone. Diverse groups like this show the unity of our humanity, despite the apparent differences of the people in a group. Overwhelming events are overwhelming events. We may cope with them differently as individuals, but we are still overwhelmed by them, and we all need to cope with them,

The thing that most struck me in the testimony of the officers was this: their shame. There was an officer who was slammed in a door, who saved the lives of the Congresspeople, and he acknowledged/apologized for the fact that he spit on the floor trying to clear his lungs. Was anyone else concerned that he spit on the floor? Did anyone even notice it? No. Does it matter in the larger picture, such that he should be ashamed of it? No. Does he care about it? Is he embarrassed by it? Absolutely.

Inordinate shame about things that don’t matter in a situation they had no control over is a hallmark of trauma survivors. Some of them are defensive of those psychic wounds and lash out. Some of them just hurt as the event or events overwhelm their sense of self and they have what Joan Baez called “that haunted, hunted look”. In any case, trauma hurts and it hurts in ways unimaginable by those who have not experienced it.

In addition to that, there seems to be an inverse correlation between how bad the symptoms are and how strongly a person believed in the cause that was offended. In this case, those who had a strong belief in an ideal America, in an ideal Democracy, were the most broken when that ideal failed. They seem to have two choices: either the cause isn’t true or they failed it. This leads to disillusionment or shame, depending on the false choice they make.

In trauma patients, it is the ones who most believe in the ideal of goodness that are the most who are the most hurt by the lack of it in their abusers. Again, they often choose either disillusionment with human beings or feel ashamed of their “failure” in that belief. Neither of course is true, but creative responses are often gone in the shock.

The worst way to treat someone who has been abused is to blame them for what happened, as they are already predisposed to self-hate. Often people will say “you were (morally) weak” to a survivor, “and that’s why it happened”. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The beauty or strength of the person prior to the trauma, because it took such a huge event, that should be assumed.

More truth will be revealed by the hearings as they go forward, but this struck me for today. I hope it adds to your understanding.

Resisting with Peace,


Normal Older People, As Seen By An Old Man

[For my Deering peeps…hope it makes sense now…]

“Old Man, take a look at my life, I’m a lot like you” — Neil Young

I never thought I’d get old, until I was. Until about 50 years old, I felt like I was still my same 25 year old self internally. At my 30th High School reunion, I didn’t recognize nearly anyone at first … they were so…. old. The jinx was on as soon as I said that. The mirror suddenly revealed an old man: not bad, or ugly, but most certainly old. My classmates mostly were bank presidents, computer geeks making a lot of money, engineers making a lot of money, and so on. So what if they were old? They’d made something of themselves.

At about 40, my body decided I was old. My joints creaked, it was harder to get up from sitting down, I ran out of breath running to catch a bus in the winter and so on. Twinkies, Mac and Cheese, Ramen diet catching up with me? Nah. Couldn’t be. 40 was not the age people were supposed to feel old! But 40 hit hard. Of “sex and drugs and rock and roll”, the only one I’d really indulged in has cost me some of hearing — not much, mind you, but enough to miss little things or details in things. I could still be young but my body was not having it anymore on the larger scale.

Sleep apnea, a few too many car wrecks (related to the sleep apnea), diabetes, all took their toll. About age 50 or so, my legs would, for no particular reason, simply stop working and I would fall. Oops. Turns out some nerve in my neck had gotten messed up and contributed to the problem, and my C5/C6 vertebrae had to be fused. If something went awry in the surgery, I could either die or be paralyzed. Holy…. I had never even considered that. Death wasn’t even on my radar. “C’mon, really? No, really?’, were the thoughts that ran through my head, over and over. I got a grip on it all, had the surgery, and recovered. About 2 or 3 years ago, I rolled over, fell out of bed and hit my eye on the corner of the nightstand. I’m blind in one eye, but amazingly that didn’t make me feel older. It was just a weird thing that happened and hasn’t changed much. My depth perception — for picking strings on a guitar or bass was made much harder, and that part — the can’t learn new things/can’t get better at old things part? That makes me feel old. (See? I’m now “that old guy who talks about all his ailments, because there are so many of them”.)

Oh, yeah, then COVID hit. I didn’t get it. I don’t know many people that died from it, but all of that got old and now I want to get back in the world… sort of.

“I am an old woman, named after my mother… Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery. Make me a poster of an old rodeo”– Bonnie Raitt, “Angel from Montgomery”, written by John Prine.

In seminary, our class had the feeling that we were unique — a bridge between the very old and the very new. That feeling has followed me my whole life. I often think of the trajectory I thought we would take as a people… and how we’re really not there. Jimmy Carter, I recently learned, had solar panels installed on the White House. That was the future I envisioned — new, mellow life, loving each other, solar panels not destroying the environment, us living in harmony with each other and the world. In 1980, Ronald Reagan came into office and immediately ripped the solar panels off, and I haven’t understood the world since. Reagan brought back all the things I didn’t want in America — war, conservative ideas like not paying taxes for schools, racism, classism, sexism and so on, including the love of things. Conspicuous consumption was the order of the day. This led to, in my humble opinion, cocaine use and disco — two things I absolutely couldn’t stand. Also, Southern Rock was not my idea of progress, because I could hear the “America is No. 1” in it. I loved democracy so much, I thought it was too obvious. Flags and yelling “We’re number 1”! aren’t democracy. Democracy is a living, breathing thing that requires action and care for each other.

Music, by the way, never really got “back to where it once belonged”. Since 1980, there have been some incredible gems, but they are rare on pop radio. I think the last time I enjoyed the radio was during the “alt-rock” phase in California in about 2000. Roots rock, classic rock, blues, gospel, and Stax-type Rhythm and Blues are still wonderful joys that renew my soul. I no more need to hear about “booty”, “pimps” and “gangstas”, “trucks, tractors, and young girls in short pants” than I need a hole in my head — but that’s what’s on the radio. John Lee Hooker and Hank Williams, Sr, Ladysmith Black Mumbaza, Joan Baez and Harry Chapin will do me just fine.

That leaves me loving “my” music — from the late 1950’s to the late 1990’s — and not really growing. I’m actually ok with that. In the same way that previous generations thought singers with a Big Band orchestra was “real music” and the Beatles was “not real music”, modern pop, to me, is what Dan Ackroyd predicted: “pre-programmed electronic disco music”.

Yesterday, as I was at a huge party with 30 friends who hadn’t seen each other for a while, there was a soundtrack playing in the background. I knew every song, and pretty much loved every one. I’m pretty sure everyone else did, too.

“If weren’t all crazy, we would go insane” — Jimmy Buffett

I just started today (in 2021) re-reading Rudolf Otto’s book, The Idea of The Holy and the introduction talks about his being spiritual and liberal, just before Hitler came to power. Otto, the book says, didn’t choose to join the National Democrats, or National Socialists. He chose a smaller group — the Democrats — and that didn’t stop the rise of Hitler, of course. But Otto was dead by then, so we’ll never know what would have happened when he and evil faced each other.

My beautiful friends from that era feel like the smaller party that Otto joined. They had the right idea, but no one cared about it, because the world didn’t want to care about anything. I never gave up, my denomination never gave up For years, “liberal” was used an epithet. Now, as the country moves farther and farther right, liberals are called “far left socialists”. We’re not, but we haven’t moved. The rest of the country has. As they back onto a cliff, they yell at us, “You’re gonna fall!”. In the meantime, the world of the left is totally different, with an agenda we never could have perceived. I’m hopeful about all the incredible youth movements of the past few years, but I don’t have the energy for, or interest in, such urgency. Save the planet in 15 years from climate change? Did I mention I’m old? But I’ll try. Save American from racist Fascism? Absolutely, til the day I die, but that’s an old cause — being against racism, not fascism. Call me old-fashioned, but I thought we won World War II.

As I looked around yesterday at my friends, I thought, “Wow, they are great people. Not a one of them is famous, but I like every one of them. In a world that seems absolutely nuts at times, these people are … normal. My normal perhaps, but “normal”. I thought to myself, “I get it. We have become Harry’s generation”.

“I guess I just wasn’t made for these times” — Brian Wison and the Beach Boys

Years ago, when I was first married and lived in Bridgeport, there was a member of my congregation named Harry. He was retired, I think. I always saw him at the diner. I always saw him in church. Harry was old, and maybe looked lonely, but he fit in Bridgeport. Everywhere he went, people knew him, and said “Hello” and shook his hand, or gave him a hug. The people who did that had been friends for years. They all grew up during World War II or maybe Korea, but the world that they inhabited made sense for them. Nazis were bad. Frank Sinatra was good. America was righteous, and promoted peace unless it couldn’t help it. They all went to church. They all drove an American car. Communism was wrong. Democracy was right.The barber always had “Theme from a Summer Place” playing in the background on the AM station. Men shaved, and worked hard. Women cooked and worked hard. It was what it was, and it made sense to them. They were the inhabitants of that generation’s world. We were outsiders looking in. To us, they were ok people, with strange habits, and strong values that we didn’t always hold. I’m sure to this generation, we are the same, and I’m ok with that. I like my normal. I like it a lot.

Some of us are more neurotic, some of us are less. Some of us have seen harder times, some not so much. Most of us are liberal, some not so much. None of those things really matter. We all want what’s best for each other. We all want what’s best for the world. They are our people, and we are a part of them. We put up with them sometimes, and they put up with us sometimes. Do we look like a unified people? Not by ourselves, but we know each other when we see us. We know we’re not alone, even if COVID made us lonely for each other. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my tribe, my people, especially my Deering friends. They are good people.

“The end, my friend. My only friend, the end” — Jim Morrison and the Doors

While I’m talking about getting old, I probably should talk about getting really old, and that thing that comes after it: death. I don’t think about death very often. It’s not something that runs through my head. I’m a Christian. Because of that, I don’t have any fear of death. I don’t long for it. I don’t look for it. If it happens, I’m ok. If it doesn’t, I still have things to do, and people to see. I have tried — and still try — to make every day the best I have for the world. I try to be my best self. I try to tell the people that matter I love them. That’s one of the best ideas my generation had. We were smart to keep that one.

Do I “hope I die before I get old”, as Pete Townsend said? The answer comes from years ago, when Bob Kyte quoted Bob Dylan “Those not busy being born are busy dying”. That’s an old one from the memory banks, but it’s still true today. I worry about the world. I don’t worry about death. I don’t mind getting old, but I don’t want to be dying until I’m dead.

Resisting with Peace,


Faith In Things Not Seen:

A Long-Form Interview With Rev. Jeffrey Brown About The Killing of Black People By Police

[Author’s Note: This is an in-depth conversation, which necessitated a lengthy interview, that I hope will reach a larger audience than just this blog’s regular readership. After considering any number of ways to edit it for a wider audience, I have decided to just let Jeff speak. If you have any interest in publishing sections of it for your organization, I would be happy to help with that. I just ask that you let me know by email @ revjohnmb@yahoo.com]

The Past few weeks or so has been horrible in American race relations and police forces. In a week, we saw the trial of Derek Chauvin for the horrendous killing of George Floyd, the traffic stop that could have turned deadly for an army lieutenant, the traffic stop that did turn deadly for Daunte Wright, and the killing of 13 year old unarmed boy, Adam Toledo. None of it made any sense from a moral, psychological, or sociological standpoint, and it continues.

The killings were in different places, different departments, and different times. One officer was a woman, and the killing possibly an accident. Derek Chauvin, apparently, meant to kill George Floyd. Two of the dead were young-ish, two were adult men. What can we do to just make such tragedies end? How did we get there in the first place? To get more of an understanding of the issue, I called the only expert I knew – Rev. Jeffrey Brown.

Jeff was involved in the creation of President Obama’s 2015 report of The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, has 30 years of work on violence reduction, and is on staff at King Boston, as well as on the staff of 12th Baptist Church in Roxbury, Mass. On Sunday, April 18, 2021, before the George Floyd verdict was decided, I discussed the situation, causes, and possible solutions with Jeff.

The Interview

Part One: Causes and Solutions


John: It’s been a tough period in the last week or so. These things seem to come in seasons, or bunches… Is there a reason for that that you know. Is there a season of the year for this stuff?

Jeff: No…within the African-American Community, we’ve seen this impulse happening in all time. I think there are waves of media attention on it, but we’ve been going on like this for quite some time.


John: So, regarding this continuing problem, does it happen because of sin? Is it just because humanity is “fallen”?

Jeff: Well, you know, you and I, professionally, go down that line… When you think about the human condition, the human condition has the capacity for both…for both good and evil. So, if you look at it that way, then one would say, “Yeah, Of course.”

I think in any system, like Paul said, “we fight not against flesh and blood, but powers and principalities”… There’s always the tendency for systems to become so insular that the protection of the system sort of comes at the cost of the reason why the system was built in the first place. I see that happening for the United States. So, you can talk about sin, but not necessarily in the Evangelical sense of sin … It’s that collective sense of responsibility and …

John: So, then, this wouldn’t disappear if we, all of a sudden, we became Christian then?

Jeff: No. [pause] It might get worse…

Me: depending on what your version of Christianity is…

Jeff: Absolutely…

Gender and Gender Roles?

John: So does it have to do with… um, … “toxic masculity”?

Jeff: Hmm. I think there’s a piece of that when we’re talking about policing culture, and how that is driven in our society. I’ve done, as you know, lot of work with police departments throughout the country and, although you have some progressive elements, there’s a general culture that embraces that kind of masculinity that would treat differently. Them and the people that perpetuate the system …. The people of the community …..  as “other” . The folk that you stop aren’t human beings, they’re vermin, they’re scum, they’re …  things are always seen in such stark imagery. You know, there are “good people” and there are “bad people” and it’s you who determine who is good or bad, because you are… the one charged to uphold the law. There’s no consideration of personal biases that may creep in, you know.

Just about every state in the union when they are hiring police officers, they have given preferences to military veterans. So you come from that out of that particular environment into a semi-military environment that is the police department. Although it’s supposed to be completely and totally different from, than an army, you know, you still have some of the same elements there, sometimes the tendencies that are inherent in military forces creeps in to the police department.

Love of Guns?

John: “Is it gun culture, police culture… If we– forget about the second amendment — if we were like other countries and we didn’t have guns everywhere, would that make a difference here?

Jeff: You know, I think that the current swirl around gun culture and the second amendment sort of takes attention off of what the real issue is, and I think the real issue is the yawning chasm of inequality that continues to persist in our country, you know, the gaps between the “haves” and the “have nots”, the way the system is put together and how it consistently keeps people at one level and other folks in another level. I think the reason gun culture is held up as a major issue is because of the power that’s inherent in a gun. So, if you have a gun, you shoot it. You take a life. So, control over life makes it a major issue.

But nobody on that side really wants to talk about how we got there … got in this situation in the first place. You know, when we talk about the second amendment, and the issues around gun control, that was created in the 60’s.

Jeff: It was created when the Black Panthers were on the rise, they were carrying guns like everybody else was doing. And then, all of a sudden, people wanted to have gun control, right? You know, they were trying to control elements that was trying to help the …. And so, but panthers were walking around with weapons because of the same issues that we have today, in 2021, which is police were, unfairly, stopping African-Americans and shooting and killing them with impunity. When the same things happen in White communities, they were met with a different outcome. So, the idea of “we have to protect our community” was really the generating idea that produced organizations like the Black Panthers. So, again, it was actually those movements…

John: So, “protect our communities against them, then? Wow.

Jeff: Absolutely. And you got some folks today who are looking at what’s happening in communities across America, you have folks crying for police reform, and yet the killing of Black and Brown bodies by The State through law enforcement continues to persist. And, when you talk to any rank-and-file police officer, they’re just waiting for this “phase” to be over… of people rising and protesting, so they can get back to business as usual. But I think in this particular instance, it’s not going to happen. Something has got to give.

John: I agree.

Policing Culture In General?

John: How do you handle it when … do Black cops shoot unarmed Black kids, or tase them or … and what do you do with that?

Jeff: Yeah. Yeah… There have been, on occasion, when you do have Black cops involved with shooting of Black kids, but – as I said earlier – it really is the culture that foments the allowance of that. Those same Black cops wouldn’t be able to go into a White community and shoot unarmed White kids.

John: Why would a Black guy want to join the police force at all?

Jeff: Well, because you have some folks who actually live in the community and are from the community, who want the community to get better. The work that I did, in Boston, in the 90’s, the officers that I worked with were both Black and White, and the Black officers grew up in Roxbury, as well as in Dorchester, because they saw what was happening and they also realized that the normal tactics of round[ing] updozens and dozens of youth in these early morning “actions”, wasn’t working. The shooting persisted.

So, they were willing to team up with Black ministers, Brown ministers, in order to…together craft a way where we can deal with the shooting that was happening. You have folks who believe in their community. Despite all the issues and all of the issues and all of the changes that have been imposed upon the Black community, it’s still a community – a community that we love, and we want to see the best for it. So that’s the reason you have Black officers join the department.

John: What about police who are domestically violent? I hear about them.

Jeff:  Right, the policing culture is intense in and of itself. I work with cops and I do work with, some people who were the finest people I’ve ever …

John: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Jeff: But I can tell you. The policing culture is a really intensive culture. And one of the secrets, the hidden things, is the effects it has on the individual, the effects it has on the family. You know, you’ve got instances of suicide happening within the police, within the departments, among individuals, these rising and alarming … issues around domestic violence that you may have encountered, as a therapist, continue to persist in the precincts.

And I think the worst malaise within police officers is, in fact, a sense of cynicism, where you’ve seen so much about the community and so much about the underbelly of the community that you just don’t care. And that’s really the worst part of policing: that when I talk to cops and they want to talk to me, that’s what we want to fight  — that level of cynicism and despair that can dwell and even degrade into nihilism You have to work with cops. It’s tough to be a cop, It really is.


John: Do you think the George Floyd [policing] bill will make a difference?

Jeff: You know, I hope, but there are folks who feel on the one end, that we just need to get rid of the whole ball of wax over and start reimaging and re-doing the whole thing. Then there are those on the other side who have real hope for the George Floyd bill. I think I’m kind of in the middle.

I’m one of those people who, um, is always hopeful for change, but I’m also practical, and I know that, as long as the system continues to persist the way that it is, that we’ll always have resistance to that, that we’ll always have those folks who will fight for that continuing.

You know, Black people didn’t get to the place where they are because of who they are inherently. That’s a racist notion, right? If you think about, you know, failed housing policy over decades, poor educational institutions, fewer educational resources that fund the schools in Black communities versus schools in White communities. If you think about poor healthcare in Black communities, chronic unemployment and chronic underemployment, then you throw in guns, then you throw in drugs, then you have this culture that emerges with the negative elements in society, but it wasn’t something we created. It’s been something that was handed to us and we’ve had to deal with it. I’ve always been amazed at the stories of resiliency, and folks who were able to overcome, despite all that’s been thrown at us since the beginnings. So, until we start dealing with those structural issues that continue to keep a community where it is, then we can do as much reform as we wish, if it continues to persist, then it’s not going to work. That’s how I see it.

Part Two: Trauma and the Black Community’s Coping

John: Given what you’ve just said, and as somebody who deals with trauma all the time, lately there’s been a lot of stuff on Twitter about “don’t watch the videos, don’t watch this video, because you’re just going to be triggered and it’s not going to help and …. What do you tell congregants or… I don’t know. Given that there were four videos this week, and all of them were horrible…. What do you tell them?

Jeff: Right. I’d say that there are folks that come to me, and they are traumatized because of the video, I tell them, “Please. Don’t watch these videos.” I’m someone who, for thirty years, has been to crime scenes, and I’ve seen the results of what violence has done to a person’s body, and I have seen these instances. I was down in Ferguson when Mike Brown was killed and just talking to his mother, you know, and seeing, even a month after her son had been killed how, every time she went to that place, it was like it just happened. She’d just start crying and could not speak, you know, I saw it with my own two eyes. And so, I say, that that has such a toll on your spirit, that it really hurts. And there are some folks who watch it because they’ve had their own personal experience . They’ve had their sons and daughters killed in this manner, so it’s like they can’t help but watch, and I understand that, but you know, trying to find ways to help people through those periods is really tough.

Churches And Trauma

One of the things that I’ve been advocating for is for churches to get more involved with trauma care on a regular basis. So, it’s not just having a pursuit on a Sunday morning , a visit with a congregant, in a pastoral care moment, but it’s some kind of programming impulse that would happen in churches on a consistent basis , where churches can help people through their experiences of trauma.

And if you know anything about trauma-informed care you know that bringing churches in would be ideal. The only thing that gives me pause around this is that most congregations want to see this as an evangelical tool around  this, and I tell pastors, “You’ve got to minister to the pain first before you minister to the soul” and then they get upset with me because they say, “oh, but that’s not the gospel. That’s not the mandate of the gospel…” I say, “Listen. I believe it’s somewhere in James that it says, “if somebody’s hungry, you know you don’t give them the gospel. You feed them first. So, there are levels in which we can deal with the evangelistic piece without automatically doing a Billy Graham style, “do you know Jesus?” bit, because the honest truth is, the way I see it, that age is past. We’ve got to figure out what we can do for the here and now. And for the here and now, people are looking to be the Bible, rather than we give them a Bible.


John: So, when trauma happens from a psychological perspective, there are four responses. There’s fight, there’s flight, there’s feed, and there’s … um, have sex. Finally, they’ve added a new one, which I had not heard of which is, basically, to basically to … disappear [actually “freeze”], you know, like if you pretend you didn’t see it, it’s not there. So, given that, why are Black people still in America? If this is the way that they live, why haven’t they just, you know, escaped?  

Jeff: Because there’s this idea that I don’t even think the founding fathers understood, you know, about how it should be. But they founded it because they, ironically found themselves in the same position that Black people find themselves in. You know, it’s different because we were brought here in chains, but the whole notion of this diversity becoming one, was a very important notion.

I always tell people, you were brought here in chains, but you’re here, and your forebears built this country. The legacy of slavery is the legacy of America today. You had millions, five, six million African-American bodies to build this country. The industries that were built were built off of the backs of my ancestors, so this is not one of those ideas like “well. They treated us so bad, that we should go… that we should find ways to live somewhere else. There used to be a drive in the 19th century, you know…

John: Yeah, the back to Africa movement.

Jeff: Also, in the 20th century as well, you had Marcus Garvey. His whole thing was that we should go find a place where they will accommodate us. But, as far as I’m concerned, this is our country. This is where we are from – for good or for bad. And this country owes us the hearing of our voices, the taking  of our voices seriously. And, it continues to avoid and evade that. And so, it’s our responsibility, I think, on behalf of our ancestors, to continue pushing that. That was the impulse that drove the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King and all those luminaries of the civil rights movement, that you can’t force us out of our country. This is as much our country as it is yours, and we need to put a mirror up, so that you can see what this country is like, so that we can begin to have a reckoning with it that will ultimately be better for us all. We’re still in the process of that.

Insanity and Not Coping?

John: OK, the follow-up question is then “Why aren’t you all insane by now?

Jeff: (laughs) yeah, I always ask that question.

John: Because, this much trauma, as just a part of life, has just, I can’t imagine.

Part 3: The Past, Hope And The Future

Jeff: When I was teaching, I used to tell my students, “I wish you could ask that question of your forebears, your great-great-great grandparents, you know. What was it? And what kept them going was the fact that one day we would be born, you know, that would be in a position that – that is, anywhere, that we would be able to do something about this.  That gave them hope.  I mean, if you look at any of the narratives that were written by any of the 19th century abolitionists – you know, the slave trading and all that.  People ask me what kept me going in the 90’s and the honest truth is I knew we would get to this point, where we are right now in 2021. You know, I’m about to be 60 this year, and I’m getting “long in the tooth”….     

John: I hear that, believe me!

Jeff: There will be younger people who would be cool with, you know, appreciate the strides that we made and take the baton from there. You know, keep pushing through. That gives me hope. and I think that hopefulness, added to the resilience, added to the deep well of spirituality in Black folk, persisted, in the 19th century, especially now that we’re starting to uncover the real history of what happened, where you have Black folks being subjected to the theology and preaching of White folks and instead embraced the ones who they thought the Spirit was giving them. To nurture that, and pass that along, is so very important. It’s the reason why …. All … the …

And even then, saying all of that, there are folks who have been driven crazy… you know, as a result of this onslaught. It’s not universal, because overall, I think that God has blessed us with a resilient spirit where we can keep going along, keep standing…

John: Ok, in what you’re saying, if I understand it, historically, the folks who came here were persecuted by the British, but in their brilliant wisdom, persecuted slaves… just by making them slaves and so the system is set up to achieve one purpose, which is, I don’t know, freedom, liberation, whatever… but only for White people originally.

Jeff: Right.

John: Given all that we’ve just talked about, it seems to me that African-Americans, or Blacks people, because there’s so many of them in this country because they’re from different countries, are more “patriotic” than White people who, because people don’t want them here.

Jeff: Yeah, there are people who believe in an America that has not emerged yet. I think that that’s a really important idea to put out there. It’s um, the challenge of the Good Samaritan parable, when the lawyer looked to Jesus and said “Who is my neighbor?” because you have a society that determines who is neighbor and who is not neighbor, and Jesus’ response was “the one who helps one another, regardless of ethnicity, and his heritage. So you have this America that only benefits a certain few, but there are Black people who believe in an America that hasn’t emerged yet, that would benefit everybody, regardless of sex, gender, sexual preference, you know, the whole nine yards and so those people who are patriotic, push for that ideal, you know, hope for that ideal. And what they fight against is cynicism, from our young people who say, “Ah, that’s never going to work”. That’s the root of the patriotism that you hear, I believe, from Black folks who believe in America.

John: Well, thanks.

Resisting Racism With Peace,

Rev. John Madsen-Bibeau, LMFT

I Don’t Care Why. Just Don’t Do It.

I have tried to think about it. I have tried to parse out the reasons why cops kill Black people. I have prayed. I have marched. I will continue to do those things, but it won’t stop because I’m not shooting people. I’m not assaulting people of any color. Police are. I’m done trying to understand. How do we stop police from killing innocent— or even not so innocent — Blacks? Here’s the answer:

Police, don’t shoot Black people.

That’s it.

Don’t’ “shoot first and ask questions later”, as cool as that might seem on TV or the movies. Don’t shoot because you’re scared. Don’t shoot and learn about racism later. Don’t shoot and learn to manage your anger because a judge said to. As citizens, we’re often told to “show some self restraint”. You need to show some self-restraint! The first thing that should happen in any situation should not be to pull out your weapon. Police in Britain don’t, at least I think that’s still true.

If someone ran a red light, or was driving erratically, or fleeing, none of those things require guns. Don’t shoot. Be careful, of course, but don’t shoot! There must be some way to stand and get the license and registration without getting anyone hurt or killed. As a therapist, I can say that if people want to figure something out, they can. Actually figuring it out will prove that you, as police, want to.

Is a car , even a stolen one, worth a life — of another Black person or a police officer? Do you want the country to blow up for the sake of a license plate? Really?

Seek peace in our streets by making peace in our streets. I don’t care why, but the tack being taken now isn’t working for anyone.

Resisting with Peace,


Let’s Not Miss The Point…

I’m listening to Morning Joe and the pundits are talking about the trial of Derek Chauvin for allegedly killing George Floyd. Even as I write the word “allegedly”, I want to throw up. There is no way around the fact that one man kneeling on another man’s neck was at least (partially?) responsible for that man’s death. This is gravity and the laws of physics, which over-rides human laws and police policy. Given that, Mr. Chauvin’s knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd caused the death of George Floyd. Anyone with even a remote bit of knowledge knows that.

Apparently, the defense will argue that Floyd had a heart attack, secondary to his use of the drugs that were in his system, and that Chauvin felt frightened of this “drug-crazed” man who passed a fake $20.00 bill minutes before. Even if Floyd did have a heart attack (others have testified he died of lack of oxygen), and even if he had drugs in his system. It’s a long way from passing a $20 bill to “he’s violent and needs to be restrained”. It’s a longer way still from “he needs to be restrained” to “he needs to be restrained until —and after— he stops breathing”.

One has to ask if the officer hadn’t been involved whether Mr. Floyd would still be alive and we wouldn’t know how or care about who George Floyd of Minneapolis, Minnesota even was. Without the type of police involvement here, George Floyd would still be alive. With it, George Floyd is dead.

None of that is the point, really. The granular argument looks at the individual tree but avoids the forest altogether.

The point is that one man wanted to kill another man for no apparent reason other than he could. Did he want to because he was White and the man was Black? That’s certainly a good possibility. Did he want to because he was police and Mr. Floyd was a civilian? This is also a distinct possibility. So far, we don’t know what was going on the mind of Chauvin and even if we do hear it, we won’t know if it’s the truth., as he’s already tried to hide the truth of what happened.

The law usually talks about “if a reasonable person saw X, what would they think?” So ask anyone who has had dealings with the police, have they ever seen police use too much force for a given situation ? Yes, they probably have. Ask any Black person in America whether they believe a White man can, or will, try to kill them simply because they are Black and the answer is probably yes, as well.

That’s the point. It’s a scary truth that police and White people —White policemen in particular — have killed enough people that a reasonable Black person could assume they might try to kill them. When it’s reasonable to assume that a person might do an unreasonable thing, that’s a problem.

The fact that pretty much every Black person I know saw George Floyd die and they think of their own brothers, fathers, friends, and selves in the situation and can picture it gives us some idea of the scope of the the problem.

This brings us to the second thing that the pundits talked about: Major League Baseball’s decision to move the All-Star Game from Atlanta after Georgia lawmakers passed a series of restrictive laws that will make it harder to vote. The argument made is that it will actually hurt the community of Atlanta due to the change in laws and make matters worse. People are mad at the commissioners of MLB for the decision, but it seems he didn’t really make the decision as much as the players did.

So we’re back to the “reasonable person” test for players. Would a reasonable person who plays baseball think that Georgia might have made changes in the law for racial or political reasons? No one truly believes that the laws were changed for any other reason than racial and/or political reasons. As the former candidate in a Florida race once said, “even the racists think it’s racist”. The idea that Georgia lawmakers have a lengthy history of making racist laws, that Georgia might be a historically racist state and these legal changes do nothing to assuage that guilt is all the explanation needed for reasonable people, including baseball players, to assume bad intent and a bad experience there. That’s the problem and that’s the point of the action,

Is it the right/proper/correct decision? Is it the right tactic? Stacey Abrams, John Ossoff, and Raphael Warnock — Democratic leaders in the state disagree with the action, but every one of them knew that it was a possible, if misguided, reaction. Why? Because reasonable people can easily believe that the White men in power in Georgia are racist and do things for racist reasons.

To straighten out this mess, one doesn’t have to fix the politics of baseball players, one has to fix the politics of Georgia’s current Republicans in power. That may take a long time to do or it may take as few as two years.

If Georgia’s Republicans want to not be punished politically for being racist, the answer is not to act in racist ways. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, If policemen like Derek Chauvin want to not be thought of as not being racist or murderers, they need to stop doing things that a reasonable person could see as racist … or murder.

Yes, it’s that bad, but George Floyd didn’t make it this way, and voters in Georgia didn’t make it this way. Those who made things this bad must take responsibility for doing so must fix the problem.

Resisting with Peace,


Cuomo, Franken, Jordan, Trump, And What To Do?

[Author’s note: I write this not because I want to “mansplain” anything. I write it to clarify my own thoughts about all of this. There are so many pieces to these issues. I share it for people’s thoughts and feedback.]

My wife and I were talking the other day about Gov. Cuomo’s predicament and the issues swirling around on Twitter. A lot of folks on Twitter saw it Cuomo being “Frankened” that is, dealing with a host of allegations designed to remove a strong and intelligent leader on the Democratic side, while Republicans never step down, no matter what.

My wife reminded me that “actions have consequences”, no matter which”side” you’re on. “We’re talking about women being harassed and sexually assaulted”. Of course, she’s right…. except when she’s not. So am I, because we’re talking about at least two separate issues in this context. All issues should be talked about here. I say this because once Cuomo was accused, someone on Twitter said, “What about Tara Reid (who accused Biden during the election)?” After President Biden has given us the most progressive bill in decades, and defeated the former guy, preventing the spread of fascism here in America, I’m not willing to throw him under the bus for anything without a whole lot of proof.

So, with all of that said, let’s make clear the basics of morality, in the political sphere and everywhere else.

1) Sexually abusing, harassing, and/or raping anyone is wrong. Statistically, and sociologically, of course, it’s more likely to be a man abusing or harassing a woman. Still, men and women can get harassed or abused by any gender, any person, any preference, any anything… There are feminist theories about why these things happen, and they need to be taken seriously, but I’m not the right person to make those cases because, well, I’m not a woman. I’m also trying to be clear about proactive steps we can make.

2) Anyone who has abused, harassed, raped another person should be held accountable and face serious consequences for this because people who have this happen to them suffer for long periods after it does. It’s a big deal, and it requires big consequences in order to have justice.

3) There must be a way to fairly figure out what happened. Generally, that would be the court system, but it doesn’t have to be.

4) What justice looks like in these cases must include the victim’s idea of what it is for them.

Now, where it gets tricky…

There seems to be a conflict between politicians and the legal system. Politicians don’t seem to believe — for whatever reasons, some codified into law or regulations — that their work is too important to be interrupted by accusations, court days, etc. In short, because their work impacts a lot of people, the questions that any one person might have raised can’t be dealt with now. Good, bad, or otherwise, this seems to be the calculus for the public, the press, the politicians, and the legal system.

Also, of course, is the spectrum of charges that go under the category or “sexual [whatever]” from harassment to touching to sex with or without consent, to full-on abuse or rape or child abuse and pornography, using prostitutes and sex trafficking. All of these go under the heading of “Sexual…” Once that word is used, reaction gets heightened. Curiosity gets piqued. The press gets involved and chaos ensues.

Here, we add in what we want to believe. In this category, I will never believe that Al Franken did anything worthy of his losing his seat or giving it up. Kristen Gildebrand has stated multiple times that there’s a lot more to the credible allegations against Franken than is known, that she, too, likes Franken and misses his presence in the Senate. I don’t care what she says. Until I know differently, I will always see this as a political decision. In order to keep Sheriff Roy Moore from getting elected, Democrats required the perception of purity when challenging him, and Franken “had to go”. This is a political tragedy that did not have to happen. [Just to be clear my biases are: Franken is ok. Cuomo, I don’t want to be true, but may be. Jim Jordan and his knowledge of athletes being molested in college by their coach? Hell, yes, I think he’s guilty — but very little press coverage has been given to this. Why? I don’t know. Finally, Trump has admitted such on the famous “Access Hollywood” tapes, and — with 20 plus women accusing him of deeply disturbing behavior, some of it violent — I absolutely believe that Donald Trump should be held accountable for what he’s done. Getting into the weeds further, I believe Christine Blassey Ford that Brett Kavanaugh is guilty. I also believe that Roy Moore is a pedophile, that Al Gore hurt some woman, Bill Clinton had an affair (multiple affairs?), and that the guy that was going to be Gore’s running mate was a sick man who hurt a lot of people with his affairs and coercion].

Whether Cuomo is being “Frankened” is yet to be determined in three ways — 1) What is the motivation of the accusers at this time and place in history? Are they paid political shills or are they actually accusers? As much as I would like to believe that all accusers are actually accusers, the way politics has been played for the past 40 years, I am not sure that political operatives aren’t involved. More on this later… 2) Whether Cuomo is guilty of the same level of things that Franken was, and 3) Whether Franken was “Frankened” or if there’s more that we don’t know. As yet, we don’t know if any of those things are true. That’s a problem.

Here are my conclusions:

  1. There shouldn’t be a difference between politicians and elected officials. For justice to be served, there should be The Law, and it should be applied to all cases. If somethings warrants an investigation, it warrants an investigation. If it warrants a trial, it warrants a trial. If it warrants jail, it warrants jail. If you can arrest Joe the Janitor while he’s at work, you can arrest Jim the Senator while he’s at work. It’s as simple as that.
  2. Politics and importance to the wider community do need to be considered in case of a sexual scandal when dealing with the political side of things. It should not regarding the law.
  3. Accusations, investigations, etc. should not be done in the press only. If a lawyer wants to say that their client is making accusations, the first stop shouldn’t be a press conference. It should be to the law. In political circles, there may also be ethics committees and such, but each allegation should be taken seriously and the law should make a determination as to whether there’s enough to file charges. The legal system should explain why or why not. If there’s not enough “there” there, that should be explained. If the accused is innocent, that needs to be acknowledged to and by the press. If the accused is found guilty, that needs to be acknowledged by the Press. The public deserves closure on these stories. Sexuality, Violence, Politics, and the Law are all different things. They should be seen as different combinations in different systems. Each should have it’s own lane.
  4. Public pressure absolutely needs to be applied for removal of a politician if they actually did something wrong. If they didn’t, then more people like Al Franken — good people, to my knowledge — will be lost in the political sphere. We need real justice, not just shame, for authorities who commit crimes.

So, did Governor Cuomo hurt women sexually? I don’t know. Should the accusers be believed? Yes. But if the truth is that the person is innocent, believing a lie isn’t justice. Politicians of both parties should be dealt with the same way, and anybody who hurts people should face consequences for those, at least somewhat determined by the victim.

That’s all I can come up with for now.

Resisting in Peace,


Back To Basics, Politically and Economically

Nothing has changed, in my 60 years of life, on the basic questions of politics and economics. We used to ask “What if the military had to have a bake sale to buy weapons and teachers had what they needed?”. The same question applies now, but we haven’t asked it in years. We used to talk about the “military/industrial complex” and believe that it took food from our children’s mouths. It’s still a thing, but now it is just an assumption, figured into budget plans. We used to talk about corporations as being inhuman and our “being just a number” as being a bad thing. Now corporate profits are at all time highs, and we are all Facebook algorythms. The questions still need to be asked and thrashed out before we make policy decisions. Is war more important than education, food, and housing? Are human beings valid, in and of themselves, or are they only cogs to make the machinery of the economy work? What is freedom? Who is human? Who matters in a democracy?

These questions need to be asked again, so that we can get our bearings as a society.

I was listening to Morning Joe this morning and they had an economist from the New York Times on, talking about the $1.9 Trillion bill being passed by the House and inflation and its effect on the national debt. The complaint was that it was trafficking in play money and fantasy and we would get to inflating both the debt and prices, and the Democrats weren’t worried enough about these things. Joe Scarborough went on to talk about how the deficit had gone up under each successive President: Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama… He used numbers from the end of each President’s term, I believe. If, in fact, those were real numbers (and I assume they were. I like Scarborough.) They told a story, but didn’t tell the whole story, or even most of it.

Under Bush the First, we had a war which put us into debt, as wars will do. Under Clinton, the deficit started high and became a surplus. Under Bush the Second, we went back to war, spending all of the surplus and putting us back into huge debt and leaving us with a horrible economy. Obama spent a lot of money to bring back the economy, and save the auto industry, etc. Under Trump, the “promise” of free-market capitalism was simply let loose. The Republicans reduced taxes again and the income/outcome of government was again thrown off balance, but the deficit and the debt were not issues, according to the sitting President and the Congress of Paul Ryan. The deficit went through the roof!

In all of the above, at no time did teachers, or education budgets or the average person in general get mentioned. The only operators were the government, corporations, the military, the debt, and the deficit. There’s no farm worker. There’s no factory worker. There’s no teacher, or hunger policy. After 40 years of “those people” making all the decisions about their lives and what’s best for them, and what it means, teachers started striking, students started marching against guns in our streets, but not in the military. Black people had to start marching just to say they mattered. Implied in all of the above were that Whites could be in the military, could run the economy, could determine what patriotism was, and so on. Until Obama, the discussion in the halls of power wasn’t even about Black people. In fact, the one powerful Black man in the halls of power — Colin Powell — was told to lie to the UN. He sacrificed his reputation, so that we could go to a war with no justification.

The problem is not debt, or deficit. It’s about human will, and political will. It’s about what we’re willing to go into debt about. When there was a surplus, the money went to the rich. When there was debt, it was caused by the rich and benefited the rich. The rich, and the military/industrial complex (Not soldiers, by the way, either. The money went to arms manufacturers who invested in the stock market). In short, the question to ask is: “Who owns democracy?” Who does the government work for? Asking these questions means there is a question to ask, and that there is a choice to be made.

The time has come, after all these years, to say that if the government is going to spend money, then we want it to spent on people, and not just one set of people. If we’re going to go into debt, let’s do so for people who don’t have what they need, rather than for those who have more than enough. If we’re going to go to war, let us do so because we have to, because it’s the last option we can think of, and let’s take care of the soldiers more than Haliburton or Blackwater or Wall Street. If we want schools, let’s give them what they need. If we want firefighters, let’s give them what they need. If we want roads, let’s use our money for that. If people want jobs that don’t require education but do pay enough for them to live on, let them get to work on infrastructure, building roads and bridges and other things that need to be done.

I don’t care if we talk about abortion, but I want to talk about the living first. I don’t mind talking about being liberal or conservative, if we can first talk about whether people eat. I don’t care if we talk about capitalism vs communism, after people have housing. Politics right now, and for at least the last 6 years, is about … just politics — talking and arguing. It’s not about people who aren’t in D.C. And yet, 99% of the people don’t live in D.C.! Let those people’s lives matter. Let them vote. Let their votes count. Then, if we go into debt, at least it’s about things we have chosen to go into debt for, and people we have gone into debt for. Our budget reflects our priorities as a nation. Let’s actually reflect the nation, rather than 1% of the people. Maybe after we get what we need, we’ll stop spending so much, and get the budget back to where it should be. Until people get their basic needs met, there will always be arguing, and impulse buying, and raising debt and chaos.

In the words of Larry The Cable Guy, “Let’s get ‘er done”. (Oh, and by the way, even I can’t believe I’m quoting Larry The Cable Guy, but that’s how far back we have gotten).

Resisting With Peace,


FYI: Lots of People Get Raped

I’m watching a video from CBS This Morning and they’re saying there’s a new movement called #WeAsOurselves, whose purpose is to acknowledge that Black women get raped. I guess the point they are making is that Black women don’t acknowledge it for complicated reasons. If you’re being oppressed everywhere, I guess personal abuse is the last thing people think about. If there’s pressure to not talk about the community you’re apart of because White folk will blame your entire race, that’s a complication that they think should be taken into account. As a therapist who counsels Black women, I can assure you Black women get raped. Why? Because they are alive, they are women, and they know horrible people who do horrible things to them. I don’t know if the perpetrators are Black, White, or any other color. I don’t care. If you are a Black woman and you have been raped, I’m sorry that happened to you. It shouldn’t have. It’s not your fault. You are not alone. You need to talk to somebody about it, so that you can process it. I don’t care if that person is professional or not, though I think it’s preferable that they are. They must be someone you trust. Your community (however you define it) needs to know you’re in pain, so it can deal with it and make sure it never happens again. If you’re not up to that, okay. It’s your life. You deserve to be healed. You deserve to feel safe. Your deserve to feel loved.

While I’m on the subject, though, I want to tell you that there are plenty of people who get raped that you probably can’t imagine. Men, for instance, get raped when they are boys or sometimes when they are men. They just do. I know men who have been raped, or sexually abused. I don’t care if they’re supposed to not be. They are. Men face particular challenges about being believed because 1) Myth says “men want it all the time”; 2) Myth says that men have all the power in society; 3) Myth says that men can only be raped by men; 4) Myth says that gay society is worse that everybody else on the planet. I suppose if you’re responsible for climate change because you’re gay, or the collapse of Western civilization, then that makes sense — except you’re not responsible for those things, either!

Trans people also get raped. Gay people get raped. White people get raped. Asian people get raped. Native Americans get raped. Children, teens, and seniors get raped. Rape is a thing that happens. In absolutely no case is it their fault. Rape is the fault of the rapist. It may be suggested as acceptable by a certain culture or another. It’s only a suggestion. Most men don’t rape. Most women don’t rape. Most Black people don’t rape. Most children don’t rape. Most gay people don’t rape. Most trans people don’t rape. Most people with any sense of compassion at all don’t rape. In fact, most people who survive rape don’t go out and rape. There is no excuse. If you were raped, it’s not your fault. If you did the raping,you need to take responsibility for your actions. It’s as simple as that. The people who are responsible for it happening are the people who are responsible to make sure it never happens again.

Are there societal structures that make it more or less likely? Sure there are. Even they aren’t totally to blame. They must become less likely to lean toward rape culture. But those structures will never change until we accept that rape happens to a lot of people within them.

Resisting rape with Peace,


A Lenten Reflection For The Politically, Psychologically, or Religiously Inclined

[Author’s introduction: I find myself pulled in three directions these days, each of them a form of service and caring: As a therapist, I care deeply about my clients. As an American, I care deeply about my country and its politics – especially regarding the lives of those very same clients in the area around Springfield, Massachusetts. Underneath it all, or over-riding it all, is my faith in Jesus of Nazareth and his expression of God’s will for us in the world. I treat my clients in the ways I think Jesus would want me to. I treat my country in the ways I think Jesus would want me to. I treat Jesus in the way I think he would want and deserves. Since I don’t have a church right now, I write this as an expression of my belief in that Jesus of Nazareth and the faith which he inspires in me.]

The Christian church has two periods of year specifically for reflection, in preparation for a biblically Big Event – The Birth of Jesus (called “Advent”) and the Death and Resurrection of Jesus (The events of Good Friday through Easter, called Lent)

On this day where Donald Trump has been impeached twice and not convicted either time, it seems like a good time to reflect on the first text often used in Lent:

Matthew 4: 8 -11

“…The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”

The text is about knowing who seems to run the world, who inevitably does run the world, and the choices I think we all have to make in our lives about the two.

To be clear: Donald J. Trump is not a bad person because he is a Republican. He is a bad person because he is a bad person. One can make the case that is the logical extension of Republican politics in the same way that murder is the logical extension of anger. While Republicans traditionally have stood for Conservative Values, Trump stands for Fascist values.

He embodies everything that is wrong in the world and he is loved by parts of the world for it, including people in my own beloved faith. Trump’s brand is about saying hateful things to people who live in fear and hate. Trump’s brand is about raping women, because he believes he is in a position of power. Trump’s brand is about running the country not “just like a business”, as many churches do, but with the worst that Capitalism has to offer. Trump’s brand is about saying he’s a Christian, but never acting like it. It’s about holding up the Bible as a symbol of force and authority, but never having the good sense to open it up and read it. Trump’s brand is about oppressing anyone not exactly like him… and everyone is not exactly like him. Racism? Trump loves it. Sexism? Trump loves it. Wealth, especially at the cost of others? Trump loves it.

Contrast this with Jesus: He embodies everything that is right in the world and he was hated by parts of the world for it, including people in his own beloved faith. Jesus is about saying kind things to people who live in fear and hate, and challenging those who do the hating without fear. Jesus never raped anyone, though he knows he is in a position of power. Jesus didn’t run anything “just like a business”, and in fact owned nothing. Jesus is Christianity incarnate, but never acting like he’s above anyone. Jesus is the Bible as a symbol of authority, but not as a symbol of oppression. Jesus is about caring for anyone not exactly like him… and everyone is not exactly like him. Racism? Not Jesus.  Sexism? Not Jesus. (Jesus argues with a woman of another nationality, and loses the argument, and gives to the woman anyway. Trump, is, notoriously never wrong.). Trump’s wealth at the cost of others? Nope, not Jesus, not even. They are opposite sides of the same coin: power and authority.  Jesus uses his for justice and healing. Trump uses his for injustice and hurt.

At the end of Lent, just before Jesus is crucified, the people of Jerusalem will be offered a choice between Jesus, the Son of the Father/God and Barabbas, literally, “the son of the father” in Hebrew. The people of that day chose the lesser version of the two – the criminal Barabbas. We are offered the same choice. Kindness, justice, caring, truth, and love for all or the “earthly” values of power over others, injustice, indifference to pain, lies, and hatred.

The choice is about who we think is running things here. If we think that Trump runs the world, we accept the offer to bow down to him and hope he will give us what is his because that is what he promised. If we think that God runs the world, like Jesus, we won’t take that bet. Jesus knows who he is, and who ultimately will have the final say on everything.

So what does this have to do with my clients? Everything. I see so many people who are victims of trauma and oppression. Some have come to oppress themselves through addiction, and forget the truth that lies within them. But all of them are oppressed. It is my job to show them who they really are, where their power is, and what they can do in the world. If they know how incredibly and wonderfully made they are, they experience that love can rule their lives. Survivors of all forms of oppression — physical, mental, sexual, and spiritual — come to realize that they are more powerful than their oppressors, whether that is a single person, a group of bullies, or a system. They ultimately outlast their oppressors and they ultimately see themselves as worthy of a rich life. And, I believe, at the next life, they experience all of the beauty and potential that they were born with and deserving of, seeing where they ultimately fit.

In political systems, it is our job to do the same – to value, and not disparage, all of God’s people, to let them experience and speak the Truth as they know it. A fully functioning democracy is a place where all people are free to (in the words of Virginia Satir) “see and hear what is here, instead of what society says should be, was, or will be, to say what they feel and think instead of what the system says they should, to feel what one feels, instead of what others say they ought to, to ask for what they wants, instead of always waiting for permission, to take risks in their own behalf, instead of choosing to be only ‘secure’ and not rocking the boat”.

From those freedoms, we can make democracy or society all it can be. Those freedoms, that mental and physical health, that spiritual ability all come from believing that we (because we are worthy of God’s love and mercy) can take charge of our lives and be more powerful than The Oppressor, who convinces us that they have it all and that we should bow down before them.

That caring, because of The Powers That Be, will insure our suffering at times, much as those who told the truth suffered Trump’s wrath. The more oppressive the systems created by people are, the more goodness looks radical. At times, it may look like the Trumps, or Mussolinis or Hitlers of the world will win. January 6th was one of those days. Maybe today’s acquittal seems like one of those days, but – like all days – we have a choice. We can feel our worth and tell the truth, or we can forget our value and give in to cynicism, racism, sexism, phobias of all sorts and believe they won. Certainly, the temptation has been there, but we can also experience the calm and joy of a more diverse system that attempts to care for more people. Let us know who is really in charge of our lives, and let us choose wisely. Amen.

Resisting with Peace,