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.

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“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,
John



A Redemptive Theology Of The Pandemic

“When the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” — Mark 15:39

I was recently at a conference on Veterans’ mental health, when I remembered some post-Vietnam theology that said, “Soldiers die for our sins”. In its stark words, we can see the beginning of a redemption of sorts. Just as Jesus died on the cross – for no reason and without blame, –carrying the sins of society — soldiers offered us the same chance for redemption if only we take it. If we take the suffering that didn’t have to happen — because of our sin — and make sure it doesn’t happen again, we can redeem that suffering and somehow make it holy.

The ancient Greeks saw time in two ways, “Chronos” — the time on a clock or hourglass, and  Kairos – time as it is felt. The moment you meet the love of your life, hours that pass as minutes, or a minute waiting for a test result that feels like an hour – these are all Kairos moments. It is at times like this we pay attention. The pandemic presents its starkness as “reality, only more so” – It is a Kairos moment in that way. The pandemic we’re living through has brought moral and physical reality to the fore, and we are paying attention. While we are paying attention is a teachable moment, and since we all have more time to think than we know what to do with, this is a time to learn.

So, this COVID-19 era calls us to reflect. How did we get here, to this place where between 100,000 and 250,000 people will die? For years and years now, we have been taking care of “the little people” less and less, so the population of people that society doesn’t even see grows larger and larger. This morning’s news featured a “homeless shelter” on the sidewalks of Las Vegas, with CDC guidelines of 6 feet between each sleeping bag laid out on the sidewalk. It’s not bad enough that they were homeless, which they have been for years. Even the shelter they had was taken away from them. They are thousands of miles away from where I am writing this, so I don’t know who they are personally, but they are somebody’s child in whatever stage of “grown-up” they have managed. They were our responsibility before. Now, they are more so.  How many of them will die because we didn’t care about them? Will they die because they have sinned? Perhaps their immune systems are compromised because they have lived a rough life, but they are also compromised because they didn’t have a place to live. Studies have shown that the stress of being homeless itself causes mental difficulties that weren’t previously there. In any case, the virus isn’t selective in killing, and God isn’t selective in loving.

            If we make it through this pandemic, (and clearly, we all won’t), then, in order to redeem our country, we must try to understand and fix what made us not care for them in the first place. Furthermore, we must fix the way we didn’t care for them, so that we never dispose of a life unnecessarily again.

            The same thing is true of the elderly and the poor. Someone on Twitter pointed out that March 1 – March 3 is the time of the month when WIC and welfare checks come out. The elderly already go into the store at an earlier hour to avoid contact with others. From the 1st to the 3rd of every month, there will be a lot of people who need to buy for their families and will have the means to do it. Social distancing could easily be dismissed by crowds of people who need food for their children and families. They, too, will be more at risk for catching the virus. God cares about them, as well. Meanwhile, the government had been threatening to take food stamps away from them. More poor, more hungry means more crowded stores means more illness gets spread. Perhaps we should have been supporting the poor instead of taking from them. Perhaps we should be taking money who have unimaginable amounts of it, instead of giving them more than they know what to do with. If a handful of people own more wealth than the other 90%, made their “mad rush” to get food, they will always get fed, probably with no effects Perhaps we should do things differently now that we know what caused this problem.

Moving to the more straightforward medical issues caused by the virus, we can see, writ large, failures as a society. The military budget has never had a problem getting enough, because that’s where our priorities lie. Ditto, corporate budgets. Our science budgets – the need for a pandemic team at the CDC, for example – was destroyed, so that corporations could have tax cuts. Within the field of healthcare itself, owners and corporate profiteering has led to fewer beds, and fewer rural hospitals which could have been used now.

Even now, doctors and hospitals are fighting over supplies because, in our capitalistic society, demand for an item creates its price. High demand leads to price gouging. Price gouging and haggling over items leads to more deaths that don’t have to happen. In cheerier times, people see corporate raiders as a sort of hero. Times like this prove otherwise.

Finally, truth has been under fire for some time, especially during the Trump era, but well before that as well. One of the reasons that we are in this mess in the first place – one of the reasons many people will die that didn’t have to – is that our leaders and some in media didn’t tell the truth about what they knew. No knowledge meant to no preparation. Political propaganda put out as facts led to thousands of beach goers and people across the country getting sick and ultimately dying of the virus. Truth, however, will not be ignored. It has its own way of getting our attention. The virus is nothing if not truth and harsh reality.

In order to redeem the soul of our country and our selves, we must consider the innocents that didn’t have to die as the full human beings that they were, we must say to their memories, “these, truly, were children of God”, even as we come to terms with what is happening in front of us. We must grieve, we must review what we lost, and we must redeem it for future generations. If we do this, God’s redemptive power can happen and we can save ourselves. If not, things will only continue to get worse. These are our choices in this Kairos moment. Let us choose for God and redemption.

Resisting in peace,

John

Prepare For Impact: The Only Way Out Is Through

I have been listening to a morning news podcast as I usually do, and today it was really scary. Every possible thing you could imagine was being threatened by the coronavirus. There was, of course, people’s health — not enough test kits, no vaccine, no coordinated response to it, hoarding of masks, and so on.

Then the people on the podcast started getting into the economic impact: The stock market is temporarily closed because oil futures plummeted 1500 points. People are being told to stay home from work. People can’t stay home from work if they want to get paid. They have to get paid if they want to eat. When or if the market continues its crash, what will the world economy look like. Nobody knows, but no one seems to think it’s good, except people related to the White House (and I assume they don’t either, really).

Putting those two things together, there are all the un-insured and under-insured in this country, who won’t be able to pay for treatment and who will do what they have always done: not get treatment. Plus, there’s what happens to society of we can’t get together in public. Politically, the reporters reminded us that all three Presidential candidates may have health affected by the virus. Congress is considering not meeting for awhile. Ted Cruz and another person who attended a conservative convention (CPAC) are now self-quarantining.

As a therapist, I see this type of problem all the time, by way of a metaphor. I have a client who has been mandated by his company to get treatment. He’s an alcoholic. I suggest to him three options: 1) Go to detox and deal with it fully. Start recovery with a clear mind. 2) Get antibuse, a medication that will prevent you from drinking by making you ultra-sick if you drink. This offers a steep learning curve for alcohol treatment. 3) Go to AA meetings and get support from other people. He has these three options. His company has given him an ultimatum. Stop drinking or be fired. I have offered him two ultimatums: 1) stop drinking or lose your job and the ultimate one: 2) stop drinking or die.

My client has had weeks to decide, and it looks like he has made attempts at all three. Has he stopped drinking? No. Why not? There’s always some technical reason. Besides, he’s … “trying” and it looks like he might get treatment. Has he gotten treatment? No. He has not. When pushed, he likes drinking and he can’t imagine the “boring” life without it. He’s depressed as well, so — to cope — he drinks, which makes his depression worse.

It is at this point that he has to make a decision, and it’s going to hurt. He has to decide for reality — a reality he doesn’t like. The problem is that it doesn’t matter if he likes it, though. It is still reality. This is the point that people in AA would say, “The only way out is through”. What they mean by that is that you have to face the problem, that your one coping mechanism doesn’t work, and the denial behind that one coping mechanism doesn’t work either.

We are a country that, in large part, is using coping mechanisms that don’t work.

  1. Many of us believe that having money solves all problems. As long as you’re rich, nature can’t get to you. This virus doesn’t know or care about your wallet.
  2. Many of us believe that power, in and of itself, can keep bad things from happening to us. Ted Cruz is a prime example that it is not true.
  3. Some of us believe that health insurance is not important. The sick among us know differently.
  4. Many of us believe that belief matters more than facts, that philosophy is more important than science. The problem is that the virus doesn’t care what you believe. It simply doesn’t. The virus doesn’t care what you post on Twitter or Facebook, what political party you belong to, or how much pretending you can manage. Wishing it were so, doesn’t, in fact, make it so. Facts are reality, whether we like them or not. We’ll have to get over ourselves.
  5. Many people believe that we are not connected to each other, and what affects someone else doesn’t affect us. When Bill or Mary can’t show up to their work, it will become clearer that that isn’t true. Even people in China, whom you’ll never know or meet, impact your life when they can’t go to work, or to the farm, or out of the house.

So, here’s the reality of our coronavirus: Some people are going to die — not everyone but some people are going to die. Quite possibly, a lot of people are going to die. It will hurt. The economy will hurt, possibly a lot. We will be different at the end of this than we were at the beginning of this, but we will survive. Even in the very worst case scenarios, 97% of us will survive.

Can you do anything about it? Like everything, there are some things you have control over, and some things you don’t.

You can control your own hygiene, and how contagious you are, with the knowledge we have. See the “Nurses Talk About Coronavirus” post from last week. https://revlmftblog2.com/2020/03/07/guest-column-nurses-give-actual-coronavirus-news/ Do what the nurses say. They live with it. I can, and do, trust them. If new knowledge comes up, we’ll update the page. Talk to your primary care doctor. Talk to someone at a walk-in clinic, but talk to someone you actually know and trust in real life.

Your local or state authorities can give you any information they have. As far as I know, you can trust them. That said, if you have reason to not trust your elected officials, don’t. Trust the World Health Organization for the large picture. They don’t care about American politics any more than any other country’s politics. The federal government, at least regarding this issue, and for the foreseeable future, is of no use. They will not be save us, because they can’t. They can’t decide about facts, they cant decide how to get the information, or how much they’ll share with us. Because they can’t do that, they can’t formulate a plan to deal with it. Because they can’t formulate a plan, they can’t deal with it.

For all of the reasons I have listed above about denial, our government — a reflection of much of our culture — isn’t willing to face issues around us. Until it actually does face up to those issues, there will be trouble. If it can’t choose between good options now, it (and we) will have to face bad options later.

So, in the end, what’s important? Money? Power? A certain political belief? individualism without apathy? A good fantasy life? No. What’s important in life, the illness can’t touch: facts, logic, people you can trust, and caring for each other, so that everyone has what they need. The only way out is through the crisis, armed with those things. Will it always work? Probably not. We don’t know what we don’t know. On the other hand, we definitely won’t survive without them.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Guest Column : Nurses Give Actual Coronavirus News

Author’s note: Every once in a while, I share my blog space to give information that I don’t have on my own. This is a prime example of things I don’t know, but these people do. The primary information was written by Julie LaBarr, a public health nurse, near Rochester, NY. Additional comments were from Paula Richards, a nurse from Boston, and Karen Ross Gardner Gatchell in the Springfield, Massachusetts area. They are each to be commended for their expertise and knowledge. I have simply edited the notes. I trust each of them implicitly. There is no politics here. As I heard on the radio today, there are no Red viruses and no Blue viruses. The topic is too important to make this opinion piece.

The critical thing is that we do not panic over this- panic causes more harm than the virus.

A couple of the most reliable resources are your local state health department and the cdc. Coronavirus is something that hangs around all the time- this version is novel- meaning new and unknown. That is to be respected but no cause for panic.

80% of people that are positive for the COVID19 virus will just get better and maybe even not know they have it. It may just look like a cold. Don’t go to the ER unless you are severely ill. Call your primary care or a health department if you dont have a pcp. Immunosuppressed individuals are at the most risk- especially the elderly. Children don’t seem to be affected.

The illness is probably passed by direct contact with droplets, which are spread by contact, sneezing, or coughing. Hand washing is best practice. And don’t lick stuff, like doorbells or handrails!

Wash your hands! Stay home if you are sick. Same precautions as flu. Use regular soap for washing your hands. 20 seconds. Wash in between your fingers, back of your hands, thumb, wrists, etc. Use you own pen, try to avoid door handles and railings if you can. Again, wash your hands….

The basics of respiratory illness hygiene is imperative! Hand hygiene, cover your cough and stay in when you are sick. Healthcare workers are also at risk- to carry it not necessarily get sick. What’s most important is that healthcare workers have the appropriate protective equipment- meaning the general public need not use up all the 😷 masks! Wearing a mask when you aren’t sick will not help.

NY cases have been doubling each day. Is that because we are testing more? Probably.

You can get it by touching your hands to your face, being sneezed or coughed on, etc. what else?? The frontline (healthcare) is being updated and educated daily on how to keep themselves and all of you safe and healthy. Trust your professionals and keep yourselves well. Self-care: eating right, a little exercise, fresh air are all still important!

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html has the official information.

Testing positive does not mean you are severely ill. Once they determine that it is widespread, testing will slow and data like this will not be pertinent any longer. The WHO (World Health Organization) has a map on their site- it is affecting almost every continent at this point.

We will see some economic impact from what I understand. Governments are preparing to support with emergency management like funding. Insurance companies are preparing to offer coverage of testing etc.

I Get It Now: The Silence of the -Isms

Wow. I just got slammed with an epiphany. It happens when you go into other people’s cultures experience their experience, see what you see or don’t see, hear or don’t hear. For the past few months, I have been a visitor to women’s (political) land and the weirdest thing happened. I got to experience… nothing, crickets, and then apathy about the crickets, and then worse — anger for people speaking up, blaming the victim.

That is the Elizabeth Warren campaign. Even reporters and pundits were saying that they had never seen anything like it. Warren is, among all of the candidates, the smartest, most practical, and, in my mind, therefore, the best candidate out there. She has plans for all kinds of things. Further, it has been incredible being part of the phone call set for Warren. The community of supporters is wide. In Star Power, she had John Legend. In the debates, she had great moments and took down Bloomberg’s billionaire campaign. In coverage? Crickets. In votes… very little. In delegates, not enough to count. Joe Scarborough, who I generally agree with, was furious that she was still in the race at all, and furious for being called sexist. Mika Breszinski, his wife, was less so, but agreeing in the background. Dang!

People can reasonably argue that America is ready for a woman President. For instance, Hillary was popular. Klobuchar was in the race for a good long time. People respect Kamala Harris. But, after Hillary lost, everyone thought — to some degree — that the moment for a woman President was gone. That put Harris, Klobuchar, Warren, Williamson and Gabbard at a disadvantage all to start, simply because one person with their gender lost once. That’s the sign of an -ism at play!

When it looked like one of the women might win, the establishment and Capitalists like Bloomberg worried, and threw their money in, forcing out Harris. One could say that Warren’s anti-establishment ways pushed her down. But that didn’t happen to Bernie Sanders, so I would say I don’t think it’s that. Pundits like Scarborough and “establishment” democrats really seem to hate progressives. Bernie got publicity with his hatred. Elizabeth got crickets.

She got un-listed because she wasn’t a threat any more. She simply didn’t exist.

It is that that clicked it for me. Here’s a story to illustrate the point. Years ago, in one of the most consequential experiences of my life, my friend Greg Coles and I went to an upscale restaurant outside of Rochester, NY. Greg drove a beautiful Saab and I drove a beat-up Ford. Greg knew about this restaurant. I didn’t. In short, the place matched Greg’s personality a lot more than it did mine. We sat down at a table and waited to be served…. and waited… and waited. 15 or 20 minutes went by. I asked Greg what was happening as waiters walked on by us. I attempted to get one to serve us and Greg just rolled his eyes. Greg is Black. He shook his head and I said, “No, that can’t be”. Greg said it was — racism. We just left, and never were served, never even acknowledged.

Later, when I moved to Bridgeport, I decided that I wanted to work with Black pastors because they were there. 50% of Bridgeport is Black. At first, there was some sort of nod to the work by my White colleagues, especially the men, who would volunteer their opinion. But after awhile, as it became clear that this wasn’t a flirtation with political correctness, but an actual part of my ministry, those same pastors asked me, “Why would you work with them?

Again, it’s more complex than that, because African-American pastors in Bridgeport are, by and large, charismatic in their faith. Still, as time went by, I felt more isolated from my White, denominational, male colleagues. When I left Bridgeport, my Black colleagues came, en masse, and my closest White clergy friends came. My Black friends never said to me, “Why do you hang out with them?”, so I came to see, in balance, that there is more of a problem with Whites ==> Blacks than Blacks==> Whites, but to read the paper, it’s exactly the opposite.

So, here’s the thing: it’s not the anger or the overt action that makes an -ism so powerful. Those things are horrible. Don’t get me wrong, they are worse than being left alone. The difference between abuse and neglect is obvious. Abuse kills the body, but neglect kills the soul.

It’s the silence, the blank stare that doesn’t even get noticed by most people, the unopened doors, the not-considered applicants, the unacknowledged talents, that make the difference. And because, like neglect, it’s hard to prove, it’s hard to see privilege, unless you go into a community not your own. That is why doing so (seeing others) is so important to develop compassion. For those people who aren’t nasty to others, the silence looks the same as their actions. This is why privilege is hard to fathom.

Back to the election and Warren, there is a final piece that made a difference: fear. Because people fear another four years of the destructive Donald Trump, they wanted to make their vote count. They worried that if they didn’t get the right answer in their vote, there would be consequences. In that case, “electability” became an issue, so voters went back to “traditional” (I.e., safe) voting. Why women are considered a less safe bet is because of, well, sexism.

This is all complex, but it’s also a problem for half the population. Throw in Black folk, and more than half of the population isn’t served by it. It’s not working for more people than it is working for.

We have to do something. We have to …

Resist with peace,

John

The List of Things We Shouldn’t Have To Say… (And What To Do About It)

Every once in a while, I get in full-on rant mode. This is one of those days. On the anniversary of the mass shooting at the Marjorie Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, I thought I’d start off with simple one. Still, when one of my favorite teachers died recently, it became a research project for positivity.

No child should ever be shot at school. Schools shouldn’t have to have “active shooter” lockdown drills.

For what to do about it, check out : March for Our Lives: https://marchforourlives.com/anniversary-2020 Sandy Hook Promise https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/

While I’m there, no person should ever be shot in church… or at the mall, or at the park, or anywhere else. As I understand it, guns are for hunting. People should not be hunted. For what to do about it, check out https://blacklivesmatter.com/ and Anti-Defamation League https://www.adl.org/

Most times —if not all — people should be able to believe their leaders. For what to do about it, check these out: Black Lives Matter Disinformation Page https://blacklivesmatter.com/black-lives-matter-global-network-defends-against-disinformation-going-into-2020/ The Toronto Star https://projects.thestar.com/donald-trump-fact-check/ and Factcheck.com https://www.factcheck.org/person

People involved with the law should not break the law. For what to do about it, check these out: The American Bar Association and their list of topics https://www.americanbar.org/topics/civilright/ and, in theory, the Department of Justice…https://www.justice.gov/crt/addressing-police-misconduct-laws-enforced-department-justice

Children should never be put in cages. Children should never be stripped of their families by a government for no reason. For what to do about it, check this out: Never Again movement http://neveragain.org/mission/ and The ABA immigration resources https://www.americanbar.org/groups/departments_offices/FJE/yourphilanthropy/migrant_justice/ and the Quakers https://www.afsc.org/key-issues/issue/defending-immigrant-rights

People have to eat. People need to drink (clean) water. These are basic needs. For what to do about it, check these out: WhyHunger https://whyhunger.org/ Heiffer International https://www.heifer.org/ Flint Water Challenge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9b-fWGZs80 Water.org https://water.org/

People need to have shelter from the weather. Again, this is a basic need. For what to do about it, check these out: Habitat for humanity http://www.habitat.org Mutual Housing California http://www.mutualhousing.com/ Mutual Housing Connecticut https://www.mutualhousing.org/

People should not mock, taunt, beat up, attack, or violate each other’s rights or bodies simply because they are different. For what to do about it, check these out: Southern Poverty Law Center https://www.splcenter.org/ NAACP https://www.naacp.org/ The Trevor Project: https://www.thetrevorproject.org

Men, women, and everyone in between have the right to and it’s good for their mental health — to control their own bodies.

For what to do about it: Planned Parenthood https://www.plannedparenthood.org Rainn https://www.rainn.org/ for women’s issues and general support https://www.rainn.org/articles/sexual-assault-men-and-boys for men and boys

Money is a means, not an end unto itself. If you have far more than you will ever need, give it to people who don’t have as much as they need for basic needs.

For what to do: Try The Giving Pledge https://givingpledge.org/ Alternatively, check out Poor People’s Campaign https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/

Financial abuse of others is wrong. Taking advantage of people because you can is wrong. For what to do: Elizabeth Warren’s original Consumer Protection Bureau, though sadly, it may have been gutted by the present administration. https://www.ftc.gov/about-ftc/bureaus-offices/bureau-consumer-protection This may look too radical now (Or not) , but they used to have really good information. http://occupywallst.org/ This is a new idea and mission within my denomination, and I am so proud of it: https://www.chhsm.org/news/chhsm-joins-ucc-effort-to-abolish-medical-debt-for-low-income-families/

Nuclear war is not a good idea, nor something to be trifled with.

For what to do, check out these: Union of Concerned Scientists: https://ucsusa.org/nuclear-weapons and the Quakers https://www.afsc.org/key-issues/issue/international-peacebuilding

People should not be punished for doing the right thing.

For what to do, check here: but — as all federal government agencies right now — I don’t really trust them to live up to their task. Still, it’s worth a try. The Federal Office of the Inspector General https://oig.hhs.gov/ For non-governmental agencies, try the ACLU https://www.aclu.org

None of these will matter if we don’t have a planet.

For what to do, check here: Union of Concerned Scientists on climate: https://www.ucsusa.org/climate and Climate Project https://www.climaterealityproject.org/

For MLB … And, of course, if there are suggestions for organizations to go on here, write them in the comments section…

and still Resisting In Peace,

John

A New Strategy: A Multi-Front Election

As the Department of Justice messes with Roger Stone’s sentencing, it becomes more and more apparent that people need to feel hope in the political arena, just as we have had our hope overwhelmed for the past 3 years.

Trump has been the Trojan Horse for all kinds of evil, but he is not the only problem. Each member of the cabinet has come out of the horse like a soldier and is destroying their part of our democracy. Most important to me is the danger to the rule of law — the raw material of a constitutional democracy — posed by William Barr.

Kamala Harris is as fine a prosecutor as we have in the Senate. She would make a fine Attorney General — a strong supporter of the rule of law and a voice for equal justice under the law. Even the people who ran against her, bar none, say that they miss her presence in the debate. In short, she is widely respected and loved by most of the Democratic base.

So here’s my idea. Each of the candidates for the Democratic nomination should announce now during the campaign — that they will make Kamala Harris their Attorney General.

This will have three effects: 1) it will mark a public turning of the tide toward the rule of law and against the corruption that is William Barr. It will be a shot across the bow of the present administration, and it will draw Republican attention away from the Presidential candidate, changing the dynamic of the race.

2) It will say to the people of the country that we will have a more diverse administration regardless of what else happens. Women’s issues will stand a fighting chance, rights of minorities will be respected, corrupt people who have abused their power under this administration will quake at the thought of justice aimed at them.

3) Finally, the addition of Harris will add a piece of stability to the Democrat cause. If all of the current candidates agree on her, it means no matter what happens, justice will happen, and we will be back on track toward hope.

Note, of course, that I haven’t spoken to Sen. Harris about this, nor do I know how it will play out in wider politics. My point is that with creativity, we CAN save our democracy.

Resisting with Peace,

John

My Child, Your Child: Why Racism Matters

Mr. Trump, Mr. Miller, et. al.: I am a long-time liberal, so I have given up on ever convincing you because we share values. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am appealing to you purely on the grounds of your self-interest. There is something to be had in it for you: wealth beyond even your wildest dreams, if you can only access it.

My eldest daughter posted a story on Facebook about a brilliant third grader whose intellectual property rights are of incredible value: “Xochitl Guadalupe Cruz, is an 8-year-old coming from the Chiapas highlands, in southeastern Mexico. Earlier this week she became famous for being the proud recipient of the Nuclear Science Institute (ICN) Recognition for Women award, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Cruz is in 3rd third grade of a Mexican rural school and has shown big interest in Science from a young age. When she was 4 she took part in Mexico’s “Adopt a Talent” Program (PAUTA) for intellectually advanced children which paved the way for her recent achievements.”

Now, as you well know, she couldn’t get into our country because she is Mexican. If her country’s people could not protect her, and she sought asylum here with her parents, Border Patrol agents would separate them and she would end up in a room with I don’t know how many children. She would have to share a toilet with all those other children. She would be given a blanket and sleep on the floor after being put in a “cold room” and not allowed to get a flu shot. All of the wealth that she has in her head would be lost to you.

Now imagine she’s already there. Believe, as you already do, that she looks like every other Mexican girl, and you now understand your problem. I say your problem because I would welcome her into our country, welcome her into my house, and do everything I could to both listen to her and encourage her. She would, if I treated her well, share all of her ideas with me for free. I’d wish her well on them, and we’d be friends until I passed away at some point.

For all you or I know, every child in ICE custody has the same ideas or gifts that she does. All of that wealth will never be yours, simply because you chose not to see it. That is what racism does.

Remember all the wealth America accumulated because Einstein came here, instead of staying in Germany? Hitler and his White Nationalist buddies lost all of that in thinking he was “just a Jew”. He was just one person! If you think like Hitler, how do you explain that to the Israelis or your Jewish son-in-law? I don’t understand how Stephen Miller can be in the same room as Jared. Somebody’s not thinking this through, or one of them is lying.

And while I’m on the subject, your Muslim ban, and your new extensive travel ban? Same thing. I’m sure that one of those people has the cure for cancer or AIDS or heart disease. Remember, all it takes is one. But you will never know, because you see no benefit to having them here.

Finally, a child doesn’t have to be from a foreign country to possess incredible skills or incredible intellect or incredible anything. Any Black child, every Asian child, every Native American child, that your police kill because you said it was okay, is your loss. I say your police because there are plenty of police with my values. It’s the ones that see no blessing in those children’s lives who can kill without remorse. There are plenty of Americans who also share my values and treasure their kids. Their children’s deaths at the hands of bigots will prevent you from getting anything from them as well. Another loss for you.

Having a hard time filling your cabinet or getting good cops to serve in the FBI or CIA or good scientists in your administration? Why do think that is? Because you don’t respect their gifts if they are not White. Most White people I know have friends that are some minority you despise. Another loss for you.

To bring it full circle, every poor White child that dies because your policies starve them, because you think they are unworthy of getting assistance, you’ll get no assistance from them. Or, in their desperation, they will turn to opioids or crack as they do in West Virginia or Kentucky or any of those other coal-country states. In any case your decision to punish them by withholding aid, will cost you more money in treatment to get their gifts, or they will be lost altogether.

Children —all children — have the potential to change the world. Their parents, with the right resources, would do anything to give their children those opportunities. Your hatred —the one that often gets you laughs at rallies or in rooms with your buddies — is costing you a lot. Screw me. Go ahead. “Own a lib”. It’s not me keeping you from all that money, all that glory for the America that you clam to love. It’s you and your racism.

Resisting In Peace,

John

Citizenship In The Reign Of God

Christ came to church this morning. He looked different than previous pictures I’d seen, but I recognized him. At South Church’s annual Martin Luther King Day service — one of their quarterly series of ecumenical worships between four churches — an old Black man in what amounts to a wheelchair came out and spoke about immigrant children and “dreamers”. He spoke about sharecroppers and Martin Luther King, Jr’s family history. The preacher talked about the police pulling him over in his own life, and he talked about children in his own neighborhood. It was then that I recognized him.

There is a part of Christian theology called “incarnational” theology, and it talks about the outrageous idea that God became incarnate — was put into a human body. Christians believed it was true in Jesus because he had certain characteristics, including a sense of eternity and justice which is different than the world around them, where God’s chosen people were oppressed by the militarized Roman Empire, he told the truth, and his stories connected him with a wide variety of people, among other things.

When Bishop Dr. Allen Wilkins preached yesterday, each of those things were true. His sermon was, as he said, “raw” — off the cuff, with some preparation, but no notes or written text. He also said that he doesn’t like to preach on Martin Luther King Day “because it brings up too many emotions”. His sermon went to a whole bunch of topics, but all of them were in accord with the Spirit of Christ.

His themes: 1) “Bullying is bad”. Sounds sweet enough, doesn’t it? But this was no “after school special” version of an anti-bullying message. Bishop Wilkins connected bullying to economic justice when he said, “There’s the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. The haves bully the have nots”. He connected it to immigrant and children’s rights. Bullying is bad when some people have rights and others don’t. He connected it to racial justice when he spoke about the police pulling him over because he was Black. When the Law treats some people like they are citizens with rights and others as citizens without rights, this, too is bullying. The Bishop believes that bullying , in all its forms, is wrong because God sees us all as citizens of God’s Kingdom. Furthermore, he said, when we see someone being bullied and we have to choose between the the bullies and the bullied, we must always choose to care for the bullied.

2) Truth affects our children. When we speak up in truth about bullying /injustice we see, we teach them that they have the right to be heard, and that the truth is powerful. When we speak the truth in church, we say that God knows the truth, and listens to it when people speak it. The truth is that Martin Luther King’s grandfather was a slave/sharecropper. The truth is that King’s father was a preacher who had it a bit better, and that King himself turned that pulpit into a way to change the world. God shined on all of them, even when society’s bullies didn’t. The truth is that our children are worth protecting.

3) Progress towards all people’s citizenship is possible and we know it because we have experienced it. The Bishop spoke of a White woman who died because her family didn’t want to hear the truth that Blacks have value and rights around the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She was an ally. He continued on with a reminder of the history of our own South Church and its leaders in the struggle for civil rights in New Britain. He said we were allies, and that everyone in church that morning — any of the four churches there — was blessed because of it.

On a more personal note, I am an old preacher whose body has taken some hits and whose body is sore often enough. When the Bishop preached, he reminded me that I, too, still had purpose — that I, too, could speak the truth and stand up to bullies and remind people of Christianity through my own preaching when the Spirit hits. His story could be my story because we both could tell God’s story .

I have to say, though, as I heard that, that it didn’t seem like such a big deal. Ooooh, we let them use our church! We said they were human beings! We thought they should have rights! Of course we did. The church was sitting around empty otherwise. They are human. They should have rights. This is basic humanity and basic Christianity. The amazing thing is that — in this day and time — I guess these basics are radical things. Kindness has power. Truth has power. Doing the right thing has power, and our world is messed up enough that that kind of power is a stark contrast to our world.

Is yesterday’s preacher, Bishop Watkins, Jesus the Christ? No. He himself would tell you that. But as sure as we are that God’s spirit could miraculously fit in Jesus’ body, we can be sure that Jesus’ spirit could miraculously fit into the bishop’s body. The incarnation of Jesus is recognizable all of the time in the human beings around us, if we open our eyes to see it. They don’t need to be preachers, but in this case, it was.

Resisting with Peace,

John

New Year’s Resolution 2020: Let’s Not Worship Ignorance

For years now, we’ve been on a kick that we’ve seen before. The kick was dangerous before and gotten more dangerous as time has gone by. In the 1960s, one of Martin Luther King’s teachers at Boston University School of Theology wrote a book called The Religious Revolt Against Reason”. In 2019, we pushed the idea to its limits, and we will pay for it for years to come.

So, for 2020, here’s the resolution I hope we’ll all follow: In 2020, let’s not be stupid. Let’s try to not be stupid. Let’s not say “stupid is smart”.

In 2020, let’s believe our own eyes and ears. Let’s see what is , whether we like what we see or not, and whether our leaders like it or not.

In 2020, let’s not hate anyone we don’t know. Let’s not avoid the gifts people bring to our lives because they look differently than we do. Let’s not attack anyone because they are different than us. Let’s not jail anyone because they are different than us. Let’s not hurt anyone if possible. Let’s not kill anyone because they are different than us.

In 2020, let’s believe in facts. Let’s believe in science. Let’s believe in climate science. Let’s believe in science in general. Let’s even teach science. Let’s expect our children to learn science. Let’s never have a government official who says, “I’m not a scientist” and is fine with that. Let’s never have a leader who doesn’t listen to scientists.

Let’s not blame “the elites” in 2020, if — by elites, we mean intellectuals. Let’s use our emotions, but with our brains attached. Blaming smart people is usually because we’re ashamed of our own lack of smarts. The answer is not for “them” to be less smart. It’s for “us” to try and be smarter.

Let’s try to be logical in 2020. Let’s try to be kind. Fairly simple rule here: if you don’t think you would like it done to you, don’t do it to someone else. If something is immoral, consider it to be illegal.

We’ve been plenty stupid in 2019. For 2020, let’s do something different. Let’s have a future.

Resisting with Peace,

John

The Truth Before The Impeachment.

I was just on Twitter and it’s getting thick over there. Both to keep my head clear and remind others what it used to be like, I thought I’d write this down.

There are 3 co-equal branches of government: 1) The Executive 2) The Legislative and 3) The Judicial. By “co-equal”, it means each keeps the other from overshooting their rightful power. The Court and The congress can check the President. Congress and the President pick judges. The President can over-ride a veto. Congress can impeach the President. It’s all there in the Constitution. It’s not a glitch. It’s not a way to have a coup. It’s the way it was designed. If a President gets unethical, or breaks the law, the only consequence Congress has for the President is impeachment and possible removal from office.

Though apparently the Attorney General is a part of the Executive Branch of government, they are supposed to be independent from the President’s office, so that the President can’t punish people they don’t like with the law enforcement community. In short, the President doesn’t get an enforcer.

Donald Trump has been lying since the day of his inaugural. Remember Sean Spicer and “the biggest inauguration EVER? That was day one. People have been mad at Trump since the day he was in office? Yes, they have. He’s been lying to people (being unethical. Did you raise your kids to lie? No? Why? Because it’s immoral/unethical. If it’s immoral or unethical for you, it’s immoral or unethical for the President.

Donald Trump admitted on live television, shortly thereafter, that he fired James Comey because Comey was investigating him in “the Russia thing”. Remember Lester Holt’s interview? I’m sure it’s online somewhere. After being told that taking information from foreigners about his political opponents was wrong, he told George Stephanopolis that he would do it again. When caught doing it again in Ukraine, he said publicly that China should do the same. In the first case, he obstructed justice. Do you and I get to fire the police for a crime we’ve committed ? No. Neither does the President. The second is intending to willfully break the law. If you or I have been told that robbing banks is against the law, and we say we’re going to do it anyway, especially if the bank later gets robbed, can we expect to not at least be investigated? No? Neither can the President. The third is asking another country to look for dirt on his opponent, which he has been castigated twice before for. If you or I are accused of doing something, say we’d do it again, and then do it in public yet again, would we go to jail, or lose our jobs? Yes, we would. So should the President.

If you or I do something wrong, it’s bad, if a leader of a country does that thing, it’s even more wrong. I can mess up five or ten people’s lives if I do something wrong. The President can mess up five or ten million lives if he does something wrong.

Oh, and children are in cages, separated from their parents in various places across the country. This is a crime to anyone with a conscience. International courts think this a crime. Would a Trump like having Ivanka put in jail for wanting to live freely? If he wouldn’t, then he shouldn’t do it to others, and he knows it’s wrong.

Returning to this President’s impeachment, those who will be jurors in a Senate trial, if there is one, are supposed to swear to apply the law impartially. Anyone, from either side, who says in advance how they will vote cannot take that oath in any meaningful way. They would be lying. If Mitch McConnell or Lindsay Graham or any other Senator says in advance what their vote will be should not be able to take part in the trial in any way.

To sum up:

1) This President has lied since he got into office.

2) He has obstructed justice.

3) He has asked our enemies to help him get elected, publicly and after being told not to publicly.

All Republicans so far want you to believe that the President isn’t corrupt, that he can be trusted, and — in fact — is a crusader against corruption. He can not have done any or all three of the things listed above and be innocent. Those things are mutually exclusive. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.

Hunter Biden is not being impeached. Joe Biden is not being impeached. Their guilt or innocence is not the issue here. If they did something wrong, then they did something wrong and there ought to be penalties for that. That’s another matter. For anyone in the impeachment hearings or trial to talk about them at all isn’t right and should have no bearing on the case.

Last and final point: If you or I commit a crime, can we defend ourselves by saying “the guy down the street did it, too!” Does that matter? If someone else commits a crime that you committed, does it suddenly become less wrong? No, it does not.

I’m writing this down on December 15, 2019 in case anyone needs a reminder post-impeachment, whatever happens. And I’m also …

Resisting in Peace,

John Madsen-Bibeau