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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



Eric Anderson: The Hardest Working Minister In Show Business

I have known Eric Anderson since about 1986, when we met in seminary. That’s thirty-six years, so I feel like I know him well enough to write this on his 59th birthday. That means I have been in Eric’s life more than I have not. The fact that that’s true says a lot about Eric. It means he can see the diamond in the rough that is my ministry.

While Eric is straight laced and cognizant of his profession, I can be a heretic at times. In fact, one of the first memories I have of Eric is us bowling and me—after picking up a split — making hand gestures and saying, “The laws of physics, broken for you”. I’m sure he still doesn’t know what to make of that, but it seemed natural to me. The fact that I am who I am gives me great pleasure in knowing that he is who he is. .

While I tend to be emotional and a bit sloppy with it, Eric is more cerebral and far less sloppy in matters of ministry. Eric is focused and driven with his mind, as many men do, to follow a code of conduct. His faithfulness and loyalty to friends get him into places by shear force of will — and he doesn’t turn back.

Eric has been a loyal friend since seminary and that means some fairly extraordinary things. When I lost my eyesight in my my right eye, and having all kinds of challenges in life, health, and ministry, Eric took me in as a guest (and friend) at his place in Hawaii. That is the kind of thing that cannot be forgotten in a friendship.

How did it happen? My wife knew enough to call him and talk to him about. She and he made it happen, because Eric is one of my family’s most beloved people among my seminary friends. When he comes into town, we go see him almost no matter what, and he does the same for us. We like to have him around, and we miss him when he leaves. In addition, My kids love his kids, and seem to gel pretty well with them when we get together. They are both exceptional kids, and he is rightfully proud of them.

Eric and my family have things in common — different things, but all in common, Michelle and I have ministry in common with him, but Eric is more than that. Eric is an artist who loves theater and literature (like everyone else in my family, though I can put up with it) and he is an artist who plays music, which is probably my favorite thing in the world (and they can put up with it).

Eric also writes blog pieces, as I do.

Eric Anderson: The Hardest Working Minister In Show Business

I have known Eric Anderson since about 1986, when we met in seminary. That’s thirty-six years, so I feel like I know him well enough to write this on his 59th birthday. That means I have been in Eric’s life more than I have not. The fact that that’s true says a lot about Eric. It means he can see the diamond in the rough that is my ministry., and I can see the beauty and holiness in his.

While Eric is straight laced and cognizant of his profession, I can be a heretic at times. In fact, one of the first memories I have of Eric is us bowling and me—after picking up a split — making hand gestures and saying, “The laws of physics, broken for you”. I’m sure he still doesn’t know what to make of that, but it seemed natural to me. The fact that I am who I am gives me great pleasure in knowing that he is who he is. .

While I tend to be emotional and a bit sloppy with it, Eric is more cerebral and far less sloppy in matters of ministry. Eric is focused and driven with his mind, as many men do, to follow a code of conduct. His faithfulness and loyalty to friends get him into places by shear force of will — and he doesn’t turn back.

Eric has been a loyal friend since seminary and that means some fairly extraordinary things. When I lost my eyesight in my my right eye, and having all kinds of challenges in life, health, and ministry, Eric took me in as a guest (and friend) at his place in Hawaii. That is the kind of thing that cannot be forgotten in a friendship.

How did it happen? My wife knew enough to call him and talk to him about. She and he made it happen, because Eric is one of my family’s most beloved people among my seminary friends. When he comes into town, we go see him almost no matter what, and he does the same for us. We like to have him around, and we miss him when he leaves. In addition, My kids love his kids, and seem to gel pretty well with them when we get together. They are both exceptional kids, and he is rightfully proud of them. (Of course, he can’t take all the credit. His ex-wife, Evelyn, a minister in her own right gets at least some of the credit).

Eric and my family have things in common — different things, but all in common, Michelle and I have ministry in common with him, but Eric is more than that. Eric is an artist who loves theater and literature (like everyone else in my family, though I can put up with it) and he is an artist who plays music, which is probably my favorite thing in the world (and they can put up with it).

Eric also writes blog pieces, as I do. He writes a lot of pieces. He writes a sermon every week, of course. He summarizes that in 3 tweets, in “3 Tweet Sermon” on Twitter. Then he writes a piece with art that relates to a text (almost?) weekly. Then he writes “What I’m Thinking” occasionally — an opinion piece. Did I mention he’s busy?

His writing is reverent, with pieces of art that are awe-inspiring, This shows his breadth of knowledge regarding art, or maybe his learning about art over the years. Either way, Eric is getting smarter.

Finally, there’s music: as a member of Boys With Hats, he is part of a duo that has lasted years, and miles — and occasionally does gigs with family members. Plus he seems to write new music constantly, and — I think — performs it weekly for his church in Hawaii. In 36 years, he’s no doubt written two or three hundred songs. He plays at least 3 or 4 instruments and continues to create and produce material at an incredible clip.

Like everyone else, his tenure has included the pandemic. Like others, his ministry has also included volcanic eruptions, and all of the natural disasters Hawaii has to offer. On the other hand, Eric was more prepared for COVID’s challenges more than almost anyone I know. He has developed A/V skills during his tenure as Connecticut Conference’s media director, which included camera work, videocamera and broadcast work, soundboard and mixing work, recording work. He has done this on the national level as well, doing work on a few synods, I think. Remember that thing I earlier about the love of, and knowledge of, theater that he shares with my family ? It all started there, before I knew him.

As I’ve said, Eric is (with apologies to James Brown), the hardest working minister in show business.

His church is lucky to have him during such times. On balance, though, he is lucky to have them as well. Hawaii has been really good for Eric. He loves the culture there. He loves the language and the mythology. He loves the geography and the geology there. Also, no fool, he likes the coffee there. With all of that, he loves the people in his congregation. I’ve seen him lead Bible Study with them, and there is a genuine warmth there.

As I write this, it occurs to me that he probably needs to rest some after all of the creativity and producing he does. Yes, I still think of him as about 35 years old, but his birthday suggests he’s older than that. I bet his bones think he’s older, too.

And so, brothers and sisters and all of the other possibilities out there that he is able to keep track of, from the National UCC, to Connecticut and Maine, and Hawaii, I present to you “the act you’ve known for all these years…” Eric Anderson, the hardest working, most prodigious minister I know, my friend, Eric Anderson.

Peace,

John

At What Point Is The Supreme Court Illegitimate?

I couldn’t imagine even asking this question at any point in my life prior to a week ago, but I think we now have to consider it. Much as The Former Guy challenges the Justice Department’s core belief in non-political justice on prior Presidents, we may have to consider our core beliefs in the Supreme Court regarding its place in Democracy soon.

Here’s how I understand the Supreme Court is supposed to work: because of their singular legal knowledge, and their singular wisdom, based in morality, they are the final arbiters of the law. When an issue is so divisive or controversial, other courts give it their best shot. If one party still is confused, or disagrees with the opinion of a lower court, it goes on up the ladder “all the way up to the Supreme Court!”.

In short, only the most important cases get to the Supreme Court and whatever decision they come up with is the law. There is nothing after that. Congress and The President can create laws to cope with Court’s decision and make work-arounds, but 1) that will probably will take some time and 2) those laws can be challenged … yes, all the way back to The Supreme Court.

Because they are supposed to take the long view of history, they are supposed to make decisions not based in public will of the time, so, in theory it’s ok if the majority of people don’t agree with their ruling. We’ll grow into it as we grasp its wisdom.

But this all assumes that 1) the Justices themselves are moral (as law is supposed to be) ;2) the Justices themselves can be trusted (as the law has to ultimately be); 3) the Justice are rational, as their wisdom and law are supposed to make sense, in accord with the laws they are talking about. In short, their decisions are supposed to make sense to lawyers in legalese and the general population who knows what’s right and wrong.

That’s a lot to expect from any group of people and yet it is a requirement to simply do the job of Supreme Court Justice. But what if the justices selected aren’t those things? We understand that they are human. No one is perfect and, as much as we need “perfectly wise” from them, that’s not possible. With 9 imperfect people, we can get the closest to wisdom from all of them combined, as one’s lack is covered by another’s knowledge or skill. It’s the best we can do, and that has to be good enough.

Still, they must have at least the average person’s knowledge, morality, and skill to come up with good to great decisions at the top of our legal system. Less than that taints their decision-making and our belief in their rulings — in short, their legitimacy.

So, let’s look at who we have got this session:

From last to first: Katanji Brown Jackson hasn’t ruled on anything yet, so we can’t say anything about her application of her gifts yet, but there was nothing suspicious about her process to being installed. Yes, she might have a “bias” because she’s a Black woman, but we want the “bias” (aka experience) on the Court. She seems very qualified. We’ll have to see.

Prior to her is Amy Coney Barrett, called “Well Qualified” by the American Bar Association, There are those who say “she lied about her belief in Roe v. Wade”, but she was the closest of the three Trump Justices to telling the full truth — “precedents may be overturned, but they don’t have to be”. I believe that she has not actually tried a case, so I doubt her experience, but okay. Most problematic to me is that she was rushed through her hearings by a politically motivated Mitch McConnell who blocked Obama’s pick for more than a year, under Donald Trump, who we are seeing to be a fascist, criminal, man who wanted to overthrow the system. She is, to use TV lawyer legal language out of context, “fruit of the poisonous tree”. I won’t give her a full weight of legitimacy star. 3/4 of a star.

Brett Kavanaugh was before that, and some of the same logic applies. Serious allegations of sexual violence — without resolution— make him less trustworthy with a great portion of the population: women. I do actually believe he might be an alcoholic and abusive at home, but that’s conjecture on my part. If I’m correct, though, his judgement is clouded by his drinking, as anyone’s would be. 60% of a legitimacy star, if that much. Also, he straight out lied to Susan Collins about his position about Roe. Maybe under a .5 star of legitimacy.

Neil Gorsuch is the first of the Trump Justices and his confirmation was in the early days of the administration before Trump was totally in control of the Senate. He also lied about precedent in his confirmation, immediately that disqualifies him from full legitimacy status. .75 of a legitimacy star?

John Roberts is perhaps the last of the generally-assumed- to-be – legitimate justices. Nonetheless he wrote the decision for Citizens United and was scolded by Barack Obama for it. Roberts just shook his head and smiled. Citizens United is generally credited with creating most of the corruption by financial interests of our political system, so I’m less than impressed with the wisdom of his decisions. On the other hand, he agreed with same-sex marriage rules, so that’s to his credit. On the other hand, I believe Roberts gutted the Voting Rights Act, so 2 out of three opinions I disagree with. He’s legitimate, I just don’t like him.

Steven Breyer is apparently thought of well by everybody. Full legitimacy.

Elena Kagan isn’t controversial, so I don’t have any reason to doubt her legitimacy for the Court, which is as it should be.

Sonia Sotomayor seems to be the kind of person who is the essence of legitimacy. She seems to be the most empathic for average people and the underserved. She seems most passionate about the legitimacy of the court as a non-partisan decision maker. I would like to see her become the Chief Justice.

Samuel Alito, according to lawyers I know, is off the rails regarding precedent. They have said they don’t know how to teach or understand law using Alito’s rule on precedence. The dissent of the overturn of Roe actually says that power is now the currency of the Court because of Alito’s statements. “Power, not reason, is the new currency of this court’s decision-making.”

They say, “The majority tries to hide the geographically expansive effects of its holding” — that is they are “trying to pull a fast one” on the country they serve. “And no one should be confident that this majority is done with its work”, they say later — this is just the beginning of such hiding the truth.

Remember that the final member of this dissent writers is now retiring.

Finally, Clarence Thomas, is even further off the rails, if such a thing is possible . First, his voice is tainted by the recent news of his wife’s plan to overthrow the government, and his possible knowledge/support of it. The apostle Paul says that leaders are supposed to be above reproach. Thomas is certainly not that.

Besides that, in his support for the overturn of Roe , he states publicly that he believes in Alito’s sentiments on steroids. Yes, he says, we’ve overturned Roe and everything else that goes along with it should also be looked at! So much for precedent, logic, reason, or belief in the country’s progress in belief. He also gets a zero rating on legitimacy.

By my count, we have two totally illegitimate Supreme Court Justices, three with a taint of politics, three legitimate judges, one of whom I disagree with (as it should be). One retiring, one untested.

Out of 9, 3 meet the standards required by the job! Yet, here we are.

What to do?

  • Impeach Thomas if there is any reason to. Replace him with a wise justice with an affinity for precedent.
  • Never install any other Justice nominee who believes in “Originalism” or political purity. Ask all nominees if they believe in precedent and/or Originalism and – under what circumstances they would overturn precedent.
  • Establish a “no confidence” rule for the court’s members, When The Court gets this rotten, there must be some way to remove it.
  • Write a law that says if a Justice lies during their Confirmation hearings, they can be removed by Congress or the Executive Branch.
  • Take no one from the Federalist Society’s roster, or any far left society which is the equivalent of it. Make the President and Congress do the hard work of finding these candidates, instead of giving them pre-packaged justices.
  • Until any of these things happen, add new Justices to the Court, to achieve a balance again.

Personally, I’d like to see at least half of the court be women, as a matter of equality, but that’s just me.

Resisting with Peace,

John

A Political Fix : Rules For Real Elections

The other day, the Republican Party in Texas put forth a platform that said that Joe Biden is not the legitimate President of the United States. I texted this to a friend on Twitter and she asked “How do we combat this delusion?”. For days, I have been cogitating on this, and here’s a possible fix, I think.

Years ago, as I sought licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I knew another therapist who used this line: “You don’t have to play the game (of getting licensed), but if you do, these are the rules”. She said, in essence, I could not get licensed and get the legitimacy that went with it, or I could earn the respect of my peers, and go through all the hoops that licensure required, and gain respect for myself.

Translating that into the political sphere, people who don’t think the government is legitimately elected, and thus choose not to be in the system, should not get the benefits and legitimacy of the government they are trying to participate in.

The federal government should refuse to seat any official who states that they don’t think the electoral process is legitimate. If the process is illegitimate, how can anyone claim that they were elected by it? Furthermore, how can anyone claim that they will defend and honor the Constitution if they don’t believe the Constitution got them there in the first place?

So let’s say that candidate X subscribes to a platform in a party that says, “the voting process isn’t legitimate”. That state gets one less Senator or one less Representative, period. Remember “no taxation without representation”? This is “no representation without representation”.

To take it even further, that state should lose the proportional amount of Federal income that that person would represent. Immediately, I hear in my head, “But that would disenfranchise voters”. Yes, it would, but those voters voted for illegitimacy, so they don’t count. You either believe in the system you’re taking part in, or you don’t.

Until that state finds some someone who does believe in the system of government they are joining, that state is penalized. Voters need to vote for real candidates who will take part in real negotiations for their state’s benefit.

Those who cause the pain of someone else should feel the pain of that decision themselves. Joining the Federal government means, “in for a penny, in for a pound”. You can’t have it both ways. Either you’re there legitimately or you’re not.

If a candidate has the courage of their convictions, they need to stand by those convictions, unpaid if they want to have any kind of integrity. It’s Citizens of this country deserve leaders with integrity, and they deserve to have other citizens take that integrity seriously as well . We owe that to each other.

We say to people who don’t vote that their voice won’t be heard. We should be able to say that those who lie with their vote in a system they don’t believe in should not be heard either. Negative votes are worse than no votes in their impact. Let it be so for people seeking office that way.

Resisting with Peace, and the rule of law, maybe….

John

Everything Makes Sense Once You Understand the Premise.

The title here is a quote from Virginia Satir, and it attempts to explain insanity, so things make sense. I think Satir believed everything was explainable according to the laws of nature and psychological dynamics of the individual, their family, and the society around them. Given that, I’d like to explain today’s insanity: the murder of at least 10 people in a grocery store in Buffalo, NY.

Here’s the premise: America is free because we have guns. Following that logically: More guns means more freedom. Bigger guns mean bigger freedom. To hear people talk about it, guns — owning them, shooting them, shooting them at people — are central to the identity of the United States. It’s in the bill of rights, for goodness sake!

For those who think guns aren’t for shooting people, the second amendment says, “a well regulated militia”…. Militias aren’t out shooting squirrels, or tin cans, or paper targets in the backyard. The protected part of gun ownership is for revolutions — most notably that big one in 1776. We could not have defeated the British if we didn’t have guns. Yes, that part is true. It worked then and so it should work now,

That’s the premise and it’s why we are in this insane predicament. Here’s where it wrong: Just because guns were needed for a war then doesn’t mean that we needed them after that. Yes, wars pretty much require guns. But what if we’re not having a war? Do we need them then? No, we don’t. We can have them. We have the right to “keep and bear arms” according to the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Guns, though, are for war.

If we’re not at war, we don’t need guns. Furthermore, we have the right to keep and bear arms. We don’t have to have them, but we can exercise that right. In legal ethics, there’s a huge difference between a law that says “must” and a law that says, “may”. The right to guns is a “may”.

So, as Virginia would point out, we now have choices. Assuming we’re not at war, there’s no need for guns. And even we are at war, we don’t have to keep guns and use them. We can do something else. We can make rational decisions, assuming of course that we are rational in our use of them in those appropriate circumstances. Implied here is that irrational people aren’t rational enough to make choices.

And yet, Congress, a few years ago, passed a law that said specifically that insane people can own guns. So Congress is making irrational laws that don’t fit the situation. Perhaps we should get rid of that law, because it doesn’t make any sense. Or perhaps Congress is making irrational laws because they are irrational, at least around guns, anyway. I’m not saying it’s true, but it would explain a lot.

On the topic of irrational, let me share a parallel between my work as a therapist and our country’s love for guns. Years ago, I worked with a man who used all kinds of drugs, including marijuana when it was illegal. On the day that it was decriminalized, I drove to his house, and he was smoking a joint. He yelled, “Hey! It’s legal now! I corrected him. “You know that’s still illegal. They just decriminalized it and with your criminal record, you might want to watch that”. He replied, “That’s the same thing”.

It’s well known among alcoholics that St. Patrick’s Day is a day in which “you’re (almost?) required, by law, to drink.” Of course, New Year’s Eve, drinking is also required by law, but then it’s champagne. I suspect that, because the dynamics are the same, the quest to own an AK-47 because they’re legal might indicate that the United States has an addiction to guns. In any case, there’s a tendency toward a love for weapons of war that’s far beyond necessary.

Then, of course, there’s the logical fallacy that killing someone else makes you more free. If you’re defending yourself from being kidnapped, killed, assaulted or raped, it keeps you free. But, if those things aren’t happening, you’re already free. The gun doesn’t make it more so.

So, I could argue all day about gun manufacture, weapons of mass destruction, knives, mental illness, and any other distraction that people attach to guns, but the problem might be that the premise is wrong, I don’t know of any other country that wrote into its Constitution that you get to have guns. Maybe we need to reconsider the need for that part of the second amendment. Maybe we need to think of arms as being for warriors, not civilians. Maybe we need to think about just how addicted we are, or how guns in a time of peace make no sense. Or maybe we just need to realize that we have choices.

Resisting With Peace,

John

Lament For My Twitter Feed

Lord, my enemies surround me on my Twitter feed.

There is talk of a need for a “Domestic supply of infants” by a Supreme Court Justice”

Breaking News: Republicans in Michigan have replaced election officials who certified Joe Biden’s win.

A white supremacist podcaster spewed QAnon conspiracy theories during a campaign event for right-wing Idaho Lt. Governor.

Aside from the voter suppression, extreme gerrymandering & new laws seemingly giving states the ability to overturn elections whose results they don’t like, how are most Americans supposed to learn about the accomplishments of this administration if the media won’t cover them?

Then someone writes: “This is what I find so worrisome. If the FIX is already in, what hope is there?? Please tell me there is hope”? I agree.

But there’s more :

A Senator slammed senators who “expected Brett Kavanaugh not to lie about overturning abortion”.

A judge sees a” far more ambitious objective to execute successfully in 2024 the very same plan they failed in executing in 2020 and to overturn the 2024 election if Trump or his anointed successor loses again in the next quadrennial contest.”

Someone writes: “I’m so effing livid this morning I went on a rant on his thread. He is making excuses for selling out to Russian luxury enabling the GOP led Trump cult and Putin enabling Ukraine tragedy. People are dying & our institutions are in disarray bc of their greed.”

About 100 protesters took the battle over abortion rights to the homes of two conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices Saturday night

New Report Raises Possibility Putin Sought to Infiltrate 2008 GOP Presidential Ticket Through Sarah Palin

I am scared to read this. Is it true? I don’t know. Is it a lie? I don’t know.

And it goes on, God. They are legion.

The same people who tell you gun laws don’t work, keep making new laws to control women’s bodies.

Republicans are exploring “new laws that prevent people from crossing state lines to terminate a pregnancy.” They are also building out a legal framework where red states can legally persecute abortion providers in blue states.

Arizona GOP Senate candidate wants to allow states to ban contraception use

Absolute power corrupts absolutely and if one man can purchase Twitter for 44 billion

Stories like this come out: “In 1979 I had an ectopic pregnancy. It ruptured in the hospital and yet I almost died from rapid loss of blood. These new laws could charge me with murder.

Britain’s new laws doubly criminalize Black, Asian and Gypsy people

We must “stop Blackstone’s takeover of our housing market?!?”

A Miscarriage Led To A Manslaughter Conviction.

There has been a dramatic shift by some lawmakers in one aspect of the fight over abortion: new laws have done away with rape and incest exceptions.

I don’t know who “they” are, but… “They are a bunch of criminals, whom believe they can continue to make new laws, to suit their needs, while leaving the tax payer, The Americans, the Rulers of this country out in the Cold!”

New laws for women in Afghanistan not even allowed to expose their eyes and must have a reason to go out.

Someone says, “I knew all of these new laws placed on women would happen. They pushed way too hard to reduce women to “birthing persons”.

I think they may be hypersensitive, but I don’t know what that is anymore, because next…

Someone on Twitter says: “If/When We get power back existing LAWS must automatically be enforced in spite of Biden/Obama. Plus new LAWS that immediately start collecting EVERY Illegal Person in America and DEPORTED. ALL including the over 26 million already here. DEPORT ALL OF THEM”.

Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS says: Immigration moratorium NOW, for 10 years – bare minimum. Build the Wall. Mass deportations

Just Another WTF>>>>>>>>>>> In order to prevent women from leaving the state for an abortion, Republican states will soon pass laws that women cannot leave their state unless they submit a negative pregnancy test.

This is very important. The GQP are pushing State legislation calling for a CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION. If they succeed Congress can re-write the US CONSTITUTION without we the people consent.

This Handmaid’s Tale bullshit is getting scary.

All the comments about how unconstitutional that would be. As if that mattered anymore …

How does this reflect on You, O Yahweh?

People say, “The pro-life movement was never about states’ rights—it was about crushing the civil liberties of women in the United States who don’t share the religious views of Christian evangelicals. The far right will now use new laws to compel its dogma nationwide.”

The backlash towards Christians we are seeing right now is why Christians should never have made politics their mission. They have completely obliterated, with these new laws & their unloving & uncaring actions, Christ’s reputation & our witness to a world in need of a Savior.

It is all too much for me, dear God. There is too much trauma and there are too many people doing the traumatizing. I have to leave this media. I praise You for Bono and the Edge singing in Ukraine, but “How are we to sing, in a foreign land like our own?

Truth Will Win Out Or Morons Will Rule

I worry all the time about the midterm elections. I hear, quite frequently, that Republicans will win the majority in either the House or Senate and they have made it quite clear that they will not use their power for good. They will use it to destroy the party that stood up to them — the Democrats and anyone else they perceive as :”not pure enough” on one hand or too truthful on the other. They want revenge for being treated as criminals or treating Donald Trump as a criminal. The problem with that logic is that they are criminals. If re-elected, they would be criminals and bullies. That’s not a way to run a country.

To assuage my fears, I will support every democrat I can in whatever ways I can. Give money? Yes. Make calls? Yes. Check on lies? Yes. Finally, vote? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I only get one vote, but I’m going to do whatever I can to make that vote count.

But what if my fears are unrealistic? I will still support every democrat I can in whatever ways I can. Give money? Yes. Make calls? Yes. Check on lies? Yes. Finally, vote? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I only get one vote, but I’m going to do whatever I can to make that vote count until democracy is won or saved. There are only two parties in America and one of them doesn’t believe in the Constitution. That leaves only one choice.

I continue to hear that Americans have a short memory. I continue to hear that Trump’s minions control; our destiny because everyone’s afraid of them. I keep hearing that Democrats aren’t stepping up to the plate and pushing hard enough for justice, that states are making rules against people’s right to vote. I hear about gerrymandering and all the power plays that Republicans are making. I keep hearing about the Supreme Court supporting the fascists, because the fascists claim Christianity. Jesus, however, doesn’t recognize fascist Christians as Christians at all.

That’s where this other thing kicks in. They are not Christians — Jesus never carried a gun or thought it was a right to carry a weapon. Jesus wasn’t a nationalist. Jesus wasn’t a liar or a bully. Anyone who is a nationalist! cannot be a Christian. If the ideal nation comes before Jesus, that’s idolatry and Jesus is not a big fan of idolatry at all. If gun rights come before Jesus, that also is idolatry. Jesus is still not fan. Jesus is against idolatry because it only yields half a life, while pretending to be the a whole one. Caring about others yields more of a life than any thing, idea, or belief could. Jesus’ way is better than that even.

Jesus – the Way and the True and the Light — is, almost by definition, not a liar.The Truth will win out, if Jesus/God/The Holy Spirit have their way. But here’s the rub. Jesus is not a bully either. Jesus told people the truth, but he did not force it on anyone. The Truth needs to speak for itself.

All of this leads me June of this year and the January 6th Committee. At that point, the January 6th Committee will reveal the truth that it has found. Everything I hear says it’s going to be an ugly truth about whole swaths of the Republican Party. It will be presented as The Actual Truth. Ted Cruz will not get to shout it down. Marjorie Taylor Green will not be able to interrupt it every other minute like she did Jim Acosta the other day. Bill Barr will not be able to step in front of it and lie about it. It will just be whatever it will be.

I don’t know what that is because there are apparently so many details and side-effects that the Committee already knows about — and I don’t. Besides that, there are places in the mind that criminals can imagine, but I can’t. I expect to be surprised by the report. Whatever it is, it will be the truth. Lots of people seem to be afraid of it, so I believe that they should be.

Now comes the real important point in time: between the Committee’s Report and the voting booth. There are presently 31 members in the House Freedom Caucus. Of them,

  1. Rep. Mo Brooks (RAla.)
  2. Rep. Matt Gaetz (RFla.)
  3. Rep. Louie Gohmert (RTexas)
  4. Rep. Paul Gosar (RAriz.)
  5. Rep. Jim Jordan (ROhio
  6. Rep. Debbie Lesko (RAriz.) and
  7. Rep. Chip Roy (RTexas) seem to be coming up a lot as involved in the scandal(s)
  8. Then there is Marjorie Taylor Green,
  9. Lauren Boebert and
  10. Madison Cawthorn, who are almost certainly involved in one way or another.

That means, if I’m right, there will be 10 members of the Republican House that will not want to show their face around Washington D.C.

In the Senate, at least Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley seem to be involved in real way. I’ll add in Tom Cotton, John Kennedy, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, and Tommy Tuberville to the list of possible suspects. This means that at least two Senators, and possibly eight Senators will be known to have tried to overthrow the government. They should be ashamed of themselves, but more to the point we will be ashamed of them. Some might resign. Some might go to jail, but their reputations will be destroyed, and their power with it. Hopefully, they will lose their seats as well.

Oh, and finally, there’s Donald Trump, whose actions are going to be all over this thing.

Whatever else you think about Americans, I’m pretty certain they don’t like being lied to, or robbed, or bombed, or other things that may come out in the presentation of the facts.

Whether or not the Department of Justice does anything about whatever happened, there will not be enough Republicans without correctly sullied names to take the majority. Whether or not the Supreme Court has anything to say about it, they won’t matter either.

This isn’t about lawyer-ese, this isn’t about spin. It’s about morals and bravery and patriotism. People without those things will be seen as the people they are. We will have lost confidence in them. We will not vote for them. They shouldn’t be able to comfortably pretend they are Senators. Support for them will dry up, including money for their campaigns and the Senators and Representatives who didn’t support the insurrection will glare at them until they leave. Knowing that the person you work with tried to kill you tends to do that to people.

We will know the truth and the truth shall set us free … or not. If whatever this Committee finds isn’t enough to keep people voting against them, or not enough to not change our view of them, and to be ashamed of who they are, then we will get what we deserve. We will have to be a country run by corrupt leaders who want to tear us apart. If we know the truth and choose to ignore it, we will be morons.

Human beings have free will, of course. In that free will, people can do the stupidest, most corrupt things, horrible things that others take years to recover from. It wouldn’t be the first time crowds of people turned against Jesus who, as I said, is not a bully. He won’t force us to accept the truth until the very final moment of history, according to our faith. At that point, the Supreme Court won’t matter, nor The Orange Man.

May we listen … and choose wisely.

Resisting with Peace,

John

A Question For Mr. Garland … and Us

I was listening to any number of podcasts, clips, and so forth today about the January 6th Committee and the pressure being put on the Attorney General to “do something, anything!”. The answer seems to be “because the process takes so long. These are important cases about important matters and we want to do it right”.

But here’s my question: A man goes into a bank and robs the place. Police catch him in the act. He’s arrested and taken into custody. Then he’s arraigned and waits for trial, either in jail or not. No one asks him who put him up to it. No one asks about his state of mind and whether or not he had intent to rob the place. He committed a crime. He was caught committing the crime. He was arrested. Done, done, and done.

If a man commits treason, or assaults someone with words or actions, and he does it on live TV, in the Senate chambers or in the White House, he’s not arrested. In that case, we have to figure out if he did it, if he meant to do it, who put him up to it, and what other charges he might be guilty of and then arrest him… maybe.

Donald Trump said out loud, in public, on TV, “You’ve got to fight like hell or you’ll lose your democracy!” and tells them to go to the Capital building. Is he arrested. Jim Jordan is involved in the revolt, and Liz Chaney tells him, “You did this!”. Now, a year plus later, she’s proving that he did it. Has he been arrested? Has she had him talk to the police? Has he even been before the committee? No. Why not?

Crime is crime is crime. Isn’t it? Why does there need to be more of a process when a crime is witnessed by millions? Because I listen to Maddox, I understand the *history*/of why we couldn’t indict a sitting President, but that doesn’t make it just, or fair, or right. We were offended for 4 years of Trump because we saw what he did.

Rudy Giuliani lied publicly. Isn’t that fraud? Why is the big threat that he loses his law license? Why wasn’t he arrested? It’s not that we don’t see crime. We see it all the time. We get punished for it, so we know enough not to make that choice, though some of us clearly still do.

That’s life. Why isn’t it for them?

Why is there “white collar crime”? Why are government people “corrupt” and the rest of us “criminals”? Are some criminals more important people than others? Isn’t the law the law? What’s “equal Justice under the law”? Is the law a matter of “separate but equal”, or just unequal? That’s why we care.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Take Off The Gloves, Sisters!

I’m watching the Supreme Court nomination hearings, and I’m watching the coverage of them, and I have to say, I don’t get it. Maybe it’s my White Privilege. Maybe it’s my Male privilege, but I long for the day when a Black woman doesn’t “have to” shut up and take it.

In watching hearings like this or other political situations where Blacks have been bullied or terrorized, there’s always a commentator or bunch of them, usually African-American, who say, “This is what we have to put up with, in order to get anywhere!”.

Here’s where I have a problem: That complacency doesn’t serve anyone. As an ally, I “get” that it’s not my culture to talk about, and I may be out of line here, but if you’re thinking, “I have to do this in order to not upset White men”, this White man says, “Go ahead! Say what you’re thinking! That guy’s disrespecting you and you don’t deserve that!”. Furthermore, if I was disrespecting you — publicly, for all the world to see — I’d deserve to have you upset at me.

The same is true for all women and women, all races, all socioeconomic classes. Disrespect is disrespect. For whatever it’s worth, you have my permission to tell off anyone, if that’s how you feel. If a (White?) man is big enough to talk to you that way, he should be big enough to handle your comments.

I could support you by standing up for you, Judge Brown Jackson, and I’ll be happy to do that. I heard Cory Booker brought down the house with his support, after I stopped listening, and I’m glad to hear it. But don’t be afraid to lose your patience, on my account. My concern is that anyone should feel that they “have to” do anything — especially someone as important as a Supreme Court Justice.

You may choose to because you think it’s expedient, but you can’t choose from only one choice. You need to have more than one option and anyone who tells you differently is missing the point.

Judge Brown Jackson, I heard you describe your faith as “Christian, Non-denominational” in the hearing yesterday. If the reason you didn’t show your frustration is because you think it’s un-Christian, I will respect your choice. I think Jesus calls us to be both pacifists and kind people — and sometimes I feel like a horrible pacifist and a horrible Christian for saying things in anger. My experience, though, is that sometimes I’m glad I did use the appropriate language for a situation. I have the right to be mad at a murderer or rapist or abuser, and the right to be mad at someone who “just” kills the Spirit, leaving a dead-inside body standing. I think Jesus himself got mad about just that.

The idea that any group of people should be expected to be courteous while being abused because “that’s just their lot in life” continues the cycle of abuse. In the same way, I don’t like the trope of the stalked city woman who is terrorized by a crazy ex because, it seems to me, it normalizes the behavior and says that “all” men are just that way. If we’re “just that way”, you should just cope. But that’s stupid. No one should have to cope with abuse — including verbal abuse and being disrespectful of your experience or wisdom . As an ally, I don’t want you to ever think your wisdom, your education, your kindness should be taken advantage of.

Again, if you think you need my (or any other man’s, though I can’t speak for them) permission to be upset, don’t wait.

I hope this makes sense.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Tired? The Cluster of the Pandemic

I was listening to a podcast this morning and the host asked something about “What effect has the pandemic had on women in the workplace?” Shortly after that, there was a story of the effect of COVID on Puerto Rican pregnant women, and I realized that there are so many things we will never know about the virus and its effects, simply because there are too many variables. Are we talking about Puerto Rican women in Texas? They’d be different from Puerto Rican women in Florida or Puerto Rican women in Puerto Rico. There are differences in health care based on location, medical care, insurance coverage, politics in the locale, and so many different genetics to be taken into account.

I have a friend who teaches likes to do research and I thought about her and her knowledge of stats, and I thought… “No way!”. In response to this, I began to draw a diagram of all the variables and things that need to be taken into account in life. This is that drawing:

As the chart grew more complex, I began to think of my clients and all they have had to deal with. It became apparent that COVID’s effects were “one giant cluster**** ” as they would say.

This led me to diagram it that way — in clusters of concentric circles — and that picture looks like this:

All of those little rectangular bubbles are things that you and I had to cope with during the last 2 years of this pandemic. The diagram could be thought of as a map of our thoughts in the pandemic. Every day in the news brought some issue or another to cope with — many for the first time ever. Besides the categories, there were the stories and the cycles of motion through the sectors. That would be us in the middle of the diagram.

For instance, a nurse or a doctor could be medical staff, giving aid. Then they could become patients receiving aid. If they survived their bout with COVID or multiple shifts of patient care, they would become exhausted and require Mental Health services, which were no longer available in person, but were via telehealth, a field that didn’t really exist prior to this. The learning curve for the whole of society was steep for a long while.

The government, under Trump, took a political approach to COVID, while under Biden it has taken a scientific approach. The same entities — CDC, the Office of the President, and The Presidential Task Force on COVID — were tossed in and out of different spheres. Sadly, so were the American people. Regular Americans can only process so much information, and there was simply too much to think about and feel about, so those of one political persuasion chose to go with the feelings only and they feel fear and anxiety often, causing them to act out their feelings. The other group chose the scientific way of coping, which left them alive but intellectually exhausted. By the third wave of COVID, we were all beyond our limits in dealing with all of this stuff.

Because I am a liberal Christian ahead of other things, (and because I like things simple, when possible) I looked for some moral view of the cluster that we have all lived through. In my head were two songs: “We Shall Overcome” and “Which Side Are You On?”. The songs were interchangeable in my head, with the lyrics of “Which Side Are You On?” to the tune of “We Shall Overcome”…. That picture is one I hesitate to draw (and so, won’t here), but the question that remains was this: Were you pro-solution or were you anti-solution to the pandemic? Did you get and give misinformation that made things worse or did you try to use credible information to make decisions about the pandemic? Were you more about your “freedom” to create a super-spreader event regardless of people’s conditions or were you were more about caring for others as best you could and willing to put up with the inconvenience/pain of it all. Are more people dead because of your actions, hypothetically, or are more people alive because of your actions, hypothetically? In other words, which side are you on?

The early church used to have as its statement of faith that “God sets before us the ways of life and death”. COVID is one more example of those choices.

Having said that, I don’t believe that death can ever be the final word, so here’s the question: which side will you be on? If, during this two year period, you have chosen the ways of death and you’re still alive, how are you going to fix what you have destroyed? If you’re a politician or a former patient who yelled at the doctor or nurse saving you because you wanted Ivermectin instead of the care you were getting — and they kept you alive and helped you get better anyway — what are you going to do now? Can you become a nurse or a doctor or a Patient Care Advocate? Will you? Can you learn about other disease and not spread bad information? Will you? Can you help out in a hospital or a social work agency to give back? Will you? You owe it to all the others who were affected by the cluster we just experienced , and maybe it’ll help if you were on the other side for a while — the giving side, not the taking side. Consider the life you have and what you’re going to do about it.

Resisting with peace of mind, sort of…

John