The Other Beautiful America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

********************************

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

(thoughts on beautifully American groups…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Blues Brothers changed my life.

Larry Baker is a great author.

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

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

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

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

Resisting with Peace,
John



Advertisements

No. No. No. And No: Broken Immigrant Families

A few years ago, my wife, children, and I went to see an “internment camp”, a concentration camp, in Wyoming  used to hold Japanese -Americans after Pearl Harbor.  I take out the “Heart Mountain WWII Japanese American Confinement Site” mug to write when I need to be reminded why I write. An idea has to make my blood boil in order for me to write about political things. Heart Mountain’s existence makes my blood boil.

The idea of an American concentration camp is so anathema to my vision of America that I originally refused to believe it. The first time I heard it mentioned was on the old Linda Carter Wonder Woman TV show, and only in passing.  I had a great history teacher in High School and I don’t believe  she even mentioned it in class. This says to me that Japanese internment camps were something we knew were wrong, and thus hid in shame for years.  Until a play recently by George Takei, it wasn’t really discussed much and it still isn’t. I swore, from the day I saw the place, that it would never happen again.

The point of blogging originally for me was because I wanted to hear my own voice in the world, as the news and opinions got weirder and weirder.  At Heart Mountain, you could feel the sadness in the air — the loneliness, the confusion, the anger, and the sense of defeat by forces people had no power to stop.That situation describes more people I know than most can imagine.  At Heart Mountain, I realized… ENOUGH OF THAT!

Every once in a while, I’ll let the blog feature someone else’s thoughts because … well, I have this thing, and they should get to use it. They have to be unique voices like Todd Farnsworth or Rob Horne, because I am convinced that good, compassionate thoughts should be heard. If I can help, I should. When I write a birthday blog or a concert review or movie review, it is simply an extension of that same idea. Stories of good people doing good things that  you never would hear of if I didn’t write it . More often than not, these people don’t even think of themselves as worthy but they are and I want them to know it.

Jesus gave voice to the voiceless, an announcement of the oppressed’s existence, and a radical vision of people’s equal worth to God. America normally knows this is the right thing to do. Heart Mountain is proof that we don’t always do what we know is right. In a country that promotes the ideas of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, concentration camps promote none of those. When the government can take away everything you own, lock you up and cause loneliness and despair like this, it is not American. I don’t care what flag you put over the place, I will not salute it.

All of this leads me to a subject in today’s America which does the same thing, and which I have never thought much about until recently: immigration. Immigration, quotas, separating the good guys from the bad, protecting ourselves from criminals, are — as a package — very complicated. I can understand saying there are limited resources, or wanting a head count simply to plan budgets and such. I don’t want MS-13 or the Russian, Italian, or Irish mafia here. I don’t know how you prevent it and still believe “give me your tired, your poor”, etc…. Better minds than mine have been flummoxed by the topic, so I stayed away from it… until now.

Let me talk about something I do know about: kids and families, and development of a healthy psyche.  Among other things, there’s a theorist named John Bowlby who believes that attachment of a child to it’s parents is one of the primary needs if a child is going to have compassion when they grow up.  If we want good, compassionate kids, we have to let them attach to their parents and we have to help parents attach to them. You can wreck a kid’s mental health by pretending they don’t exist or ignoring them. In short, if you want to make a child a criminal don’t let them get attached to their parents.

So, with that in mind, Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump have instituted a policy which separates supposedly undocumented immigrants (chosen at random sometimes by skin color or Spanish accent) as well as illegal immigrants and children. Some have sought asylum here, and are trying to get away from the very gangs and governments Trump/Sessions have a problem with. And yes, some are thugs — but I don’t see a crackdown on the Russian mafia, or Irish undocumented workers in America. You see, we’re not really cracking down on thugs, we’re cracking down on Hispanics and saying they’re thugs.  That’s horrible and evil in its own right.

Depriving adults of their liberty if they are criminals makes some sense. Depriving children of their liberty is unconscionable. We don’t do that in America — or at least we’re not supposed to. Furthermore. if we deprive them of their parents, we are thretening their lives. They are dependent on their parents. That’s how children are. By detaching them from their parents, we deprive them of any pursuit of happiness as well. 

In addition to that, there are reports that 1500 of these children are missing.  That rabbit hole is so sickening to think about that I can’t bring myself to go down it.

As Christians, we’re supposed to be kind to the stranger in our midst. We’re supposed to care about the oppressed, justice, and so on. Jesus himself says that if you cause a child to stumble, “it would be better for you if you had a millstone around your neck”. There is a special place in hell for people who hurt children, and those who engage in separating children from their parents had better anticipate a long time there. Even if you don’t believe in an afterlife, you can expect hell on earth from this policy.

There is no rational support for this. There is no logic which makes this make sense.  Sanctuary cities must do the right thing, despite the government’s plans. Sanctuary churches — which all churches should be on simple principle — need to say “no” to this abuse of children who have done nothing but exist with brown skin. Any defense of this is irrational. We know this down in the core of our beings.

This is the kind of thing Boko Haram does! No civilized group of people can abide by this and call themselves moral.

At that point, the only moral thing to do is resist. The only argument permissible if we are to claim any morality at all is “No, No, No, and No”.

Resisting angrily but peacefully,

 

John

 

 

Mania is Not Funny

I was listening to my morning podcast and Morning Joe as they discussed an interview on Fox and Friends with President Trump.

The interview was replayed a few times when a man on the Morning Joe said, “I heard a man in a manic state”. Mika agreed that he’s crazy, and said that she disliked him, but the panel was astounded by all of Mr. Trump’s behavior – how he kept talking, how his voice was high pitched, how the volume of his voice never went down, how he was saying things that hurt himself in court proceedings, and how the FOX crew couldn’t shut him down, no matter what.

The panel has gone through this before re: Trump. Early in his career as President, they had been tempted to call him sociopathic, narcissistic, and so on. Someone at the office told them to watch their language, because they were making “medical claims” that they had no basis to say this. There was, I believe, an APA group of psychiatrists who agreed with the Narcissist diagnosis. Still, the panel had backed off until today. This time, they said “I’m not a psychiatrist, but…”

This reminded me of the Charlie Sheen tapes a few years ago, when it turns out that, for three days, Sheen was in the middle of a manic episode. No one in the media had ever heard anyone talk or act like that. Comedians wrote jokes for days. The press waited for him to break down, or calm down or something. Was he doing cocaine? No one knew. He had in the past. He was with porn stars most of the time during this days-long-event. It turns out later that he now has HIV.

There has been recent talk in the New York Daily News (not the supposedly “Fake News” Times) that said Trump used to use cocaine in the New York Disco scene years ago. Mania and cocaine mirror each other in many ways, so in either case, the diagnosis doesn’t matter. The person with mania talks a-mile-a-minute, can’t or won’t stop, believes they are (literally) THE MOST INCREDIBLE PERSON ON THE PLANET and their ideas flow from one thing to another. They believe they are indestructible (literally) and so, maybe to prove that to themselves or others, they exhibit risky behaviors… gambling, risky sex, compulsive spending and so on.

I have no idea about Mr. Trump and a diagnosis of Mania (now called Bi-Polar Disorder). Nor do I know about any past or present cocaine use. In the present, it’s highly unlikely, due to medical tests he receives. In the past, in New York City’s up-and-coming disco world, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

What I can say is this: If someone you know is exhibiting these symptoms, they need help because when they stop being this way, they will have really unpleasant situations to deal with. They may get suicidal. They may “just” be depressed or they may just need a lot of sleep.  If you are responsible for their decisions legally, when this is all over you will have really unpleasant situations to deal with. In any case, having mentally ill people in your family is often really stressful. Professional help in coping may be necessary for you, and that’s OK. Professional help is definitely needed for them.

It’s not cute, or funny, or fun, or any of those things. If you know someone who is acting strangely, believe yourself that they are. Ask for help determining what specifically accounts for the behavior. Then get help for them or for you.

 

Resisting in Peace,

 

John

An American To Do List…

During the Trump Presidency, the Ryan-led House and McConnell-led Senate, we’ve taken a lot of losses. I just want to keep track of all the things we will need to fix.

  • Acknowledge the truth of climate change and, now, work harder than the Paris Accords to fix it.
  • Fix any damage caused by the Dakota oil pipeline leaks.
  • Restore the Voting Rights Act.
  • Have, and use, paper ballots for all 50 states.
  • Fix healthcare, and if we’re into restorative justice, call it “Obamacare”
  • Pay off a larger national debt.
  • Make sure that anyone who wants to can serve in the military, while simultaneously making war less likely.
  • Fix our relationships with NATO
  • Return National Parks to their proper size.
  • Restore the Clean Water Act.
  • Give teachers a living wage in all 50 states.
  • Rebuild Puerto Rico and fix their financial structure
  • Fix and then use the department that does security clearances.
  • Stop school shootings
  • Reinstate the ban of severely mentally ill gun owners.
  • Start actually fixing our infrastructure.
  • Get coal miners jobs that will last.
  • Move the Israel embassy back to Tel Aviv
  • Build prisons big enough to hold all the people caught in the Russia scandal, and give Black men jobs guarding them.
  • Fix corrupt police departments
  • Allow women to make their own health care decisions, while making Viagra not covered by insurance.
  • Fix DACA. Give people who have suffered uncertainty full citizenship.
  • Hire as many ambassadors as we need, and teach diplomacy.
  • Require every generation after this to take civics.
  • Return to a clean energy policy.
  • Require police to shoot only as a last resort.
  • Remove the ill-gotten Neil Gorsuch.
  • Replace him with someone the full Senate can agree on.
  • Restore the Equal Pay act.
  • Restore the consumer protection bureau to full power.
  • Restore school lunch programs.
  • Feed the hungry.
  • House the homeless.
  • Give people a living wage for their work.
  • Make voter registration required.
  • Enforce sanctions against Russia.
  • Teach televangelists the gospel.
  • Stop telling lies on cable news.
  • Break up Sinclair broadcasting.
  • Get a Press Secretary who doesn’t lie.
  • Demand honesty from our entire government.
  • Restore HUD’s mission statement.
  • Take back any money Carl Icahn stole.
  • Shore up our support for the Iran deal.

We have lots of work to do. The sooner we can stop things from getting worse, the faster we can get to the list.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Resurrection People

Sermon given on Easter Sunday, 2018 “Resurrection”…

Years ago, in Bridgeport, I had an organist named Arthur. Arthur was a kind man, but a forgetful, and — as an organist — he was kind of slow.  I don’t mean intellectually. He was actually quite smart, but his fingers couldn’t play a song at less than a dirge. Arthur was old and this was probably going to be his last church, so I found it kind of ironic that Arthur, ever year at Easter would yell, “We are a resurrection people!”. He grew up working with Episcopalians, so he learned that from his priest and he never let go of it.

Arthur popped into my head when I prepared for this sermon on resurrection. That’s the way that resurrection people work. He said this thing. I liked him. Now, 25 years later, I’m saying it to you. Say it back to me now…”We are a resurrection people”. May it stick in your head now, like it did mine.

 

As I thought this week about resurrection and what it means, Mark’s original text doesn’t tell us much.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid”.  So, by this, we know that believing in the resurrection means being scared out of your wits, and worrying that people will think you’re crazy.  I’m not sure that THAT is what makes us “resurrection people”, being scared,and feeling crazy. You can see why someone want to add in verse 8b or 9, whichever you call it: “[And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. ]]. Now, that’s better.

 

We are resurrection people because we believe in “the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation”. Yes, it IS true, but it’s like something a lawyer would say, so it’s hard to figure out WHAT it means. Let’s be honest. In English, it’s “the holy and never ending saying out loud that people are saved forever”.

 

For some people that translates to “God loves you and you are saved from sin”. For me, it’s more like “you can’t keep a good man down”… at least the Best of humanity, as far as life on earth is concerned. I know lots and lots of people who have been run down over and over by life. I want them to know that they will, with God’s help, get up again.

In other words, because Jesus came out of that tomb 2,000 years ago, we win. All of us. Love wins. Peace wins. Forgiveness wins. Good wins. Ultimately, life wins. No matter how difficult it is to believe, no matter how twisted in knots our souls get, what’s left at the end of it all is we find peace, and love, and forgiveness and holiness and life forever.

Personally, I associate the resurrection with heaven. When you think of “heaven”, what do you think of? Seeing your loved ones again and being thrilled to see them? Seeing them put back in original shape, healed from whatever killed them? Do they have to worry? No. Do they have to eat? No. Do they have to sleep? No, but they could if they wanted to. (That’s my fantasy) Seeing every dog or cat you ever had? Seeing them happy and playful? If you believe in old metaphors, is there music? Heavenly choirs and lots and lots of harps?

 

Whatever you dream is in heaven because of the resurrection of Jesus… being “resurrection people” means that is what you believe earth should be like. That’s what being a Christian in this life means. Those ideas were planted in your heart and mind by God, as a model, as something to look for and expect — forever.

Do you dream of seeing your loved ones in the afterlife and being thrilled to do so? See the loved ones you have now and be thrilled to see them. Believe your loved ones’ll be healed? Heal others or help them heal. Support people who do that kind of thing. Believe they’ll be safe? Make the world safe. Believe they won’t have to worry? Bring peace to other people’s hearts. Believe they don’t have to eat in heaven? Make it so that people never worry about eating down here. If you believe in rest in heaven, then give people rest or take rest right here on earth. Believe you’ll be spending eternity with God? Spend time with God now.

 

Do you believe that dogs and cats will be happy and playful in heaven? Help them be happy and playful here. Take care of them here. If you think there’s music in heaven, play or sing music here. Now.

That’s what resurrection people do. They bring their dreams of heaven to earth — as Jesus said, “on earth as it is in heaven”.  What would it be like if all of the resurrection people in the world got together? The world would be full of people of people thrilled to see each other, treasuring others, Being healed and healing others, fighting whatever kills people. The world be full of calm people who experience and give forgiveness to others, people who don’t worry about what they’re going to eat or drink, a world where people rested in God’s loving embrace at night, where animals and humans were treated like they were loved. We’d live in a world full of music makers, of happy and playful people.

 

Will we get it right? Probably not. We’re still human, after all. But we’ll at least be going in the right direction… and when the resurrection comes, we’ll at least know what to do. Amen.

Palm Sunday, 2018, And Those Kids

(Editor’s Note: This is a sermon given at North Congregational UCC, in New Hartford, CT)

Wow. I was prepared to describe Palm Sunday to you from the text. I was prepared to explain the different versions in the four gospels, the subtle differences between John’s gospel and Mark’s gospel, both of which were optional texts for this morning. I thought I might add in the versions from Matthew and Luke just for good measure. I thought I might talk about Jesus and revolution, or about Jesus being allowed one good day for all his hard work. I thought I might prepare you for what’s coming later in the week religiously, in Jesus’ day. I expected I would do all of this just to give you a sense of Palm Sunday and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  And sure enough, I will do all of those things in this service, and this particular part of it. But you have already witnessed Palm Sunday. You have already gotten a sense of Palm Sunday. It’s no longer head knowledge or book knowledge, nor is it “street smarts” and the primal reaction that goes along with them.

If you watched the news yesterday, if you watched any of the protests on TV yesterday, if you went to any of the protests yesterday, you have experienced Palm Sunday. You know, in 2018 America, what it was like to be in Jerusalem in 33A.D. The same Spirit that caused one caused the other. Let me explain. It doesn’t matter what your politics are. It doesn’t matter what your thoughts are, nor does it matter whether you’re on the right side of history. What happened when ¾  of a full million people appear and are united is a force to be reckoned with. It just is. When Martin Luther King held a rally on the mall in 1963 (?), everyone knew that that moment had come. People are still fighting it today, but that moment came… and it changed everything. When, last year, the Women’s March happened, again, everybody knew that the moment had come and that things would never be the same.

If we go back to the Civil Right movement, we can see that it has brought about change. According to a recent study, Overall, nonwhites (including blacks, Hispanics, Asians/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans) make up 19% of the current Congress. By comparison, nonwhite Hispanics and other racial minorities make up 38% of the nation’s population.  Now, that sounds pretty pathetic. But prior to 1963, there were probably zero percent minorities.

Minorities, however, account for 20 of 59 new members (34%) of the House and Senate. This represents a notable jump over the 114th Congress, when just 11 of 71 new members (15%) were a racial or ethnic minority and the Senate had no newly elected minority members. This year, three freshman senators are a racial or ethnic minority, along with 17 new members of the House.

If we look at the women’s movement, For the first 150 or so years of our country. We had ZERO women in congress – House or Senate — Until 1917, when Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first. Now, in 2018, There 105  women hold seats in the United States Congress, 22 women in the United States Senate, and 83 women in the United States House of Representatives.

In the 2018 midterm election coming up, twice as many women are running as were running just two years ago.

At least 431 female candidates are running or are likely to run for the House, compared to 212 in February 2016, according to NPR. In Senate races, 50 women are running or are likely to run, compared to 25 in 2016

Their moment has come. This will be, according to an article I read, the 5th wave of women attempting to get into Congress.

So yesterday, when all of those people marched on the nation’s capital and marched on any number of state capitals, a moment had come. What was once unthinkable is now … thinkable. And once it’s thinkable, it becomes possible. Gun control, of one form or another, will become the law of the land, maybe not now, maybe not in the near future – but gun control will come. There are at least a million people who say so, and – of them – some of them will take their place as leaders in our government, and gun control will happen.

Now, back to the original Palm Sunday story and why I said what I said about yesterday… Yesterday, the world stood on its head in more ways than one. For example, silence spoke louder than words. Yesterday, with an estimated 800,000 people in front of her, Emma Rodriguez  said absolutely nothing for 6 minutes. If you know anything about kids at all, you know that it’s hard to get silence in a room full of them, for 6 minutes! This was a crowd estimated at 800,000 people. In an America that’s getting increasingly busy and distracted, yes, the crowd’s anxiety broke in a couple of times, not sure what to do. But it was quelled. And in six minutes of non-speaking, she had the same impact today that Martin Luther King had at his rally 55 years ago. You know the phrase, “If these were silent, even the rocks would begin to sing”? That is what happened yesterday. Just as it had when the women’s march came, and whatever happened when Stonewall happened, and King’s march on Washington. They are all moments in time when the previously voiceless believed in themselves enough to speak The Truth as they felt it. And in their spontaneity, they all spoke as one.  Part of what makes Palm Sunday spectacular is that there were no organizers, per se. The text says that “when people heard Jesus was going to be in town for Passover (“the feast” in the text), they came out and took what they could. Tree branches, coats, etc. Palm Sunday just happened. The disciples might have told people Jesus was coming, but they didn’t tell them that it was important that he was there, and they didn’t tell the crowds what to say. They knew that this man who had listened to them, who healed them, who taught them a new way to live was “He who comes in the name of the Lord!” And to that, they said. “Hallelujah!”.  The interest, the zeitgeist, the Spirit of the times was already there, so when they heard, they knew where they wanted to be. It is the same way that news spread around the Women’s March. People were getting on busses the minute they heard about it. Yes, there was co-ordination, but the crowd was never in doubt. The size of it far surpassed anyone’s expectation, and the crowds in each statehouse were representative of the same Spirit. Women’s speech, oppressed, or repressed or suppressed before this was louder than can be imagined. They had had enough, and with something like a giant “sigh”, they appeared, never to go into the woodwork again. When someone tried to pick on them about the …um, hats, because they were “probably manufactured in China, it became apparent they didn’t understand. All those hats were hand-made by the women who were there.

No matter whether you supported the movement or didn’t, you had to take notice of it. That same thing was true as Jesus rode through the gates of Jerusalem. Whether people disagreed theologically, like the scribes, Pharisees and Saducees, or felt like threatening Jesus with  political violence, like the Roman Occupation Army, you couldn’t help but know what was happening. Victor Hugo is quoted as saying, “There is nothing so powerful than an idea whose time has come”. The idea that gun violence has to end – its time has come.

Now, if we look at the different versions in the Gospels about Jesus’ march into Jerusalem, you can see that no one knew what to make of the energy of the day. This morning’s text says that Jesus’ disciples took a donkey for him to ride on. That’s in John. In Mark, the disciples take a horse/colt. In Matthew, as my professor used to say, we have “Jesus the trick rider, who rides both a donkey and a horse, at the same time. In Luke, it’s a “colt that’s never been ridden” – a wild animal.  Which of these is true? Each storyteller wanted to tell you something about Jesus. Mark wanted to have him be the triumphant (or ironic) military challenge to Rome by riding on a horse. John wants him to be humble, riding in on a donkey – a beast of burden. Matthew can’t make up his mind and takes them both. And Luke wants him to be slightly out of control.

At a moment of high energy like this, people don’t know what to expect, ot what to make of it. I’ll bet there were people at yesterday’s march that wanted to storm the NRA offices to prove they had the power now. There were people that are generally quiet and made a fuss because they had to. Violence is never going to be an option for them. And  there were those who understood the anger, but actively chose non-violence.  Some version of that happened in the crowds on Palm Sunday. Which one is “true”? Whichever works for you.

Now finally, about the title to this morning’s sermon: For years, when I have read the story of Holy Week, I wince and think, “Oh, Jesus, man.… It’s a great day, and you deserve it, but if only you could do something different, Good Friday would have been better for you”. We see that in hindsight, knowing how the story ends. But today, I wanted you to experience Palm Sunday as those people on the streets of Jerusalem did. I wanted, as Shirley can tell you, for Jesus just to have his big day, with no worries about the future… riding in to town on the biggest day of his life. All of this morning’s songs are glorious, upbeat songs today. The psalm gives you some understanding of what the people thought was going on. If something were to happen to Jesus now, after this point in the story, it’s going to really hurt, really be a blow to the disciples, and us. Just when we think good has triumphed, evil will raise its ugly head once again, in the pendulum sweep of history. On Good Friday, it will feel like evil has won. But it hasn’t. What once was a group of 12 guys is now approximately 2.1 billion Christians around the world (about one third of the total population of the planet)! The number of people worshipping Zeus and Athena and all of the Roman Gods is now down considerably, and no one is afraid of Caesar anymore. On that Palm Sunday, 2000 years ago, Christianity was an idea whose time has come. Amen.

On School Safety, Guns, and Us…

I’m writing this to sort things out in my own head. Today, the son of my cousin went to school with his normal head-load of issues. I’m not totally sure of it all, but — in addition to school subjects and being a teenager, I think he has trouble with change and he doesn’t particularly like people. So, in addition to four things making his life more complex, some idiot added a fifth today by shooting up his school, and dying at the hands of a gun-using school resource officer. I want to change the debate to terms that make sense to me: sin, freedom, community, and our responsibility to one another. Politics, it seems to me, asks the wrong questions and therefore, yields the wrong answers.

I don’t know how my cousin, or the community she and her son live in, feel about guns, so I will not claim to speak for her. Personally, I hate guns when they are used to huntpeople. It doesn’t much matter if it’s a handgun, a rifle, or a sub-machine gun. My grandfather hunted most of his life, and fired 1 million rounds in his 30 years as a gun tester at Remington Arms. He had a giant bullet trophy in his living room when I was young, so I know. His idea of fun on a Saturday afternoon was to go to the Rod and Gun Club in town and shoot skeet, so I understand there are safe gun owners, or there used to be. My grandfather stopped hunting in the woods near his house in about 1972, because there were two many idiots out there who would shoot at anything that moved. Shoot first, ask questions later. It was a stupid idea with deadly consequences then. It hasn’t gotten any better since. It seems to me that his was a different day, when people respected forces more powerful than them — oceans, storms, and bullets come to mind first among them. When people started thinking they were more powerful or more important than nature is the day that death came to America. When ego overcame reality, reality, not surprisingly, fought back and continues to not give in. This is the sin of pride and we make mistakes as soon as we indulge in it.

Jimi Hendrix once said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, we’ll have peace”. He’s right. What do we chase? Power. Not internal self-esteem, but power over others. My grandfather was a man. He peed standing up. He put in his pants one leg at a time. He knew he was a man, so he didn’t need to prove it. When men use a gun to impress you with how powerful they are (we don’t have a lot of women mass-shooters), they tend to pretend that gun is their penis. It makes them feel manly. My grandfather kept his penis in his pants. Using a gun to prove your manliness is idolatry: you are substituting a representative object for the real thing. Idolatry is a sin. If someone thinks a gun makes them manly, or proves how manly they are, they are already mixed up. Mixed up people shouldn’t have guns.

Killing, (actually murder, or intentional killing), is wrong. It’s in the 10 commandments. All those Bible thumpers who enshrine the 10 Commandments need to remember that when they think the NRA’s thoughts on AR-15s is the right way to go. Killing is a sin. Here’s the problem: in America, we don’t take sin seriously. We’re number 1! There is no sin! We’re above sin! We’re number 1… except that we’re not anymore. Not in much of anything. We don’t live in reality. We live in image — the image of propaganda and sales. If we were above sin, if we lived in reality, kids wouldn’t be getting shot at school.

So, let’s acknowledge sin — that there’s a part of us that gets it wrong, that makes nasty, petty, or violent choices. And when we acknowledge that, the simple reality of that, let us make laws and regulations that say that we don’t want to make anger permanent, or psychosis real, or vengeance a value of ours. There are those who say, “You can’t legislate morality”. In fact, morality is the only thing worth regulating , especially when we’re this far from where we should be, when it becomes a life-and death issue. That’s where we’re at.

That said, school safety is about more than guns, as I’m coming to understand. For instance, there are ways you can build a school, and certain materials will make the place safer — bullet proof glass, for instance. Certain designs of buildings make school safer regardless of how crazy the person is. That would be possible to implement — if we supported our schools with real funding. We don’t. If it’s a bomb, it gets money. If it’s a student or a school, it doesn’t. When we’re willing to actually prioritize education enough to fund it, our schools will become safer. Any time we want to decide to do that, I’ll be happy. Until then, no.

A couple more points, from friends. My Facebook post about the shooting brought out many sad faces. At first, only one friend — one who works for peace — used an “angry” emoticon . As the days go by, more and more angry faces show up. We should be angry that this continues to go on, even as people organize against it this week, as Congress hasn’t refuses to deal with the issue. I’m writing this because I’m angry about kids dying. Let my cousin be sad. She has every reason to be. Let the people of St. Mary’s County be sad. They have faced tragedy. I may get to that later, but right now I’m angry. I’m sick of seeing traumatized children grow up to be traumatized or traumatizing adults. As a therapist, I have more clients than I can handle now. I don’t need more.

Oh, speaking of that, we need more therapists, and more therapists need to be paid, so if somebody could make that happen, that would be great. If we’re going to create monsters, we should have some way to fix them as well… preferably before they shoot up a school. One more thing on mental health: Chuck Grassley and Donald Trump and anyone who supported giving guns back to mentally ill people ought to be ashamed of themselves. Have they fixed that mistake yet by re-instituting that law? I don’t think so. Vote them out!

Next, my friend Joe Roberts said it’s about kids getting revenge for being bullied. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that bullying destroys lives. People who have been hollowed out by years of abuse begin to feel they have nothing to live for, and they’re angry enough about the abuse, they don’t care if they die and they’re sure as hell going to take someone with them into that “great beyond”. Whether there’s a direct correlation between bullying and mass shooting or not, bullying is wrong, it hurts, and it must be stopped. Hollowed out children are no fun. We should stop making them that way.

Lastly, as I said already, we need to fund mental health services, so that the wounded in all of this can get un- wounded. Until we do that, our schools will never be safe. Also, something that covers physical trauma, like universal health care would be nice. Do kids who get shot and have no insurance get what they need, even if it’s not their fault. I don’t know, but I suspect not.

All of this is about priorities and will. So let’s get our priorities straight and use our will to make laws that care about people more than guns.

There. I think I got it all out now. I feel clearer, and thus, better. How about you?

Resisting with Peace,

John

The Will To Live: A Political Platform

I was listening to a podcast of “Morning Joe” this morning. It was from a few days ago and they were complaining about how the Democrats didn’t have a message but “You’re oppressed. These people did it” and they related it to “identity politics”. While I have my own misgivings/questions about “identity politics” , the idea that there’s no clear message that could unify the country is simply false, on a gut level. Gay rights, Black Lives Matter, the kids in Florida and gun rights, unions and their right to exist, the women’s march, income inequality and the tax cut, medicine, college, and so on…

What’s the common theme that binds all of these together? The will to live. Of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, it’s not Liberty (gun laws and the right to have guns) anymore. People think about the “pursuit of happiness “, regarding social issues, but something is wrong there: people in this day and age take it to mean “The pursuit of pleasure”. and one side of culture wars wants pleasure and convenience and the other side complains they do. So what’s left? Life — the will to have it, and maybe, just maybe, to have a good one. In the meantime, the great movements of the last few years boil down to the same thing: the ability to stay alive. This was brought home to me by one of my clients who has $90,000 in student debt — and I thought, “how does anybody live like this?”. My client has a full-time job.

In the same vein, my wife said to me the other day, “well, we have had health insurance for two years. That’s about the best we can say for now”. My wife and I both work, and work hard, and make good money, I think. Still, I wonder, “How does anybody live like this and send their kids to college, besides?” When I pay for my meds every month, I think, “If we can’t pay for this, I’ll die”…and I immediately think of my clients who are poor, or senior citizens, or children with illnesses. How can they afford their medicines? If they don’t get them, they, too, will die. None of us wants to die if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

Let me go down a list of movements and their causes:

Black Lives Matter — they don’t want to die if it’s preventable … and it clearly seems to be.

Parkland: Student Lives Matter — they don’t want to die if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

The Women’s March and the MeToo movement: Women’s Lives Matter –they don’t want to die. Women’s Bodies Matter — they don’t want to die, either mentally or physically, if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

Trump voters and poverty — The White Poor Matter — they don’t want to die of starvation if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

The Poor People’s Campaign — The Diverse Poor Matter. They don’t want to die, if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

Occupy Wall Street– the majority of us matter — we shouldn’t have to die when 5 or 10 people have more resources than all all of the rest of us together do. We don’t want to die if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

Teachers in West Virginia are on strike, (Teachers Lives Matter) because they and their students can’t afford to live. Hey shouldn’t have to be poor while they’re making the world better… If it’s preventable … and it seems to be. While they are on strike, they feed the kids lunches to replace the ones they would be getting if they were in school. Hungry Students Lives Matter and they shouldn’t starve or die if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

LGBTQ students and anti- bullying campaigns (Gay Kids Matter, Nerdy Kids Matter, Unpopular Kids Matter) None of them want to die (and, yes, it’s a genuine fear that they might) if it’s preventable … and it seems to be.

Our present government doesn’t seem to think anyone’s life matters, and frankly, we’re fed up. So there it is, the theme for any politician who wants to get elected: The Unifying Theme for any leader that wants to get elected– Democrat or Republican, I don’t care though I don’t hold out much hope from Republicans really. Look at the people you represent and say, “Your life matters. You don’t deserve to die if it’s preventableand it seems to be. Here’s how we’re going to fix it…”

If you can’t say that and mean it, get off the stage, get off the ballot. You’re wasting my time and you don’t deserve to be elected.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Play Review: “Raisin In The Sun”, Cabaret Theatre, Bridgeport, CT

My wife, who studied anthropology, told me that starving people reach this point where they no longer want to eat gruel, and now want a meal with spices or just flavored. This is a sign of health, because the person now believes that they will survive and they want more out of life.

“Raisin In The Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry, as performed by the Bridgeport Cabaret Theatre, is the story of people who are starting to refuse to eat gruel. It is the story of a family, a culture, and individuals who will no longer settle for mere existence, who are experiencing the economic or civil version of “sick and tired of being sick and tired”.

The story features a mother/grandmother who grew up as a sharecropper (LaMarr Taylor as “Miss Lena”) , her two children (Walter and Beneatha, played by Jahi Kasssa Taharqa and MayTae Harge, respectively), Walter’s wife Ruth (played by Noelle Ginyard), and Walter and Ruth’s son, Travis (played that night by Abijola “Keeme” Tajudeen). They all live in a cramped Chicago slum together, and there is so little room in the apartment that Travis sleeps on the couch at night. Strolling through as a form of character development are George (Avery Owens) and Mr. Asagi, (played by Garth West) .

All of the family members are shaped by two other unseen characters: Lena’s late husband, who creates dreams at the beginning of the play, and a con man named Willie who could potentially take them away in the end (no spoiler here. You have to go to see the play).

For good or bad, as I watched, I tried to connect with each of these Black characters set in the late 50’s, early ’60’s characters as “familiar” or “not familiar” to me today about 50 years later. Whether that is pompous of me or not remains to be seen, but that’s where I went. Sadly, amazingly, I recognized all of these people, and their downsides, their struggles, and ultimately their faithful determination to see themselves as worthy human beings. Some I understood from the past, and some from the present. It is the contrast of the two which gives the play its meaning in this millennia. Still, all of it is about survival and the meaning of gruel.

I understood the hurt and anger that is Walter, with the world changing, and women’s growth passing him by, who believes he is supposed to be in charge, make the decisions, and have the respect of the family. I understand, but don’t respect, his anger, his drinking, his hanging out, all while dreaming of being more in the world of men, fighting the nearly unbeatable tide of racism out there, only to come home to women who are going somewhere. He wants to be given just a chance to get ahead, and have some worth. For him, not eating gruel anymore means having an easy life and being seen as respectable, just like the White men he sees. The White version of Walter is the formerly middle-class Trump voter .

I recognized the young boy who is born into the world, with no other expectations than the ones he sees, while his peers haven’t learned “the rules” yet, who hasn’t been scarred enough to be disillusioned yet. Young Travis is still innocent and playful, dreaming … yet wondering about a few things around him, protected by his parents to the best of their abilities. Travis has never eaten gruel and can’t yet imagine its existence at this point in his life. He will be the activist of the late 1960’s, the believer that tells his children “Black is beautiful”, and “[says] it loud, he’s Black and Proud!”. Middle aged at Obama’s inauguration, disappointed at the backlash, he is the one now blamed by society for dreaming too much, and thinking he deserved more than gruel, in the current climate.

I recognized women like Ruth, faced with changing culture that now offers a range of decisions, all of them requiring hard work and hard choices, which she is willing to do if men will let her. She is perhaps the strongest of anyone there, the one with little or no cheerleading to call her on, driven only by her internal drive, but gaining daily strength from it. As she overcomes the challenges, she gains experience of her wisdom which can’t be taken away with the “logic” of men and will prove unfathomably strong over time. She has heard stories of gruel, and knows it is not for her, yet has to prove this to others.

I recognized the soon-to-be Angela Davis that is Beneatha, who says “Hell, no, I won’t eat gruel!”, who believes her time has come, who has the intellect to prove it, but at this stage believes it will be easy to live the life she can picture in her mind. She can picture a life of equality under the law, less than no other person, White, Black, male, female, rich or poor, nappy-headed or straight-haired. Life will not be easy for her, if she survives at all. Despite what she believes in her college years, playing “We Shall Overcome” on the guitar won’t be enough. Still, if she makes it, she will become an icon in the feminist/Womanist movement and lay the groundwork for gender studies and the upcoming understanding of “more than binary” sexuality. White liberal women will idolize her, White men will respect her and fear her in equal measure.

Finally, I recognize Lena, the Matriarch of faith, who has eaten gruel, because her awakening was that she simply deserved to live. God told her that — when White society wouldn’t. She reminds me, financially, of my grandfather, who grew up in the Depression and always ate the last pea on his plate out of remembrance of times past. He ate liver or chipped-beef-on -toast or bread and milk for a meal because it was food. Lena and my grandfather shared that sense of having nothing, but my grandfather was told that of course he deserved to exist. He was White, Male, German, and Protestant. While God loved him, he didn’t need to be told because society told him that every day. Lena, on the other hand, would have needed to hear about her worth from something beyond this sphere. When she did, she never gave up. She, like my grandfather, never believed that money and self-worth were the same thing.

Beneatha’s two suitors are also recognizable as pathways to coping: George, as a “buppie” from the 1980’s who believed White culture and capitalism were right, as long he could “pass” for White. He is rich and educated, and does what he should. The Nigerian-born Asagi is the fantasy that gives pride to a nation in exile. He is dignified and gracious, wise and humble. He is regal in ways that George — An American — doesn’t even contemplate.

Which person does our society focus on? The one who never appears on stage — Willie, the con man — is our present culture’s icon for the Black man as represented by the White one. He is the image of opportunity being fed to America’s secular Blacks — the one for whom the lottery, the hustle, or selling drugs are the only opportunities for pride, and “making it”. He is the criminal we can arrest because “he’s only causing harm”. He is the symbol of “Black on Black crime” that Jeff Sessions wants to lock up, while claiming it’s about “safety” or “law and order”.

Which person really runs the American world right now? It’s the minor, and unsuspecting character, Karl Lindner, who offers the family a “legitimate” way to save the family (not like Willie offers) if they simply accept the rules. Of course, the rules are that Blacks are “those people” — yes, they are people, but they don’t belong with “us”. Lindner is at once the most hateful man in the play, and the most pleasant. If you ask him, he’s only doing his job, and making “everyone” happy. He doesn’t swear, he isn’t a criminal, he just “fills out the forms”. Lindner is the Faustian bargain offered to people with no hope — people of all colors, both Walter and the Trump voter (and the Latino gardener in California, or snow-plow driver in the Northeast).

But back to gruel: Gruel is simple sustenance, a step up for people withnothing, who have been told they are nothing. No one who has something, or believes they are something eats it willingly. Each of the characters in “Raisin in the Sun”, have begun to expect more from life, as they should — emotionally, financially, spiritually. They believe, on some level, what God believes — that they can be their best, fullest selves. Our current ruling class is determined to eat all of the “real food”. They believe that the only way they can “have it all” is to make sure others agree to have nothing, and accept gruel as a step up. They are willing to give the scraps from their lives so that we can exist on those. In doing so, they don’t have tofeel bad.

We who are not the ruling class must fight this with every fiber of our being, because our simply being is at stake. We must not believe that they are the only ones who deserve food, education, health, self-esteem, that they are the only ones who exist.

We must believe in ourselves and each other. We must treat each other as though we believe that we are somebody. We must see ourselves as God sees us, and trust in the vision of who we can be. Accepting gruel makes it impossible to become our best selves. The Youngers, in this play, show us ways to be beyond that, and the risks inherent in the choices we think we have. It is a great, yes, classic, play because of that.

The production in Bridgeport featured first class actors . As I waited to see Noel Ginyard after the show, each of the actors walked by and were recognizable vaguely as the people they portrayed, but I had to strain myself to actually see them as their characters — the sign of good acting being that the person, in their role, is as believable as the person off stage. They all were.

I would recommend it to all.

Peace,

John

Sort of Not My Business — About Abortion

I am aware at this stage of my life that I will never have an abortion. At her age, I’m pretty certain my wife won’t either. As Congress considers limiting abortion to 20 weeks from conception, I thought I’d write about the topic,

Both my and my wife’s lack of experience are good starting points for discussion, but they are not the same starting point that others have, and I think that’s part of the problem. This is one of those things where I don’t get conservatives, who are all about fewer laws, except when it comes to sex. (Yes, sex, but also gender. I’m sure we don’t want women to have sex. I’m not so sure we don’t want women to be women.)

Anyway, I’m all for having fewer laws, I’m all for assuming people are “big people” and can make up their own minds about things. They can take responsibility for their own lives. The difference is that I think of women as people. When men — or women — make laws about what others are allowed to do with their own bodies, we have problems. I have never assumed that a woman’s body was mine to police, or mine to hurt.

So, there it is: what I believe. I’m pro-choice and I’m anti-hurt. Anytime a women gets hurt and a baby is the result of that hurt. The man who did the hurting has lost all right to say anything about the baby or its existence. Time’s up. Thanks for playing, now go directly to jail.

After that, whether a man and a woman want to terminate or keep a pregnancy is up to them. If there’s a question about the decision, the decision should go to the one doing the work: The woman. If the man wants to raise a child by a woman he loves (whether she does or not) that should be taken into consideration,but ultimately, since the baby is located in her, she should make the final call.

Ok. That’s what I believe, from my lack of experience. Take it for what it’s worth.

Here’s the tricky part. I know a whole lot of women who have had abortions, and have grieved it their whole lives. I have also known a few women who have had them and didn’t regret it, but those seem to be the minority, by far.

Having seen my wife be pregnant, and listening to her experience, I have absolutely no clue what it’s like to be pregnant, Women and their embryos — later children– are literally connected, or attached, in some way that I just don’t get. They feel things that I don’t (and vice-versa. They don’t understand having a teenage — or adult –erection).

Some of the things they feel are joy, sadness guilt, relief, loss, gain, helplessness, power, and all the other things they are capable of feeling. When they choose to have an abortion, they need to be aware of all of the possibilities of that, and live with their choices. I assume that they can because, well, they have to.

You will note that I haven’t said anything about the life of the baby. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know when it’s a baby, when it’s viable, a fetus, or a mass of cells. Again, it’s a woman’s experience of it that matters, because I don’t have any experience to draw from.

What I do know is that once a baby leaves the birth canal, no matter what, we as a society are responsible for it. It has always bothered me that the same people who say a woman should have the baby because it’s sacred refuse to give it the necessary food, clothing, and shelter it needs — as though it’s not sacred anymore. You can’t have it both ways, it seems to me.

Yes, I believe that all life is sacred. I just don’t know when it becomes a life. I also believe that because such a decision has so many effects on a woman’s life that the decision shouldn’t be made lightly… ever. Women are capable of making those decisions. They are capable of living with the consequences of those decisions, as well.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Questions For The Next Presidential Candidate

Skipping ahead to 2019, assuming we make it that far, and taking into account the lessons of the present administration, here’s what I think we should be asking:

1) Who do work for?

2) Have you read the Constitution?

3) Tell us why Democracy is a good idea…

4) How do you feel about the press?

5) Is there ever a good use of nuclear weapons?

6) Have you ever been called a liar?

7) Have you ever groped, harassed, or sexually assaulted another person?

8) Define the word “Americans”

9) Who will cabinet members work for?

10) Define “racism”. Are those behaviors you have engaged in?

11) Do women deserve equal pay for the same work?

12) How will you fix wealth disparity?

13) Do you agree with”Citizens United”? What can be done to fix it?

14) How will your Presidency reflect the diversity of modern America?

15) Is any citizen above the law?

16) Is the Department of Justice an independent agency?

17) Define the difference between “voter” and “citizen”. Will you work for both?

18) Explain for us the “separation of Church and State “.

19) What is your view of Global Climate Change? If you believe it exists, will you fix it?

20) Do you believe in public schools? How will you address any issues with them?

21) How will you pick your Cabinet?

22) Do you believe we can prevent mass shootings? If yes, How will you do that?

23) Why should we trust you?

24) Do you believe healthcare is a human right?

24) What do our children need? How will you help them get it?

25) How will you address hunger?

26) How will you address homelessness?

27) How will you address addiction?

28) Do you believe in mental health parity?

29) What do you think America’s role in the world should be?

Many of these used to be easy questions.…We can’t take their answers for granted anymore.