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



New Rules For The Press

America is at war with itself because America is at war with the truth. As members of the press, your job, as I understand it, is to report the truth. Your integrity only grows stronger when you report the truth. It grows weaker when you report lies. Because a growing number of Americans have a problem with truth doesn’t mean your objective has changed. The way you do it must change though.

The first thing to acknowledge is that The Press is not A Thing, and it certainly isn’t monolithic. It is individuals doing a task and the task is getting at the truth of the life we live. There are number of reasons I point this out.

1) When President Trump said, “The media is the enemy of the people”, he didn’t mean FOX news. They were telling his narrative. He understood that “all media” didn’t exist. The ellipsis that was unstated was … “that disagrees with me”. Telling the truth, in this case, means challenging the ellipsis by calling it out.

2) When someone in media says “Media outlets are saying…” unless they are talking about you, they are lying. If they are lying, your reputation gets tarnished, and the integrity of all media is diminished. In psychology ethics, we are required to respond to lies told about us — good or bad. I believe you should do the same.

3) In the same way, when a politician says “Politicians are evil”, there’s nonsense involved in the question. This needs to be called out.

I began feeling better about the press when individual reporters began standing up for themselves, and breaking the fourth wall. When an Asian-American reporter asked, after Trump seemed to make an anti-Asian connection to COVID, “Why did you say that, Mr. President?” A light dawned. She was not just recording what he said, she was asking an open question. She was challenging him about his motives. She wasn’t accepting his truth as the “the truth”. She changed the rules of the game.

In the old days, truth was not a game. When politicians make it a game, you as individuals determine the rules of engagement. Until there is a truth again, you must choose what the game is. The idea, hopefully, is to corral truth and put a fence around lies.

There is a saying that “Sometimes, the only way to win is to not play”. This idea is tantamount when truth is a game. So another idea of how to work is this. If a politician is saying something you know is not true, you don’t need to publish it, air it or let it onto the internet at all. In the past, the rule was cover it, tell why it’s not true, and let it go. But why put the truth and your integrity in a hole in the first place? The liar will stop lying when it doesn’t get them anywhere at all. The lie can’t be put back once it’s out in the atmosphere, so please don’t put it out there. Note how much things changed when major networks, including FOX, cut away from the press secretary. That’s the point, so we can get back to a world of agreed upon truth.

Resisting with Peace,

John

STOP! Don’t Go!

I have to get this off my chest…

To people holding, attending, and covering Donald Trump’s rallies as the campaign wears down: It’s excruciating to watch a massive murder/suicide pact take place. Yes, you may say that not everyone at a massive rally will get sick, and — of that, fewer will die — but, as a therapist and a human being, I don’t know which of the people will get sick, and my head spins at the thought of worrying about tens of thousands of people’s physical and mental health.

JUST STOP IT! Why, on earth would anyone attend a rally with thousands of people, packed in like sardines, not wearing masks, and yelling. It’s like the anti-CDC guidelines are being followed. You know that. In some cases, that’s the point! No politician, no science, no authority is going to tell you what to do! Scream it away, with people who are as sick mentally as you are. You will lose this argument — not with politicians, or science, or authorities, or even with me. You will lose the argument with a virus. You will lose the argument with your illness. Some of you will lose the argument with death itself.

Folks, we are in the middle of two of the most major crises in our history — the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential loss of everything a democracy holds dear. People who attend these rallies contribute to the deaths in both cases.

Let’s say, for the sake of the argument, something you can’t even entertain as a thought: Donald Trump wants to kill America. What better strategy could a person come up with that 1) having people participate at mass super-spreader events in the middle of a pandemic and 2) making it unsafe to vote in places where he might be losing the his bid to become an elected dictator.

Campaigning two weeks before an election means the places he campaigned will become show symptoms two weeks later — on or near the election day itself. Because the virus doesn’t just stay in the place where you met, it goes with you, back to your community, the time of the election becomes the most hazardous to go out. If a person’s in the hospital, they won’t vote. The doctors and nurses taking care of those people won’t vote. People who just get sick won’t vote. Want to feel more hopeless about the election? This is the way to do it.

Trump knows better. Trump shouldn’t set up these rallies. You know better. You shouldn’t go to these rallies. News sources know better than to make this seem exciting. They shouldn’t cover them.

If Mr. Trump’s campaign suffers because of the virus, it will be like everything and everyone else in the pandemic. Furthermore, if you want Trump to win, it’s a lot more efficient to just go vote for the man than it is for you to stop at a rally along the way and get sick and infect others.

If you’re old enough to remember Jim Jones and the tragedy of his followers killing themselves in Guyana, you know how jarring it is to watch. Picture doing that every day for 2 weeks and you can now understand how truly bizarre and sad this is to watch.

I don’t care how outrageous Mr. Trump is. I don’t care how humorous Mr. Trump is. I don’t care that you can give the finger to The Libs. I don’t care why you go. None of that can be as important as your very life, or the lives of others — none of it.

So, I beg you, Mr. Trump, don’t hold rallies. I beg you, attendees, don’t go to these rallies. News outlets don’t cover these rallies. If you are the mayor of a city where these rallies are being held, don’t allow these rallies to take place in your city or state. This must stop, for all our sakes.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Why?

It occurs to me that no one is asking why Republicans seem so intent on putting Amy Comey Barrett on the Supreme Court. “Because they can” isn’t really a reason. “Because Trump wants it” indicates that they can’t act n their own. Also, if Michael Cohen is to be believed, Trump doesn’t know one judge from another, and she is being put up by the Federalist Society. In short, they are responsible for her being put up. Why? What is it about her perceived opinions that they want, and why do they want it? I don’t get it.

As I understand it, she’s conservative and they want the Conservative views to reign over the land. What are conservative values? They aren’t asking for conservative values that I would understand. They are asking not for conservatism. Because Trump wins and might get his way, they are asking for fascism. Do Republicans really want that in America? I can’t imagine why, but I think they should consider the question.

Next, they believe that she will overturn the Affordable Care Act, formerly known as Obamacare. In the past, they tried twenty times to repeal it… when Obama was in office. They couldn’t then. Now, under Trump, they couldn’t because people nearly rioted over losing it. Why, then, if they know the outcome of having her on the court leads to the overturn of Obamacare, why do they want what the majority of Americans don’t want? Again, as Representatives (Senators) how can they push for something that clearly the majority of people want?

Trump wants to crush anything with the word Obama attached to it. He hates Obama more than he loves America. I don’t believe all Republicans think that way — witness the Lincoln Project. I’m sure that don’t or didn’t like it, but that was water under the bridge for most of them. Why are they still trying to end it? Again, I don’t get it…

Finally, there is the all-but-guaranteed overturning of Row vs, Wade that they believe will come from Barrett’s seat on the Court. Again, I don’t understand. Aren’t there women Republicans? Surely they too want control over their bodies. Does all control over bodies equate to abortion? No, I suppose not, but they are integrally linked. Why would any woman vote against more rights for women? To put it bluntly, do Republican men ever want to get laid again? I can see the likelihood of that dropping if Roe. V. Wade is overturned.

Finally, there’s the word from Clarence Thomas and Justice Alito that they would like to repeal equal marriage rights. I don’t know where Bennett stands on LGBTQ rights. That’s not the point. The point is what they expect of her. Log Cabin Republicans never made any sense to me, but they did exist. That means there must be gay Republicans.

So, here’s the final and ultimate question: If Democrats don’t want this nominee’s values on the Court, and women don’t want her values on the Court, and gay folks don’t want her values on the Court, who exactly are they representing? Isn’t their job to represent the people of their state?

Their voting is entangled with a fascist’s dreams, and I think she’s too far to the Right for most Republicans in the Senate. So why are they doing it. I suspect it’s a moment of passing insanity, and they will regret it as much as the rest of the country does. I would urge them to think about it.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Does The Economy Matter If We’re All Dead?

I’m watching the Vice-Presidential Debate and something came up that has always bothered me. It’s not about either of the candidates said, nor is it about a particular party. It’s about logic and priorities.

People talk about the economy like it means more than human life. In the beginning of the pandemic, some people — captains of industry, mostly — wanted to have people go back to work while it wasn’t safe. The governor of Florida continues to want to open that state because tourism is affected, again, when it’s apparently not safe. My father lives in that state and I am well aware of how important tourism is to him and to people’s livelihoods. Still, I don’t think he’ll be going to Walt Disney World if he’s dead.

More important than that, and on a much larger scale, there’s the question of climate change. We all have lives and traditions that we want to keep going. The oil industry, the gas industry, factories, and so on, belong to an old prosperity. It was prosperity. I remember it. But even then, rivers with pollution killed fish and we couldn’t swim in them. Air pollution in California was so thick, a mountain could hide. Yes, I loved paying $.57 per gallon for gas, but I also like to breathe.

When I lived in Southern California, friends and I would go into the San Gabriel mountains, above the smog line. We would cough while we were up there as our lungs cleaned out, then they would fill back up with pollution as we came back to sea level.

Now, 9 out of 10 scientists believe that ozone change in the atmosphere has led to climate change that will destroy all human life on earth. Again, whether people have jobs or not won’t matter if they are dead.

From a moral standpoint, Jesus said it thousands of years ago: “What does it profit a person if the gain the whole world and lose their soul?” What good will Jeff Besos’ billions do him when it’s all said and done? Or the Koch Brothers? Or oil barons, bankers, or, in literature, Ebenezer Scrooge?

People like Greta Sunburg — young people with no filters like politeness — see what is important and what is not. Money and what it buys are okay, but none of it matters if we’re dead. How can people not get that ?

Resisting with Peace,

John

American History From An Addiction Perspective…

The other night I realized that many of Trump supporters … and whole other sections of our society — are acting like addicts. They seek something that will kill them and they know it, but they go there anyway. Those of us not in that addictive phase, or without that gene or whatever, don’t understand the apparent suicides. This is becoming more and more apparent at this moment in history, and it might be worth taking a look at it.

Years ago, I worked at a detox unit outside of Boston where the majority of clients were dealing with a heroin problem. Relatively fresh from grad school, I had a book knowledge of the addiction and recovery process. Having worked in a church with three AA groups meeting daily, I witnessed the recovery process often, including getting addicted, but not really what being addicted was like.

At the detox, that changed when my boss told me to ask the clients about their experience. I did and heard much, but the thing that struck the most was a woman who said, “You don’t get it. If we’re watching the evening news and they say, ‘the new deadly drug being sold has, let’s say, a skull on crossbones on the bag‘ , you think you should avoid that stuff. It’s deadly. I and all the addicts I know think, ‘That’s the good stuff!’ . Those other people are wimps who can’t handle it. We go out looking for it.”. At that moment, I understood how “out there” they could be and how I could misunderstand it so much.

For those clients, in active addiction, good is bad and bad is good. Death feels like life, and normal, boring life feels like death. Systems therapist Virginia Satir says, “once you understand the premise, everything makes sense”. So let’s start there and bring it to our situation.

That story brings me to the Trump rally in Michigan yesterday, the Republican Party under Trump, anti-vaxxers and Q Anon, and addiction in general. Trump’s supporters believe that good is bad, and bad is good. When Trump supporters, or Q Anon people, or whoever start, they hold rigid beliefs that deny their own experience. Russell Brand, a well-known (recovering) addict says that addiction isn’t about the drug or sex or whatever. It’s about trauma. In my time working with addicts, I have yet to meet an addict without a trauma history. Sometimes that’s before they started using, sometimes it’s a trauma like a friend dying while they used, but there is trauma involved somewhere. Does this mean that trauma causes addiction? No, but it certainly hastens or deepens any addiction one might have.

So, backing up to history, people who know right from wrong, and know what they see and hear, come to believe the opposite of that. That takes a lot of work, and a lot of denial about how bad or troubling an experience is. Satir says that nearly all dysfunction comes from shame.

Let’s say, person A did something to person B that they know is wrong, and they feel ashamed of the pain they know they have caused. A healthy individual might apologize and try to fix things… unless th thing they did is so awful that they can’t imagine that it can be fixed. Sometimes, with abusive parents, every error is that big. Sometimes, the person has actually done something so bad that to hurt someone else, that coping with it required denial, and a lot of it.

If we combine the two, we get a child who has hurt another person, and feels bad about it, and their parent yells at them, tells them that they are bad, because they didn’t hurt the other person enough. Donald Trump not only says that people don’t need masks, he says you’re wimpy, or bad if you want to wear one. The listeners are stuck between what they know about the virus and its effects, what they have done to others, and the information that they’re bad for feeling bad. Denial/ doubling down is an easier escape route from their shame than facing it, and so the psychosis begins.

On a larger societal scale, what is racism or sexism or homophobia but abusing people while knowing that abuse is wrong? All of those old children’s stories of two children who grow up together and one is the dominant group and the other isn’t, so they have a falling out — what if those stories happen more often than we know? What if White Billy and Black Billy grow up as friend, and had a falling out while their parents said, their friendship wasn’t “proper” anyway, and should have happened anyway — that they were stupid for trying, or trusting, the other person because that’s just how “they” are? Soldiers who have been forced to do horrible things in war speak of moral injury. All of the -isms involve moral injury. When we treat humans as non-humans, and feel we have to because it would be wrong to do otherwise, we morally injure ourselves while we demonize the other.

This is consistent with any number of religious teachers, including Jesus, Mohammed, Gandhi, and in America, Martin Luther King, but I’m psychology we can see it as well.

It is often said that children aren’t born hating. They are taught to hate. What if that process of changing from “open to the possibilities of others” to “hurting them due to some biological reason” — skin color, gender, national origin, sexuality , or whatever causes moral injury and shame to the person taught to hate? What if the act of hurting a person we know — and being told that is the right thing — is the cause of an addiction to hate, because it causes shame that can’t be removed under those conditions.

Regarding recovery from addiction, the key to recovery is complete honesty, facing the acts that were done under the spell of the addiction, and coping with them, then living honestly for the rest of one’s life. If there is an addiction to hate, or ignorance, or fear, we must break it in order to be free. All of the acts of genocide or individual violence in our history have led us to this time. As victims acknowledge their own hurt and call for justice, and average people witness extreme violence against others for no particular reason, our society feels shame or guilt. Those who can acknowledge their own issues in it (and many people have not had personal conflicts with “the other”, so only feel sadness or guilt) can be be free by working the issues through in this time of reckoning. Those who cannot, or will not, will remain addicted and getting sicker and more challenging as time goes by.

May we all find the freedom that honesty provides.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Radical Christian Terrorism is NOT Christian At All

In the 1967 “Batman” movie Commissioner Gordon, the Dynamic Duo and Chief O’Hara are beginning to figure out that the world’s 4 top super-criminals are getting together to destroy something that will turn out to be the UN Security Council. As the pieces come together in their mind, the Commissioner says, “it would be something so terrible, I dare not give it utterance”. So it is as the pieces come together in my head about *my* faith. Actually, it’s not my faith. It’s like my faith in Bizarro world, or my faith in a really bad “fun house” mirror. And it is “something so terrible that I dare not give it utterance”. Remember “Radical Islamic Terrorism” and how it was used to scapegoat people who were neither radical nor terrorists, (and, amazingly not always Islamic either)? That is what I don’t want to name, and that is why.

I am reading the book, “See No Stranger” by Valerie Kaur, a Sikh woman whose family and friends were beaten or killed in America, after 9/11 by people who thought they were a) Muslims because they wore turbans; and b) all Muslims were terrorists. Some were beaten. Some were killed. Many (70% of Sikhs!) were terrorized by hate crimes because American “Christians” (always said loudly, apropos of nothing in a conversation) thought Turbans = Muslim= Terrorist Threat/Target for Murder — instinctively.

Ten minutes after 9/11, while building pieces were still falling Kaur’s uncle saved someone in his taxi and was threatened by people who “knew” that he was a terrorist. She says that this is before pictures of Osama Bin Ladin had even been published! That kind of thing can only be understood as instinct or deep, fearful brainwashing. What it can not be is Christian.

If it were, Jesus’ story of the “Good Samaritan” would have had another chapter where the Samaritan, after saving the man’s life and paying for his lodging and medical care, gets beaten to death. It doesn’t, because that’s not the world Jesus envisioned— ever. Furthermore, the founder of our faith would never have said “Love your enemies” (He did) and would have been quite happy when one of his disciples cut off an enemies ear on the night of his betrayal. (He wasn’t).

So, let’s get right to it: The words “Christian” (follower of Jesus) and terrorist should never be used in the same sentence. Jesus wasn’t a terrorist. People who follow him shouldn’t be. People of his faith might have called him a terrorist after he used a whip in the Temple, but even that wouldn’t have been true. It would have been propaganda spoken by others about him. So it is with faithful people who are misunderstood and stretch the boundaries of their faith. They don’t speak for themselves, but are spoken about disparagingly.

I will tell you upfront that I know almost nothing about Islam, so I don’t believe I can say anything about it. About Christianity, however, I know a lot. There is a spectrum of Christian beliefs, from “non-denominational” and “Bible believing” Christians to more-denominational, less built on the Bible, more intellectual and reasonable, Christians. The first group are more grounded in the “Jesus died for your sins, you need to be saved” worldview and the second group are more grounded in the “Jesus taught us how to live”, “social justice” model, also known as “the social gospel”. Both of those may see the other as “radical” in a bad way, and themselves as “radical” in a good way. Both understandings are part of the faith. I suspect that this is like “Sunni” Muslims vs. “Shiite” Muslims, but I don’t know. Neither of the two types of Christian believe the “if you’re not a Christian, I get to kill you” model, though sadly the church and military conquerors have used in the past. The conquering of the Incas, the destruction of Native American civilizations, and so much more tragedy is under the misguided (evil) belief of “be Christian or die”.

Where that happened, I can tell you that not only isn’t it Christian or Jesus-like, it’s anti-the teachings of Christ, and the early church. Jesus told parables about wheat and weeds that grew up together until the planter (God) decides to decide. Jesus said things like, “judge not, lest you be judged”. Jesus also tells rigid thinking people in his faith that they will ultimately go to hell for thinking they are saved, and not acting like it. In the Old Testament, the Bible says, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord”. It doesn’t say “Vengeance is yours. Go get it.”

The fear that “Muslims are going to impose Sharia law“ would be like the fear that Christians were going to force Old Testament-type law down others’ throats. What I want people to know is that I suspect Sharia Law is no more Islam than the Old Testament law is Christian. It’s simply rigid thought, with rigid categories of “the way things ought to be” that make some people more important than others. It’s hierarchical, “do what I say, because I said it!” Culture. Since Jesus says we are “not to lord our authority over others”, the whole “do what I say!” thing isn’t Jesus’ plan. It’s human’s plan. That’s a problem. Imposing “not-Jesus’-plan” on others simply can’t be Christian by definition.

So, to sum it all up, there are lots of people who claim to be Christians. There are also plenty of people who actually are Christians. There are radical Christians, of one sort or another. Even Radical Christians can’t claim terrorism as a model.

There can only be radical terrorists. The minute they become terrorists and killing others because they are different is the minute they stop being Christians. Again, I suspect it is the same in other religions. I know it is true in mine.

Resisting in Peace,

John

Calling Each Other The Right Political Names

One of the things that drives me nuts in this propaganda-driven world is names. The fact that we call each other names at all is first, of course. After that, the idea that we call —and get called — the wrong names. I can put up with the political names that actually represent me, but if you’re going to dislike my views, at least talk about my actual views, than some random category that doesn’t represent me at all. To that end, I want to straighten things out with facts as far as I know them. I won’t make a judgement, I’m just going to explain, I hope it helps make things easier between people to mean the same things when we talk.

Part 1 — Politics vs. Economics — not always the same.

The first misconception is that the opposite of “democracy” is “communism”. Communism is about money and who owns what. Democracy is about politics, it’s about who makes decisions about the way things are in the country. The opposite of Communism is Capitalism. There are a whole lot of things that are “opposite” of democracy, including “oligarchy” and what we had under a king. By the way, the term Oligarchy means, “a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.” It, as we’ll see later, is the opposite of democracy.

Capitalism is the older of the two types of economic systems. That’s the one we have in America. Communism is the one that Russia and China used to have when I grew up. Now, my friend Jen, a history teacher, reminds me, the only actual Communist country still left is North Korea. Russia has become an Oligarchy and China is moving towards capitalism economically. Economically, an oligarchy means that the people will all the power also have most of the money.

Capitalism is the idea that people who have money or ideas own those things. They convince others to make those things. Those people who make things are workers. The owners pay them for their work. The owners pay other workers to sell those things. In the end, though, the owners make the bulk of the money because it’s their idea, their product, and they own it. They also take the risk by putting it out there. If it fails, in whatever way, the owners take the risk and therefore the pain. This used to apply to land owners and farms as well. They owned the land, the workers got paid, or protected by the owners or something. The land owners were in charge of, and responsible for everything.

Communism is an economic theory, proposed by Karl Marx, that says, in essence, that the workers do the work, therefore they should get the profits. Any profits made should get divided up and given to everybody. I don’t know enough to say where ideas come from, or who puts up the money, and who decides to put them on the market. As far as who is responsible if things fail, but I assume that everybody is because that’s the way it turns out now, here — the workers get the blame. Since the economy is controlled by the workers and the public as a whole, everybody should feel the pain of failure.

Now, to be totally fair and honest, there’s another part to the capitalist world: stockholders or investors. Stockholders don’t come with the ideas, nor do they build or sell them. They use their money to own a piece of the product’s profits, if it succeeds, or losses if it fails.. They lose if it doesn’t go well, but they are not creators or workers.

Also, to be fair, there has never been a perfect example of either of those systems. Hard-core Communism yields authoritarian leaders or dictators in reality. So does hard-core capitalism, not because of the theory, but because human beings, who can be kind or they can be jerks. Human flaws, magnified in leaders and their policies, create really flawed societies. Human goodness, magnified in leaders and their policies, create better functioning societies.

Part 2 — Who’s Who in Politics

We usually talk about left and right in politics. I think it was the French legislature that was first set up according to parties. One group sat on the right side of the room, another on the left side of the room, with moderates in the middle.

I’m going to start on the left and move toward the right on the political spectrum.

On the left are people who want change. Right now, their party is the Democratic Party. They are liberal, (open) in their understanding of what is and can be. On the far left are radicals who want a lot of change and they want it now! They tend to use violence to get what they want. Then there are progressives, who want change and are constantly pushing for it, but understand that change doesn’t go as fast as radicals want it to. Then there are liberals who want change to happen but aren’t as forceful about it. They are okay with change when it happens, but they don’t often push for it. Moderates liberals have to think about changes that happen before they agree to them. On the far left in WWII was the violent Stalin and supposedly “Communist” Russia. I say “supposedly”, because economics don’t have to be violent, but violent revolution has been part of Russia’s historic leadership.

On the right side, conservatives want things to stay the same. Right now, their party is called the Republican Party. Starting from moderates, we move to moderate conservatives, to “regular” conservatives who don’t want things to change unless you can a) prove that they must and b) that your plan is better than what they already have. After that, you have “reactionaries” who want things to back the way things were before usually when they were in power. Reactionaries want things, for example, to go back to a White society, run by Christians, landowners, and men. Far, far right people are reactionaries and — in their purest, most violent form are “Fascist”. In World War II, Hitler was a Fascist, as was Mussolini, and Japan’s leader.

Part 3 — Between Right and Left — a free America

In theory, as borne out during World War II, America is neither violent Leftist (Russia) nor violent Rightist (Fascists). In theory, America is about ideas, and people argue about them. The best idea, proposed by the best debater, wins. The people all have a say in things, but not purely. They make their opinions heard to those people who represent them. Those people make laws after arguing/debating. This is supposed to provide the best laws for the people who elected them.

Steering the balance between Right and Left is The President. We the People elect the President, whom we think is capable and has good ideas for our country. If they don’t have great ideas, they know people who do. Those people present ideas/policies that become the President’s laws proposals. The President and Congress generally duke it out verbally to come up with the best policies for people.

Now here’s where it gets weird: The people we elect to represent us are supposed to both represent us and be trusted to do that. If they don’t represent us, we are supposed to protest. If they can’t be trusted, and/or they actively hurt us, they are corrupt and should be thrown out of office.

Part 4 — Back to Names and Name Calling…

One of the strange things happening in America is that people call liberals “unpatriotic”. This is usually done with disgust in the voice and an eye-roll. Liberals aren’t bad or good, more or less patriotic. They’re just liberals. Conservatives aren’t bad or good, and they usually aren’t “fascists”. In fact, very few liberals even use the word “fascist” about Conservatives unless they actually are.

But here’s the weird part, this President, along with Right-wing radio use the word “fascist” a lot. And they mix it with to call us Fascist Leftists. There is no such thing as a Fascist Leftist! Fascists are the opposite of Leftists! You can’t be one and the other. It’s that simple.

Going back years, for example, Rush Limbaugh coined the phrase “Femi-nazis”. By that, he means feminists, or left-leaning women. In fact, Eva Braun would be a female Nazi. In America, what we would now call “Karen’s” would be actually closer to femi-nazis. Women on the very conservative right — the lady screaming about being anti-abortion in the 1980’s — was the actual femi-Nazi.

About me? I’m a progressive Democrat, who likes the idea of more people getting what they need, and representing more people as American, including Blacks, Women, Hispanics, and people who are all over the place sexually. Economically, I’m closer to socialism than capitalism , but I’m not violent, and I shouldn’t be scary to you. If my wanting more people’s voice to be heard and included in the debate that is our electoral system, then well, that’s just too bad. If wanting more people to eat, have a place to live, and get health care is scary to you, that’s you are immoral, not me.

Resisting in Peace,

John

Police: This, Not That

I inhabit this space between two worlds. I have White police family members and friends. I have Black friends. I also have clients of all colors, with many careers. As a minister, I see good and evil as categories. As a therapist, I see, often, how good and evil start in family systems and in communities of addiction which taint judgement in so many was. Some of these are different. Some are the same.

Some basic assumptions, before I start:

  • There is good and evil in the world.
  • Police believe it is their job to keep evil people from the good people. This is a noble goal.
  • Police often decide who they believe are good and those who are evil,
  • Police are often called specifically to make that decision.
  • Police officers believe in law and order. They see their job as enforcing the law and thus keeping order. They do not write the law, they enforce it.
  • I suspect that that policing is also a numbers game. “Good” police are supposed to enforce the law so many times in a certain period to prove they’re doing their job.
  • In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: The police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders.
  • In addition to that, there are lawmakers who decide what is crime and what isn’t crime.
  • Because the system of policing and laws are made by human beings, there is the possibility of bad/evil laws made by bad/evil lawmakers.
  • Because the system of police is made up of human beings, there is thBecause the system of policing and laws are made by human beings, there is the possibility of bad/evil laws made by bad/evil lawmakers.
  • Because society is made up of human beings, any given member of society can be anywhere on the spectrum between good and bad.
  • We have to live together.

Here’s where it gets muddy: If the good police are enforcing bad laws, are they really good police? Also, if there are bad police, and there are, are the police as a whole good?

Here’s what I know from my Black friends and life in the city:

  • Most Black people are decent, kind, hardworking people. They just are.
  • They go to church on Sundays, they believe in God. Those that don’t are deeply affected by those who do, because so many do.
  • In addition, many people — Black and White — practice Islam. Islam, like Christianity, has a moral code at its base.
  • In other words, Black people, like White people, are most often good, decent people who know right from wrong, and try to do right. This is my experience. From my perception, it is fact.
  • Many (most?) White people don’t know, as friends, Black people. In short, they don’t actually know any Black people. This means that what they do know is based on media reports, rumors, myths, and stories about Black people, told or seen by White people.

Unknown to most White people, (because most White people don’t make laws) there’s a reason for this. The reason is because there were laws made so that Black people couldn’t live in the same area as Whites. In California, there were also laws made that said Asians couldn’t live with Whites. This type of lawmaking is known as “redlining”. Like everything else, it’s not based in actual experience of the Black community, because, as I said, the Black community is basically good, decent, hardworking people, who know right from wrong and try to live decent lives.

So, if police just enforce the law, and it’s a bad law, are they good or bad for doing their job? If White police have to make judgement calls about who is a criminal and who’s not, but all they know about Black people is what they’ve seen on TV, read about, or heard from other Whites, how can they even do their job? It’s a set-up, bound for failure.

So, this week, for the millionth time, White police officers enforced the law on a Black person they couldn’t know personally. For what seems to be the hundredth time this year, they killed or wounded that Black person. Is it any wonder?

There has got to be a better way to do this. Maybe it involves having police know the people they are policing. That means living in their communities, or maybe knowing Black people outside of work, or having Black police officers policing Black communities.

Maybe it involves less firearms (Brits don’t use guns, and they still have law and order. By firearms, I include tanks, armored vehicles, assault weapons, etc. Maybe the general society shouldn’t have as many firearms. Maybe we shouldn’t worship guns as what make us free.

Maybe it involves electing more lawmakers who actually know Black people in their daily lives and wouldn’t dream of separating people by color.

In any case, this can’t go on. Lack of understanding combined with bad laws can only lead to more chaos in our streets. Blaming problems on people you don’t know won’t solve anything. If you want peace and quiet, this isn’t the way to get it. Good people that we don’t know are getting killed, and they are sick of it, because they should be.

Resisting with Peace,

John

There Can Be No Words. There Can Only Be Actions.

I’m listening to the news on MSNBC. I’m reading the news on theTwitter battlefield. As the news comes in, it seems that in Trump’s own words, as the dismantling of the Post Office happens, WE ARE IN TROUBLE AS A DEMOCRACY.

Think of me what you will, think about politics as you will, be on the Right Wing or the Left Wing, be in politics or not, think this is a hoax, or slanted or not. I don’t care if you’re a FOX News watcher or not. I don’t frankly care if you are even a criminal, or a White Supremacist. What we think anymore, what we believe anymore mean absolutely nothing. OUR DEMOCRACY IS IN TROUBLE.

What do I mean by Democracy? I mean “a government by the people, for the people”. How do we get that? We vote. We say who we want to represent us, and they do, to the best of their abilities. But what if there is no vote? What if there is no way to believe the vote? What if the President doesn’t care what the vote is? That part, the simple basic bedrock of democracy, that is being threatened, and we must stop it.

The only thing there can be is action. Now. There is no one in a position of power coming to save us. We can argue in court. That will not help. As long as we are arguing, no matter where or how, Trump remains in office. We can call on the President’s supporters in the Senate to break with him. That will not help. If they were coming, they would have been here by now. This is it. It’s us and democracy.

If you think for a minute you’re immune because you are conservative, White, Republican, male, or anything else, forget it. Yesterday, Trump said, on Fox News that he “hoped Bill Barr wouldn’t be too politically correct to not pursue” the people he thinks almost prevented him from getting into office. Bill Barr is so far on Trump’s side, they damn near inhabit the same body! If he worries about him being “too politically correct”, where does that leave you? It leaves you (and yes, me) nowhere. No one will every be good enough for Trump.

So, what do we do? We find every person in Congress who isn’t in Washington and we send them back to Washington to pass support for the Postal Service. Remember the days of surrounding them in restaurants and camping out at their houses? We need to do that now. Perhaps we need to start with Mitch McConnell’s house, but every single person in Congress needs to be in Congress to do our will, and they need to do it now.

What is our will? I don’t know, but I would start with us not dying from the virus, either directly or indirectly. We need a package that plans to stop the virus as best we can, that takes care of us if we can’t or don’t go back to work. “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness” starts with life. We have to get this thing under control in time for the election.

At the same time, we need an election to go to. We need to vote, however we do. If votes are mailed in, we need to have the government supply the post office with what they need. The head of the post office needs to be removed or kept out of the way so that those votes get to their proper places. If need be, we have to help deliver the ballots ourselves.

When the ballots arrive at where they will be counted, we need all kinds of poll watchers to make sure they are counted correctly. Any Secretary of State who limits the number of places to vote needs to be hounded until they put them back or increase the numbers of them available. Anyone who lies about where polls are or when the day and time to vote is must be arrested immediately. This cannot stand.

When the votes are tallied, we should expect a week or more until the votes are counted. Poll watchers and counters must be there until all of the votes are tallied, and final numbers given. Then, and only then, can we take the pressure off. We can rest a few months and then, assuming Trump has been voted out, we can prepare for his leaving.

You know what? This and the coronavirus may be kill us. If he gets voted in, well, there is no America left, as far as I can tell. We might as well be dead anyway. Or maybe with a new Senate, or at least a fair one, we can balance out his power. If we’re going to go down, we have to go down swinging. But, in any case, let us get through the election with all that we have got. Then, we can figure it out from there.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Dancing In The Streets! Kamala Harris as VP!

“Calling out around the world! Are you ready for a brand new beat? Summer’s here and the time is right/ for dancing in the streets!”

Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! For such a moment as this, Kamala Harris is the ideal Vice President! For the first time in years-that-seem-like-decades, I am happy! Thrilled beyond measure! I have all but given up on America under Trump. The man has so many faults that a whole team of Democrats were required to offer the antidote to the illness that is Trump and Trump-ism.

Joe Biden is a good man. I have never doubted that, and I never will. The endorsement by Barack Obama of Biden was good enough for me. But I believed it before Obama made his case, because Biden is an actual person. Is Biden a great man? I don’t know that he’s ever claimed to be. That’s why he has been so hard for Trump to pin him down.

What Trump calls “sleepy” is what criminals call “boring”. They see no future in honesty and hard work, or suffering and growth. As citizens, we Americans have believed in “get paid a lot for doing no work because you deserve more than others” (see Kim Kardashian) as a model to aspire to. Donald Trump is the icon of that worldview.

Biden’s not an icon. He’s just a guy who does his job to the best of his abilities, with a good, if flawed heart. Biden is not a one-dimensional image. He’s a humble, decent man who makes mistakes like a real human being does — at work, in the midst of real life. Trump is an image, the guy who got to say, “You’re fired!”, who hasn’t really worked honestly a day in his life. Like Kardashian, he is “reality TV”, not most people’s lived reality. Trump doesn’t know what to do with that.

But back to Kamala: she’s “young, gifted and black” to quote Nina Simone. We need all of that right now. The moment when we welcome more of America to be an actual part of America, when we move closer toward a more inclusive America requires new, fresh ideas from the younger present and future of our democracy. Harris will know a Tik-Tok from an Instagram and will not be threatened by either the White establishment or Black Lives Matter. She will bring experiences that no other VP has ever had, closer to the experience that half of the population has.

Yes, she’s a woman. Does that make her a better leader? It doesn’t make her a worse one. After nearly 250 years of male leadership, I think it’s time to at least try a woman’s leadership. No one has said of her, or any woman candidate, “she’ll try to kill 150,000 people with her incompetence”. It’s a low bar, yes, but we put it there.

In her sleep, without even getting out of bed, Harris is a better leader than Trump or the soulless sycophant we have now. Could she do worse? Could any woman? They’d have to work really hard to come close to it. And for those right-wing people who will say, “she hates America”, she hates Russia more.

Finally, and this is my favorite part, Harris believes in the Rule of Law. Bill Barr and his tories, who believe the President is King, and doesn’t believe that “government derives its power from the governed” has met his match. Harris believes in law as we had it, and she believes in justice as we might have it, with better laws enacted. Bill Barr and Trump’s criminal cronies can see the writing on the wall. They should be scared, as we search for justice for so many who have been wronged.

To sum up, Goodness, humanity, and justice by the actual people who make up most of America, are the combination that Biden and Harris bring to the future and, for the first time in a long while, I want to go there.

Resisting with Peace, and hope for justice,

John