It’s About Our Souls Now.

Well, it seems all the players have shown their cards. The truth is out and we have a choice to make.

The choice is, yes, about Trump and Hillary.  That’s not the whole issue, though. It’s a choice between hate groups and community-building groups. It’s a choice between fear and hope. It’s a choice between inclusion vs. exclusion. It’s a choice between progress or at least stability and regression. In short, it’s about the very soul of America, with no hyperbole used.

This will probably be my last post about the election, because the choices are clear and all that’s really left to do is vote. That said, I want to clarify things.

Donald Trump has made it this far saying what he means on any given day. What he has been consistent about is the overriding importance of “winning” (aka dominating) European, preferably Christian, English-heritage men, above all else. He says, “that’s who had power in the past, and who should have power in the future”.

Of course, since 1620, a lot of things have happened, and a lot of people have found freedom, or at least a theory of freedom, a goal of freedom. Trump’s goal isn’t that. It’s the opposite. Trump’s goal, Trump’s “victory” leaves out a whole bunch of people who also live in America at this time — women, men of color, women of color, Hispanics, immigrants, Muslims, Jews possibly, and people who have ever had a hard luck period in their lives.  Elevating those men, of course, means taking away the freedoms and rights of everyone else because, in their minds, there’s only so much to go around, and only they deserve it.

Here’s the interesting thing, though. Trump’s image is beyond him now, and is no longer under his control. In order to actually win the election (which he can’t do with only his constituents), he has to look like he can soften on issues. He’s hired a female campaign manager who says, “look what he’s talking about doing now, instead of then”. His campaign indicates he might soften on immigrants and “building the wall!”.

People on the far left don’t want to give Hillary a shot. Trump is not even on their radar as a choice. Nobody on the slight-left cares, because they think he’s lying.  People on the far-far right (now called the  “alt-right”?) who have come out of the woodwork — people who believe in the lie that is White Supremacy are now mad if he doesn’t keep his word. This leaves him — and, more importantly us — with two choices: he can lose and lose big, by softening his stance and having those sociopaths mad at him or he can double down on hatred and avoid the threats of those who actually believe what Trump just says.  The candidate has backed himself into a corner because, amazingly, there are always people who can hate more than you do.

We have two choices when Trump makes his choice. We can let him (and thus them) create Apartheid, Nazi Germany, Stalin and every other bully-terrorist form of government there ever was (they’re all the same) or we can choose democracy and freedom as a goal. Personally, I’m going to go with freedom. There is nothing short of an actual “come-to-Jesus” moment that will make me listen to anything else from him or them.  In about 2 months, it’ll be time to choose, and I’m going to use my freedom every day until then. And on voting day, I’m going to vote for the only candidate who has a chance of beating him.

After that, it’s just details.

Peace,

John

 

 

The incredible cruelty of racism explains a lot.

Saw a client today who on the surface just seems to embrace every stereotype of an aggressive/violent man. I could have treated his violent tendencies through behavior modification. I could have used narrative therapy to explain that “men shouldn’t tell their wives to shut up — ever!” like they taught in grad school. I could have taken all kinds of moral high roads with the man. None of these things would get to the heart of the matter. Though his wife was White and he was… not… It became clear that somebody had called him “stupid” at some point in his life, and when she had said the word “stupid” talking about something else (not him), he had lost it.

Standard question: “who  called you stupid in your past?”, assuming the answer to be a family member. Nobody in the family. Some body at school when you were a kid? No. “Nobody saw race when I was a kid. We all knew all kinds of kids.” “So somebody — where? at work? said something about… race?”, I asked. “Yeah. Everybody did”he said,  and this very angry man described incidents of racism from 20 + years ago… and brought the list up to the present day. As he did, you could see the anger leave his body.

It turns out his child followed in his footsteps and — though he has white skin– his name badge indicates something else. His colleagues are using racial epithets around him all the time. His kid is in therapy, too, for depression.

Today, between clients, I watched a police tape of a shooting in Chicago. There must have been ten cops in the video and the driver was going very fast through an apparently suburban neighborhood. I had expected to see — as we all have now — dozens of time, cops shooting a Black guy while he lay in the street, or as he ran through a park. Turns out in the video (from a chest cam), I couldn’t see the suspect’s color.  But I saw all the other things I just described. Turns out he was Black — and they knew that. Clearly, the law was broken or some code of conduct by the police was broken or some procedure wasn’t followed. If that’s not the case, no one should ever go to Chicago.

The choices here are: 1) The police are horribly violent in Chicago with no reason or 2) The police are horribly violent in Chicago with some reason. That reason is race, according to the protestors who interrupted a police press conference.

If I put these two stories together, I get this: daily hammering away with words about who somebody is — or thoughts or actions like it– create anger and then creates rage. It happens so much that people of color assume if that many cops shot a person, that person must be Black. He is.

It’s not the riots that get to people — the odd bursts of anger here or there — it’s the day-after-day whittling away at someone because of their color or culture or looks or whatever that destroy a culture. Then we tell them not to get angry, that they’re all just making it up. White folks, at least in this area do and say stupid things all the time re: race or culture, and they don’t even notice it.

But after 24 hours a day of this, we tell them their experience isn’t true, that it’s their fault, that there’s something wrong with them, because they are angry all the time. Want to depress someone, or make them feel crazy? This is how you do it. The way out of depression (anger turned inward) is by getting angry (anger turned outward) and that’s not allowed because it’s a sign that they’re bad… and the circle goes around and around.

Put 20 depressed/angry/feeling crazy people in a place and you’re setting them up to vent their anger, now called a riot.

This must end. Justice must happen. We white folks need to change the way we think and act if we don’t want riots to happen,  our friends to die unnecessarily, and our country to implode on itself.

We need to start believing the experience of people of color. We need to grieve, because these are our sisters and brothers and our friends who are dying. We need to do something differently because what we’re doing and people of color are experiencing just isn’t right. Period.

Peace,

 

John

Division and What To Do About It

Have just turned 56 years old, I had kind of planned to stop trying to write The Big Piece That Will Change Everything. I thought I would try to influence my church people and my clients, where possible. The world was just too nuts to make any difference, in so many ways that I didn’t even know where to start.

This week, it got too weird not to care. As 2/3 of the UK decided to secede from the European Union, it became apparent that the whole human family was dysfunctional. Shortly after that election, one of our Presidential contenders (I can’t believe I’m using that term at any time in my life time) said, “Good!”. Shortly after that, there was talk that Texas was considering voting to secede from the U.S. I don’t even like Texas, but I have friends and in-laws there, so I have reasons to care.

Of course, last week was terrorism in Orlando, and our inner cities still are gun wielding war zones, crooked police are still running afoul of justice, as they are found innocent by law. Bernie supporter men get tesy with Hillary supporter women and we bicker daily on Facebook about liberals and conservatives, whether Black Lives Matter, gun control, and bathroom usage by people of uncertain genitalia. Jan Brewer, a bigot if ever there was one, said today that she is so sick of being called a bigot. Really? Yes. But lots of white folks are sick of being called bigots, lots of men are sick of being called sexist and lots of straight folks are sick of being called homophobic while lots of people remain really dead.  What we are doing is not working. Something is deeply wrong within our society. 

I think liberals and radicals are agreeing to the wrong premises while many reactionaries are speaking false premises.  In this morning’s lectionary text, the apostle Paul says this: the desire of the flesh is “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” The Right focuses on the regular type in that list while we ignore the parts in bold. What if enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, and envy are the products of what we are doing on both sides of the coin?

In the old days, the goal was to be united as a people with things like the UN, the Hague. The World Council of Churches and my own denimination, the Unied Church of Christ were born of the desire to unite under ecumenism. It has been years since anyone wanted to unite  as a goal.  We fight among ourselves everywhere because we want our own way. Pride rules our existence because “we don’t want anybody to tell us what to do!” (even if nobody cares).

So here’s my suggestion. Instead of talking about men, women, black, white, hispanic, asian, abled and disabled, straight, gay, bi, trans, British, American, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Egytian, and so on, why don’t we talk about humans or human beings or human life? Why don’t we stop giving credence to bigots who say, “I shot them because they’re different”.  Why don’t we stop giving credence to people who say “my country” is better than “their country” or “my religion” is better than “their religion”?

Let’s remember that all life is sacred. From God’s perspective, or from space, there are no countries, there’s just our planet. From the same perspective, there’s just humanity. There are people in every group I disagree with and people in every group I know that I like. It is not the group that makes me love them, it never has been. It is not the group that makes me hate them, and it never has been — or if it is, I have a problem, and I should be fighting that urge to divide us into “us” and “them”.

And let’s hold each other accountable to that ideal. As doctors take an oath that says, “first do no harm”.

Let’s see how this changes our worldview:  Last week 50 human beings were killed by another person. Tamir Rice, a 10-year old child, was killed by police, while playing with a toy gun. Michael Brown was shot by police after stealing cigars.  Human beings living today on a reservation in the southwest had their rights taken away from them years ago by force. Maybe when people who don’t want to pay taxes fear their freedom being taken away, maybe they have something to compare it to.  When a girl is sold into slavery or has her genitals mutilated, why don’t we say that a person was sold or a person had their genitals mutilated?  Remember all the squeamishness when John Wayne Bobbitt had his penis cut off? Maybe we men could understand the issue better if “they” were “us”. The list goes on. We didn’t kill Arabs for oil. We killed human beings for oil.

A human being is President of our country, and President of many countries on earth. Let us not limit the possibilities of any group of human beings, for any reason. When Britain votes to leave the EU, we should remind them that they can’t leave the human race. When Donald Trump says Mexicans can’t come here, let us remind him that he’s saying human beings can’t come here.

Let us talk about being one people, so that all the stupid acts are us, and all the noble acts are us. Let us talk about being one species, because we are.

Anyway, that’s my proposal.

Peace,

 

John

 

 

A Survivor Responds to the Stanford Rapist’s Father

[Editor’s note: Every once in awhile, someone else’s words are so eloquent and important that I know they need to be shared . This is one of those times. I share it because Callie Farnsworth’s words needs to be said, and society needs to hear them.. This kind of thing happens all the time, to so many people that it is no wonder we have such problems in our society. In fact, a friend I discuss cases with anonymously has come to understand that the more complex a person’s case is, the more likely that rape or sexual trauma is involved. Nearly every female addict that comes to my office (and many male ones, as well) have the experience of rape or sexual abuse as the underlying cause for their behaviors. It is a devastating experience with ripples in every aspect of the person’s life. To that end, I have shared the experience of the Callie’s  father — Rev. Todd Farnsworth–  as well. Please know that if you are a survivor of rape or sexual abuse, new and better treatments and coping skills are available, but it it still a difficult thing. Text size varies here in acknowledgement of importance, with the rape survivor largest of all].
Prelude — Todd: As the father of a beautiful young woman who is surviving (and many days thriving) post rape, I am stunned by the letter written by the Stanford rapist’s father. The complete lack of awareness of what his son did to the victim, and the impact that will have on her life, is staggering. It could have been written by the victim’s father. The loss of appetite. The constant reminders. The interruptions of work because something triggered the individual. The life sentence that carries a burden of “living with it.” The court rarely provides justice in these cases. Until laws are written with a new sensitivity, the same insensitive verdicts will be awarded. Praying for change. Praying for peace….for my daughter, and all the daughters who carry this pain.

Callie Farnsworth: A Survivor  Responds to the Stanford Rape Verdict…

I have tried to read the articles about Stanford through the past few days but I can’t. I have started them many times, read half way through, and had to stop. The event is horrific, the sentence is horrific, and it makes me sick. I walked around in a haze today, peeking at my newsfeed, reading headlines, trying to make sense of it. And I can’t. I can only hope that this is the straw that breaks the camels back.

I thought Cosby would, but we barely talk about him now. I thought the Columbia girl with the mattress would be, but she graduated last spring and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t shared on my newsfeed. I thought Kesha might hit a mark, but she has been slipping back into the cellars of social media. Those ladies who posted the Charlie’s Angels photo for stopping a date rape? They were active, and did something outside of their social media. But what next?

I think rape needs to stop being just a ‘trending topic’. It is wonderful to share and post and talk about it. It makes a difference. But what are the thousands of people who shared the article doing a week from now? Two weeks from now? Where are they when this woman is sitting at home on a Tuesday years from now and she smells pine needles? That stuff scares me.

A little boy I babysat told me he knew the worst word in the dictionary. It was four letters. It was the worst thing you could do to a person and he believed it had only happened in ‘olden times’. I hope when he grows up rape will only have existed in his ‘olden times’ and it is universally considered the crime that it is.

 

Let’s Try Something Old…

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” — Jesus

“Know you got to run,
Know you got to hide
Still there is a great life
Lingerin’ deep within your eyes.

Everybody, I love you
Everybody, I do
Though your heart is in anger
I need your love to get through
When I tell you I love you
You can believe that it’s true” —

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

When I get in moods like this, I sing the song above, and I remember what it feels like to love everybody. Joan Baez, in an early autobiography, wrote “dear reader, I love you” and she seems to both be “out there” and authentic, which seems impossibly weird and yet isn’t. The sentiment is about intention and open-ness and your default position with humanity.

My friend Joyce posted an anguished thing this morning about bigotry this morning, and how aware she is of it. Another friend of mine posted disliking Obama’s speech in Hiroshima. Yet, another friend posted just the text of that speech and loved it. More often than not lately, I am like Joyce — aware of the bigotry we seem to all manage right now and saddened by it.

A while ago, during the Ferguson riots I think, I wrote a blog post called “An Open Letter to My African-American Friends” that explained I didn’t know that things had gotten that bad, and how incredibly sorry I was that I hadn’t known. Since that post, I have been paying attention and I am astounded just how deep into the American psyche hate has become. Violence, incivility, mean-ness, bullying — and not caring that we’re doing it — seems to be the order of the day.  If Donald Trump “says what we’re all thinking”, then we’re all thinking some pretty ugly things right now. The fact that so many congratulate him for doing so means that we’re congratulating him and ourselves for being xenophobic, Islamaphobic, homophobic, transphobic, racist, sexist, and now climate-change denying — not all at once, I assume, but what do I know?  Then the people outside of Trump rallies get into clashes with the people inside, and the people who are angry inside get defensive and say “see, we’re being attacked”!

Meanwhile, over in the Democratic party, there are “Bernie bros”, who seem to not like Hillary because she’s a woman. What’s that about?  Frat boys who hope to get wives at some point aren’t starting off the future very well. Does anyone remember that we’re are all stuck here in life on the planet?

So, here are a few suggestions, just for my sanity:

  1. Start with the idea that people are holy, just like you.
  2. Treat them like they are.
  3. If you can’t comprehend the concept of “holy”, think about how you would like to be treated.
  4. Treat others the same way.
  5. If people aren’t doing anything to you, leave them alone.
  6. If people are doing something that doesn’t concern you, let them do it.
  7. Don’t assume that if I like someone else, that I dislike you. Whether I like, or am talking to, or enjoy anyone doesn’t mean anything about you. It means I like them. Ten minutes from now, I might be talking to, and enjoying, you.
  8. If someone is male, female, Black, White, gay, straight, in some form of transition between those two, or speaks another language or has another religion, it’s none of your business. It may irritate you. That’s your problem. Figure it out and get over it, without taking it out on them or someone else.
  9. If it’s someone else’s body, leave it alone, unless they actually say they want to share it with you for nice things.
  10. Assume decency and good motives from everyone, unless you learn otherwise.

 

We all know how hateful people can be right now. Let’s try something different, maybe something old.

Peace,

 

John

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wolf, Ram, and Hart: Playing Politics For Centuries

The group in the title is from the TV Series “Angel”, a show spawned from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They are the legal team for The Big Bad — the shiny suits that work  evil at it’s most primal. They are, of course, fictional, being from a TV series and all, but sometimes I wonder…

Tonight, while I’m laying in bed with a fever, my wife says that Congress has voted to allow women into the draft. I just want to cry. Just when it feels like we’ve tried to put out the various political “fires” in the world, a new cause/problem comes along that I didn’t see coming. Really?

Let’s see:

Donald Trump is no doubt the front-runner for the Republican Party. The next closest candidate is called “Lucifer in the flesh” by one of his own party. He chooses a female VP to garner votes and people trash her website. That means that a personality-disordered man is a candidate to run my country.  He wants to deport Mexicans and others! He wants to ban Muslims!  He blames intelligent women for asking reasonable questions, and then implies that she did it because she was menstruating! He says that the former Secretary of State “only has the woman card”!  Worse than that, he’s tapping into something in America, so it’s not just him!

Meanwhile, reactionaries and liberals duke it out over who can use the bathroom, where. I hear that this is a response to the existence of Caitlyn Jenner, who is a Republican! Does any part of that sentence seem real to you?

Meanwhile, in local news, a gifted friend of mine is being told she should teach another way than she is — for less money and with less prep time.

In other local news, a principal of an elementary school nearby (in another town)  is on leave, because her brother (whom she lives with, who “volunteered” at her school) has a child porn collection that has been discovered.

In national news, Sandra Bland’s mother says we’re not paying enough attention to women who were killed in prison/died in prison. She’s right. Oh, and yesterday some Black kid with a B-B gun that looked real was shot by police, just days after the police in Chicago blamed Tamir Rice for his own death. And the governor of Maine vetoed a bill making it cheaper to save lives of people having heroin overdoses.

Now this… I wasn’t aware we had a draft anymore. This White house hasn’t made such a big fuss about it, but then we’re not looking to start a war right now. I thought it was stupid for gay people to fight to be in the armed services, as though killing is a political right that people shouldn’t be deprived of. I’m sure there’s some systemic reason that somebody thinks this is a good thing.

When my daughter was in utero and I saw her first sonogram, I marched around the doctor’s office saying “if anybody hurts that kid, I’ll kill them!”. Right now, I have a daughter who will be going to college in a year and her student loans will probably be attached to this. My other daughter, far more genius than I ever was, deserves a chance to save the world, and I think she wants to. One way or another, she probably will. Not if she’s dead, though.

I’m not gay, or trans, or Black, or Mexican, or a female, or a drug addict. Maybe if I didn’t know so many people who are, I wouldn’t care.The hate swirls around me daily in the news. The American people seem bent on self-destruction, and the craziness of that drives me nuts. That’s bad enough, and depressing enough. But this thing about girls and the draft, whatever it is, that’s just a knife in my heart.

Bernie Sanders the other day said that the wealthiest 20 families in America make as much money as half of the rest of us. Did the Waltons hire Wolf, Ram. and Hart? The Kochs? Donald Trump? If they weren’t fictional, I’d believe they were real.

Peace,

John

Bernie in Hartford: Speaking Kindness To Power

 

Bernie Sanders is the kindest “radical” I have ever heard speak. I suspect that’s what makes him scary to The Powers That Be — the extremely wealthy and the extremely powerful who make up 1/10th of 1 percent or 1 percent of America today.  Contrary to Larry David’s Saturday Night Live impersonation, today at a rally in Hartford, CT, Bernie told it like it is but never said a violent thing in his hour-long speech. There were no “bomb Iran”, there were no “kick out this group or that group”. There was no hatred for anyone, but there was truth.

As the rally began, I was actually worried about his chances, because — contrary to 20,000 people in New York City or on a college campus, it seemed like there were maybe 1,000 people here. By the end of the rally, though, that number had doubled or tripled in size.The early people looked very much like the people sent to the sofa in the frat house of the movie “Animal House”. They were — for the cameras to see — weird. There was a person in front of me with a black coat painted with a transgender rights symbol and painted on words like, “Stop thinking clothes have a gender”. There was a guy on my right with a marijuana headband  who kept saying “Light one up for Bern!”. There were tired men and women in the bleachers behind the podium. There were women wearing Islamic head scarfs in the same bleachers. There were more piercings and ear holes and colored hair than anyplace I had seen in a long-time. I grew sad as I saw their numbers and their composition until I realized that these were the hippies of today’s generation — the great unwashed intellectuals fighting The Establishment of today. They are the people that no one else cares about winning their vote. In short, these are the people that Jesus cared about — the ones who threw palms at his feet because that’s what they had. As I saw the Muslim women, I grew said because I realized in that moment that these are the people who will die  if Trump gets elected. They were there not just to support Bernie. They were there for their own self-preservation.

An African-American minister came out for a few minutes and spoke about his local church and the incredible unemployment around his church. He spoke as a community organizer about things in the local neighborhood that nobody ever talks about because nobody knows his neighborhood, because no one ever goes to his neighborhood. In short, he was just a local guy who cared about his community. Later, Jim Dean, of Democracy for America came out and he spoke about why DFA was supporting Bernie: because they had asked people who they wanted between Hillary and Bernie and — when 3/4 of people said they wanted Bernie, that’s who they supported. He lost a little street cred when he mentioned he was from Fairfield (a rich city here) but gained respect with his rolled up sleeves and rumpled suit jacket. He was a worker, and a tireless one, in the old mold of community organizing.

Then the man himself spoke. He looked tired and was a bit hoarse, carrying his handwritten notes to the podium. Once he got going, though, any tiredness was gone. He was speaking from his heart about things that mattered to him. Lots of things mattered to him.  Lots of people mattered to him.  He wants things like families that can support themselves on one income while someone raises the kids. He wants marriages to succeed because people don’t have to never see each other while they make enough money to live. He spoke of money being poorly spent on Big Banks and the Walton Family through our system while workers at Walmart had to get food stamps at most people’s expense. He spoke about fairness over-and-over. Clearly having read the Constitution, he talks about things like “one person, one vote” and “equal justice under the law” and believing that the law should apply equally to everyone — from the kid who got busted with a joint to the CEO who didn’t serve any time for destroying the lives of millions 8 years ago. Sanders questioned and didn’t support the new anti-LGBT laws being passed and said “That’s the state’s right, but there should be no federal support for such things (he acknowledge the actual limited power of the president as written in the Constitution).

Sanders wants corporations not to write trade bills, but our elected officials to do it. He wants everyone to get to vote (even conservatives!) instead of limiting voting rights. He wants people to have jobs that match their skills, he wants colleges to teach people that want to do that and jobs for people who don’t. He spoke about the criminal justice system and how bad it was, while saying clearly that most cops are good, hardworking, decent people doing a difficult job. He didn’t tell them how to do their jobs. He fine-tuned their jobs  by saying that “they should be trained to have deadly force be their last option instead of their first”. He thought we could use some of the money we’re now spending on for-profit jails to do that. When he finally got around to Native Americans and how important they were for us to learn from, he got to the heart of the matter. To my knowledge, since native Americans are from their own nations, they don’t get to vote in American ones. Here was a politician who was caring for people who can’t even vote for him. That’s not politically smart, but it is moral genius on the level of Santa Claus at Macy’s sending people to Gimbels in Miracle on 42nd Street. It brings back humanity and hope. It makes us believe in goodness again when people do things because they are right, rather than expedient.

Bernie Sanders is that guy. You should vote for him. I’m going to.

Peace,

 

John