Truth

1) Being shot is the problem. Complaining about it is not.
2) Racism is the problem. Complaining about it is not.
3) Poor people aren’t taking our money. Rich people are.
4) Climate change is a problem. Proving there is, is not the problem. 
5) Facts are not the problem. Denying them is.
6) Women wanting health care is not a problem. Women not getting health care is.
7) People having rights due them is not the problem. People trying to take them away is.
Resisting With Peace,

John

Hidden Figures and Bathroom Breaks: The Co-Operation Imperative (for MLK Day)

Tomorrow is the official celebration of Martin Luther King Day and my wife, daughter, and I went to see “Hidden Figures”, the movie that details the story of 3 women — a mathematician, an engineer, and a supervisor for NASA who suffered the double indignities of being Black and female in 1961.

The movie is profoundly satisfying in trying to explain the days when all life was in black-and-white and computers were the size of a building to my children. These were the days when things were hard, but we had hope for new things to break through, rather than days when things are easy and we don’t. My children can’t conceive of those days and I don’t want them to at first glance. I don’t want to even give them the idea that women are only supposed to get coffee for the men or that Blacks and Whites should be separated.  At the same time, I want them to have some perspective and feel grateful for what they have, so they can guard against losing it in 2017.

Of course, though, my children can and do teach me things as well  — mostly about groups I didn’t even know existed. Thoughts about these people came up in 2017 as I watched the movie about 1961. The main heroine (if it’s possible to say that) is the mathematician, Katherine Johnson, who spends great portions of the movie running from building to building (1/2 a mile!) to use the “colored women’s” bathroom. She does this throughout the movie and manages to keep her job by keeping up with her white colleagues.

According to the movie, she’s out of the office 40 minutes per day just going to the bathroom. She not only has to travel that far to use the restroom, she and the other “colored calculators” have to have lunch in a different room, and work in a different room away from work. Here’s the thing that seems so simple (and stupid) now: we could have gotten into space faster, and possibly safer, if women like Kathrine didn’t have to go that distance and lose their concentration, data, or minds. As she ran through the rain in scene after scene carrying her data in big blue folders, I can easily imagine someone stopping her because she “shouldn’t have classified information”. “Clearly”, she had no use for it, according to the logic of the times.

There is a woman engineer who could have been in place months earlier, but there was no place for her to go to school. There is a woman supervisor who could have gotten the IBM computers moving faster if they had simply given her access. When Katherine’s supervisor (played by Kevin Costner) says that he can’t figure out why the Russians got to space sooner than we did,  I wanted to scream at the screen, “it’s because you don’t want all your potential resources! And they’re right in front of you!”.

With simple kindnesses like access to a bathroom, access to a desk, access to machines, we can progress the American dream at incredible speeds. The other option — the one we have chosen — is that we can say “no” to complex solutions by saying “no” to simple kindness and co-operation. Then, when we can’t figure out why things don’t work ala Costner’s character, we’ll be stumped and helpless.

Now here’s the generational piece: I could give a rat’s behind about bathrooms. They are the least of my worries, as are the rights of transgender people. I would have thought that a group who is probably 1/10th of 1% of the population had nothing to do with me — and I would be wrong. Worrying about bathroom privileges for anybody wasn’t anywhere near the bottom of my list of concerns. So here was a cause I didn’t care about in the slightest and a group of people who never entered my mind. Last year, when the issue of which bathrooms transgender people could use became an issue in North Carolina, I thought I didn’t have time to deal with it. There were bigger fish to fry.

Just last month, a man I knew from Deering (a Christian camp that was used by my denomination) died. His name was Dave and he had a great sense of humor. At some point, “Dave” became “Davina Del Mar” and, though I don’t know any of the details, he was clearly transgender. The idea that that man — or anyone — might have to run around trying to find a bathroom he could use is absurd to me. The idea that he could have been beaten up over this issue is stupid and nuts in ways that I can’t even comprehend. To my knowledge, it didn’t happen to Dave/Davina, but that someone went out of their way to make it possible is just evil.

Simple kindness in life — especially regarding diversity issues  –is the only thing required to make a difference in the world. Aren’t we wiser, and better, in so many ways, to exercise such kindness? Keeping people out of anything just because we can’t conceive of them being there is ridiculous if we want our society to solve its challenges.

There are women who can’t be priests or ministers simply because they’re women, so the church struggles. There are retailers in America who can’t find employees just because they won’t allow transgender people a place to go to the bathroom. Every time a Black child is shot simply because they’re Black means that all that potential goes to waste. Who knows which of those children could have cured cancer or AIDS or Multiple Sclerosis? Every time we don’t give poor children access to schoolbooks that are up to date, or computers that function, we lose their talents — or stall them longer than we need to. How hard is to understand that investing in others is investing in ourselves?

How hard is it to let someone go to the bathroom, or let them in a building, or try them out at a job? Honestly, these are simple things. I swear they are. At the very least, don’t make it harder for people to be of use to society. Further, don’t make it harder for good people to help. John Glenn — a White man — went out of his way to treat the Black women in this movie as equals. There were people then, and now, who can’t conceive of that possibility. They deprive us of creative solutions to complex problems as well.

We have choices. We can be kind and open to people’s gifts or we can sabotage and penalize their gifts just because of who they are. As the woman engineer in the movie says “I can’t change the color of my skin”. Neither can people change their gender, genitalia, who they love, place they were born, eye color, height, or any other category.

Love wins when kindness does. Hate always loses in the long run, because it is self-defeating. Martin Luther King understood this, and he convinced others of it. On MLK Day in 2017, let us all hear his wisdom. Let us make kindness our goal.

Resisting with Peace,

John

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasy Politics 

You know how people play Fantasy Football? In my fantasy life, I think to myself, ” I could do better than Donald Trump “. As the cabinet gets picked, I first thought I’d make my Cabinet look like America. Listed below are the cabinet positions that exist now, per the US government’s website, and a little history:

The tradition of the Cabinet dates back to the beginnings of the Presidency itself. the Cabinet’s role is to advise the President on any subject he may require relating to the duties of each member’s respective office.

HIS PICKS

Vice President  — Mike Pence
Secretary of State — Rex Tillerson, Exxon CEO

Secretary of the Treasury — Steven Mnuchin, Co-chairman and CEO of Dune Capital Management

Secretary of Defense — Marine General John Mathis 
Attorney General — Jeff Sessions 
Secretary of the Interior — Ryan Zinke, Montana Congressman

Secretary of Agriculture — Forrest Lucas, Founder, Lucas Oil Products

Secretary of Commerce — Wilbur Ross, Investor

Secretary of Labor — Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants

Secretary of Health and Human Services –Tom Price, Chairman, House Budget Committee

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development — Dr. Ben Carson, neurosurgeon 

Secretary of Transportation — Elaine Chao, Former Labor Secretary

Secretary of Energy — Rick Perry

Secretary of Education — Betsy DeVos, Republican donor, school choice activist

Secretary of Veterans Affairs — unfilled 
Secretary /chair of Homeland Security — Gen. John Kelly, retired, Former Marine general

The following positions have the status of Cabinet-rank: 

White House Chief of Staff — Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman

Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency — Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma attorney general

Director, Office of Management & Budget — Mick Mulvaney, Congressman from South Carolina

United States Trade Representative/ambassador 
Chair, Small Business Administration — Linda McMahon, former CEO of WWE

There are 24 slots. Given percentages in the census it breaks down to this: 

 White — 63.7% 14.5     15 positions  Trump = 22   

Black 12.3% 2.89              3 positions  Trump = 1

Asian 4.7% 1.081              1 position     Trump = 1

Hispanic 16.3% 3.749.   4 positions.   Trump = 0

Everyone else 1%   

Mixed Race 2% 0.46      1 position — Trump = 1
Women 51%.                    12 positions — Trump = 3

Men 49% 11.27                12 positions — Trump = 21

Gay 10%                             2.3  positions — Trump = 0? Unknown

Poor 30%.                          8 positions  — Trump = 0

Middle class 49%            12 positions — Trump = 0

 Upper 21%                       4 positions — Trump = 3?

Top 1%   $460,000 per year     0 positions — Trump = 21
 MY PICKS
Vice President  — Sean Murphy– all around good guy

Secretary of State  —  Mary Lou Brewer, former history teacher
Secretary of the Treasury — TBD

Secretary of Defense — Colin Powell , former General
Attorney General — Barack Obama, former President, law professor
Secretary of the Interior — Em Ross –former camp family, Deering Conference Center
Secretary of Agriculture — board member, WHYHunger or someone from Hall, NY — farmer
Secretary of Commerce — Elizabeth Warren — senator, professor, ethicist
Secretary of Labor — Pat Speer, community organizer, Bridgeport, CT
Secretary of Health and Human Services — Paula Richards, nurse, Boston MA
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development — Rev. Jeffrey Brown non-violent trainer
Secretary of Transportation — J Richard “Rick” Fowler — former mechanic
Secretary of Energy — Helen Caldicott, anti-nuclear activist
Secretary of Education — Cat Chapin-Bishop, public school teacher

Council of Economic Advisers head — Bob Cunningham, libertarian 

White House Chief of Staff — Zephyr Teachout, ethics author

Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency — Al Gore? Maybe makes too much money?

Director, Office of Management & Budget — Alan Bercovici, friend from High School

United States Trade Representative/ambassador — Santiago Ramos Collado, pastor

Chair, Small Business Administration — Peter, family friend, owned a small business, is gay.
 

There are 24 slots. Given percentages in the census it breaks down to this: 
 White — 63.7% 14.5             15 positions — Me, 19

Black 12.3% 2.89                      3 positions — Me, 3

Asian 4.7% 1.081                       1 position — Me, 0 (TBD)

Hispanic 16.3% 3.749.              4 positions — Me, 1

 Women 51%.                              12 positions — Me, 9, (TBD)

Men 49% 11.27                           12 positions — Me, 10 (TBD)

Gay 10% 2.3 positions —       3 positions — Me, 1+ (others unknown)
Poor 30%. 8 positions — Me, 2?

Middle class 49% 12 positions — Me, 3?

Wealthy -ish  —  Me, 17? 

Top 1% — Me, 0 
My picks are nowhere near perfect, but they are a lot closer to actually reflecting America, they wouldn’t destroy the things they are in charge of, and they would understand real people. Plus, they would all be ethical. I’ve got a better team, and I don’t know enough experts to fill the slots. Nepotism? Sure, but my friends would be worth it. Just saying.

I’m sure that anyone reading this could do just as well. That’s truly sad. This is what America has come to. The next four years are going to be really interesting, I guess.

See how easy politics is?

Resisting with peace,
John

“He Came Back A Different Person”

Watching the video of the shooter at the Ft. Lauderdale airport yesterday, Reuters said, he served in the Iraq War for 1 year. They quoted his mother as saying, “He came back a different person”. 

Of course he did. You can’t kill another human being and stay the same person. We’re not built like that. Even if it was an accident, people are never quite the same. Even for a “good cause”, people are effected. The movie “The best days of our lives” deals with returning WWII veterans and their struggles. Jimmy Stewart — a hero and a good guy — didn’t want to make war look good during the filming of “It’s a Wonderful Life” because he’d been there. 

Veterans of Korea, Vietnam have also told the same story. Now we add Iraq and Afgahnistan to the list of wars and mentally and spiritually injured soldiers. Why, then, do we continue to glorify war? Why do we think anything different is going to happen? We reasonably (?) give credit to people who died for their country. But for every person who made the ultimate sacrifice, there is someone who took that ultimate gift from them. Ordering people to do that, as leadership must, is something that — if done at all — must be taken seriously, regardless of the profits others make off of it or how it “helps” our economy.

And if we send people off to be soldiers, and we know it damages them, then why don’t we pay for them to get better? Can anybody explain to  me?

 Resisting with Peace,

John

Back to Basics: Income Equality and Health Care

Before we were so rudely interrupted by evil in national, and in some cases, state politics, before Black people got shot daily, there were calls for income equality. Some people made a gazillion dollars for working and some people didn’t make enough to live on even though they were working. 

I’m good at being angry about basics, so when I talked to a friend this morning about the treatment she’s getting from a Boston hospital she worked at for 30+ years, I got good and angry. I remain so, but it provoked me to write a long-simmering piece about healthcare and the mess it’s in.

The story has 4 pieces now, but they are all the same story: doing away with the actual care at hospitals while their bosses make extraordinary– really extraordinary — money. 

When my mom was alive, she was a director of nurses at HeathSouth in Florida. My mom worked as hard and as decently as  a person could. She mentored her nurses, accepting calls at home about this or that crisis at a facility, and got mad if a nursing home smelled of urine. She thought it was unacceptable to treat people as less that human, regardless of who they were or what shape they were in. Just because a patient didn’t seem to know what was going on around them, if you did, you were supposed to treat them well. 

Suddenly, there were corporate mergers and people trying to save a buck, and the company hired people to “pick off” potential disability claimants and save money. My mother was one of those people– kidney problems all her life, heart problems from stress, and ultimately cancer would claim her. But while she was still working, she or her staff would be written up for really minor infractions and the stress of always being watched for any wrong move finally got her. Without benefits, she’d have to work for insurance, even though her health was declining with every extra hour or shift. Why? So some CEO or stockholder could make more money and say “it’s just business”. My mother was a person, who cared for others. She made the lives of others easier and didn’t get rich doing it. In return for all of that, she was sent adrift while CEOs made more money than they ever had. The stream that was supposed to be “trickle down” was a flood going up instead.

Jump forward a few years and I live near Hartford, CT. I worked as a very part-time chaplain at a hospital for quite a few years. Suddenly there is no chaplain program for people early in recovery or dealing with a severe mental illness for the first time. Why? Budget cuts. It’s no big deal financially for me. I didn’t make a lot of money anyway. But who was going to do the work that I did, taking care of the people I did?  No one. A few months later, they reinstated the position I heard, but through a private donor because people complained. Did the institution care about the people it was supposed to? No. Money came first. 

At the same time, I knew a nurse at the hospital who complained to me about an odd idea. If you go in to the hospital and your blood sugar gets low for whatever reasons, nurses used to have orange juice and little packets of graham crackers at their desk to help you cope. The hospital was in areguements with an insurance company and decided to  remove the “free” orange juice from the area where the nursing staff was as a cost cutting measure. I believe they explained it as “so we won’t have to cut back on staff”. Really? I don’t know how much orange juice costs, but I didn’t think those were really the choices. What staff did they mean? The CEO got a million dollar raise that year. I’m sure his or her contract could cover it. Why wasn’t that considered?

At another hospital in Connecticut, administration also cut the chaplaincy program. I remember that it happened in drips and drabs at first. Then, because the chaplain was support for the nursing staff who we’re being nickel and dimed to death, administration really turned up the heat. The chaplain in question is the best chaplain I know. His departure, and their pressure on him meant that not only were the patients losing someone who cared deeply about them,  but so were the rest of the staff. I’m sure someone saw it as a cost-cutting measure, but the chaplain gave them “more bang for their buck” than that CEO did. Also involved: merger talks and CEO pay raises, just like above. 

Now, today, I hear this: a friend in a Boston hospital has seen her health deteriorate for a while now, but she’s used to being a nurse, and she has been good at it for 30+ years. Her health got worse and worse and the hospital was updating something. The combination of her health and their updating led to her leaving and retiring. Could it be that simple? Nope. The hospital — also cutting corners, also with a well-paid CEO (7 million dollars per year!), decided to mess with her benefits. Other nurses or staff tried to help, but that may or not help, as the hospital fought that. Why? People can’t be kind to each other if money’s involved? People must remain anonymous? I don’t know. It makes no sense.

Here are the similarities: corporate restructuring, loss of jobs or income from caring, hard working people and huge raises for CEOs. This cannot be the best way to do our healthcare. Certainly it’s not the moral thing to do.  Can we change this somehow? I’d like to think so. The wrong people are getting rewarded, the wrong people are losing their income, and the public suffers. 

Will we?  We’ll see.

Resisting with peace, 
John

Lack of Sandals

I’ve been thinking about my Mom lately. One of the things she used to say to try and keep people humble was “I can tell you’re not God because there are no sandal marks”…

As I think about the current state of our country — some of our leaders and some of their followers, and when I compare it to Jesus’ views of the way things should be, I see a distinct lack of sandals as far as the eye can see and I wonder how we got here as a country, and how they got here mentally. I suspect that this is a good measure of politics in any era and, if we’re still here in 4 years, we try it again.

Jesus:    Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”

Trump: I know more than the generals do. I don’t need to be told the same thing day after day(by the CIA).

 

Jesus: “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone”.

Trump: “We’re gonna make billions!”

 

Satan:  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you,  and they will lift you up in their hands,  so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’

Jesus: “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

Trump: “Support for Taiwan is a bargaining chip”

 

Satan:  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

Jesus:  “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only”

Trump:  ” Make America great again!”.

 

Jesus: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Trump: ” I like veterans who haven’t been captured”
Jesus: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”

Trump: (Mr. Kahn’s wife) probably didn’t say anything because she wasn’t allowed”
Jesus:  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Trump supporters: “Lock her up!” “Send the monkey faces back!”
Jesus:  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Trump: “You don’t know it was the Russians. You can’t prove that.”
Jesus: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Trump: “It was fun threatening Hillary, wasn’t it?
Jesus: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Trump: “I’ll have my finger on the button. The generals will have to do what I say”
Jesus: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”

Trump: “Watched Saturday Night Live hit job on me. Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election!”

For years, politicians have talked about “values” and “Christian values” being important.  I’ve listed Jesus’ values here.   Do these seem like them?  This is why I cry for my country. It’s not politics. It’s Christianity.

Let me be clear here: I don’t dislike Trump or his radical followers because they won. This is not about winning or losing, as they would have you believe. I disagree with them because of what they say, and what they do… and how far it is from Jesus said to say and do.

Resisting with peace,

John

 

Think! Have A Conscience! Do Something! 

Last night, I received an email from boldprogressives.com that said, 

“Yesterday, 10 Electors demanded an intelligence briefing on Russian meddling in the Election. Now, that number has climbed to 40. According to Politico, the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign are so concerned about the Electoral College vote on Monday, they are even monitoring Electors social media activity. 

The bigger the crowds and media attention when Electors go to every state capitol on Monday Dec 19th to cast their votes, the better equipped they will be to do the right thing and do the will of the people — and the more we’ll debunk Trump’s claim of a “mandate” after he lost the popular vote and was helped by Russia.” 

I think I’ll go. What do I hope it will accomplish? I’m not sure. Could weird things happen one way or the other? Given this year’s election, you never know. Will I still go? Yep. 

I had a very lengthy chat yesterday with someone I respect who worried that if the electors somehow change the election results, it could lead to all out conflict between citizens. Given the fractured state of this country, that is a possibility. It is not one that I want or long for in any way — not even close. 

I also just read a scathing, mocking op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that says it’ll make things worse for the democrats, as it historically has. Everything it says is possibly correct about the future but those people are my spiritual tribe. Abbie was a bit much, but it was people like that who stopped the Vietnam war and made us think about war in general. 

So what do I want to happen? I want the electors to have all the information they need. I want them to think about what they’re doing. Then, I want them to vote their conscience. If they do that, democracy wins. I don’t care what answer they come up with. I don’t care what actions they take. (Well, yes, I have an opinion about what action I’d like them to take, but that’s not the point.)  We get democracy back by taking democracy seriously — and by expecting others to do the same. 

If we deliberate, if we talk, and argue, and think, and feel before we do anything, that’s the best anyone can ask of us. Still, I’m sick of pretending that’s what we do in America. I’m all for feelings. That’s how I make my living. But that is only one part of living. Many people I see (in and out of the office) have FEELINGS but can’t hold them back with thoughts. Other people I know have incredible thoughts, but wouldn’t know a feeling if it bit them. Unfortunately, the feeling group is more into action — and making their voices heard! — than the thinking group, and have been for awhile. That’s how we got here. 

I’m sick of arguing with people who don’t believe in facts. I’m sick of people who just want to be heard, but don’t want to listen. To the extent that I have been one of those people, I’m sorry, and I hope it’s not been often.  I heard a Trump supporter in a discussion with Bernie Sanders where the Trump supporter said he thought Trump was crude, but was opening a dialogue. I believe him. I believe that’s what he thought. But it’s not a dialogue if everybody isn’t talking or only some people listen. I for one, expect to listen, but I also want to be listened to.  I’m willing to freeze in the Connecticut  cold to “speak”.  I think it’s time we pushed the pendulum hard and back the other way. Yes, I do, but that’s me. 

When I started blogging, I did a whole section on “Do your own theology” which encouraged people to do just that. I believed that people have the ability to use their brains and hearts to know what God calls them to do. I still do. So, there it is: do your own theology about politics. Let your moral compass — the brains, heart, and faith God gave you ( or brains, heart, and ethics if you’re not a believer) guide you.

And to the Wall Street Journal guy: this isn’t an “outside of the system end-around, it is the system. If, as you say, these are the rules that got Trump elected, then so be it. Take the rules seriously or get rid of them. If the electoral college has to vote like automatons, why are they there? Isn’t that another example of do-nothing government that doesn’t take into account the will of the people?  I’m against that. I’d like a represtative democracy that repress the will of the people. Is that too much to ask?

Resisting with peace,
John