Bad Lessons

With one sentence, it was over. “We, the jury, find the defendant not guilty”. I don’t know what to say about the end of the Trayvon Martin case. Mr. Zimmerman had his day in court and the jury found him not guilty. This is what I, and so many others, had asked for — a day in court, which Mr. Martin wasn’t previously going to get at all. Still, I’m not satisfied, and I suspect many others aren’t either. It doesn’t seem to me that justice was done, though I respect that the jury thought otherwise.

Is it better to not even pretend people have rights, or is it better to pretend, then take them away? Does it matter if they were pretending or not if you lose publicly? None of these ideas seem good to me.

Here is my concern: after Rudy Guilianni became mayor of New York, there were some rumors that police were beating Black men at a higher rate and were saying to them, “Guilliani’s in power now!”or some such nonsense. The point there was that now that the city’s Black mayor was no longer in power, police felt empowered to let their racism out.

The stories were later proven to be false, but the “truth” behind the myth remained. Minorities should look out, because they have no power in the law. If you attack them, no one will believe them enough to get into the system, and once in the system — should that happen — they will get no justice.

The lesson learned is that hoodies are to innocent Black men what short skirts are to rape victims. Somehow, the victim wanted their victimization to happen.  And if they want to say otherwise, they shouldn’t bother because no one will believe them. This is America today.

Also this week, after the Supreme Court said that all marriages are equal, Indiana passed a law that could have clergy arrested for performing same-sex marriages. Yes, you heard it, clergy arrested for practicing their religion. All that fear that clergy would be “forced” to perform same-sex marriages  (how dare the government intrude on Christian worship?!) has led to … government intrusion into Christian religion. Gays have rights? Not in Indiana. Why? Because they made such a big stink about wanting rights of “normal” people for all those years. Indiana is attempting to snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory. I don’t think it’ll work for long, if at all, but there it is.

Lastly, the incredible filibustering and hundreds of spectators disrupting of a few weeks ago could not prevent Rick Perry from passing his abortion rights-limiting law. Rules, people’s protest, extraordinary speaking, and the idea that women have rights over their own bodies not withstanding, the old men got their way. Get raped? Try to have an abortion and get raped again by the system — in some states literally — with a vaginal ultrasound.

Women’s rights, civil rights, gay rights — all of the things that my generation thought were important — have been undone (in pockets of America) in one week. 

In any case, what does America get from it, this learned helplessness of so many people? It gets depressed people who always aware of danger and feel they can’t do anything about their situation. If self-esteem and pride are the marks of a healthy system, then learned helplessness is the mark of a dysfunctional system and the lesson we are being taught is that more and more dysfunction is good. It is not. It will kill the very system it seeks to “purify”, because the term “dysfunction” simply means “doesn’t work”.

I remind you, dear reader, that there are billions of good people out there between the Atlantic and the Pacific, but few of them are in power right now. We must not learn the lessons that those in power would have us learn. We must look out for each other. We must try to find justice and commonality in each other. How we do that in the political climate we live in, I don’t know, but we must do it nonetheless — maybe on an individual basis, in our daily lives. Maybe we will have to elect people who care about all America. Maybe we will have to run for office ourselves and support each people who want all America to count.

In any case, I implore you, brothers and sisters, to not give up hope, to not believe that this is the way it has to be. You are better than that. You are better than those in power. I consider wearing a hoodie, a tampon and a rainbow flag every day as a sign of support. Know that in my heart, at the least — and in many, many other hearts — the same is true.






Standing In The Need of Prayer — Or At Least Introspection (for Gerry a

“Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, Oh, Lord, standing in the need of prayer” — African-American spiritual

“Senators, Congressmen, please head the call/Don’t stand in the doorway/Don’t lock up the hall… for the times/they are a-changin’ — Bob Dylan

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


I have been thinking a lot — about politics, and economics, and America and what it could be and what it is lately. All of these things jam up in my head and nothing gets done, but I get worn down. As I was lamenting to my friend Gerry Claytor this morning, I begin thinking of a song she might sing and it all became clear to me. You and I are standing in the need of prayer — as individuals and as a country.

Traditionally, the ancient Hebrews saw God’s word as being about national life — communal sin. Modern American Christians more often see faith and the reading of scripture as a personal, private thing. I don’t think we have to choose between them, and in fact, I don’t think we can. Our communal sin and our individual sin are inextricably linked and that’s why we’re in the mess we’re in.  As a therapist, I ask people t think about what they can control and what they can’t and to give to The Universe what’s beyond us.  As a Christian, I can think about both, all while in prayer, and I am standing in the need of prayer.

Recently, I was reading or listening to a report on Obamacare and how it might actually cost more for health care under the new plan. The irony of paying more for care under the Affordable Care Act is not lost on me. This morning on the radio, they were talking about the economy and saying that your average person’s income is not going up, but that the upper-level salaries are going up. This is not new, but my two choices seem to be cynicism or letting it suck from my soul. Earlier this week, I began a blog about America for the 4th of July and stumbled around Liberty and abortion rights in Texas and voting rights in the South. Clearly, we have not — as previously thought — moved beyond sexism and racism in America. We have hired a bunch of haters to lead us, thus the mess we’re in. So much for progress. We as a nation — and me, because that’s what I can control — are standing in the need of prayer, or — for my atheist friends- at least a whole lot of introspection.

I like traditional terms and sometimes wonder if Christianity will become like Jedi training — left to some old guy in the middle of nowhere to preach it because it seems outdated and impossible to believe. We’re pretty close to that now, but still believers pray in the middle of the spiritual desert that is America today.  So, using old terms, I’d like to sum up all of the realities above in three sins — Greed, Hatred, and Lust for Power. What does that have to do with me? In a democracy, we make the decisions and once again I find myself standing in the need of prayer.

Why might cheap healthcare not become a reality? Why do people go hungry while the stock market goes up? Why don’t people’s votes count? It’s because we, as a nation and as individual people,  are greedy. In old fashioned terms, it is as simple as that. Arianna Huffington recently gave a commencement speech where she suggested that unlimited wealth and seeking for things, rather than each other, might not be the way to go. The fact that she had to say that points to how far into “greed is good” we have gone. The fact that her voice was relatively unique furthers the point.

Some of us have jobs as stockbrokers, some of us have jobs as lobbyists, some of us want more and more junk or the latest gizmo, some of us design things so that others have to have the latest gizmo or things won’t work. Some of us raise children to think that this is acceptable. Most of us convince ourselves it’s acceptable. It’s not.  No system of change, no hope of a better economy will ever work as long as we accept lobbyists from companies making our legislation. If every other bill is reduced but the water lobby (it’s a metaphor, I don’t think there is a water lobby) says we have to pay more for bottled water, then they will charge as much as they can for water — and everyone will rush to buy stock in water. If it’s medicine or labor or blood products or food lobbies, the same thing will happen.

How did it get this way? We elected these politicians, we put the stock market ahead of our neighbors, we became lobbyists or lawyers or CEO’s. We chose to work for big companies or we chose to give CEO’s their stock options while they stole from us, because we came to believe in greed ourselves or we capitulated because we thought greed had to win eventually. We are standing in the need of prayer for the strength to think differently and to fight the places in our lives where greed prevails.  If we do, “the times will be a-changin”‘. If we don’t take time to be introspective, we will continue to “get along so awfully”. We need to accept/confess that greed exists and it’s not good for us and we need to get rid of it as best we can.

Returning to the news, voting rights protections have been stripped away, and if we didn’t hate each other, that wouldn’t be a problem.  But apparently we do. The judges believed that racism didn’t need to be put in check anymore. They were wrong, not because I want them to be wrong, not because I cling to old wounds and want racism to exist so I can complain, but because — in modern day America, with less than a minute’s hesitation, elected officials in some of those counties who were covered by the law began making laws to keep people away from the voting booth. I don’t know much about the way policy got us to here or which generation of politicians is to blame, but I am clear that somebody voted for these people because they thought “that person best serves my political interest” and ignored the fact that they didn’t like somebody else’s political interest”. Somebody out there, in fact voted for that politician because that politician didn’t have someone else’s interest at heart.  Did we really think that the person who hates gays and lesbians wasn’t good at hating in general? Did we really think that so-and-such a politician who kept Blacks “in their place” wouldn’t also try to keep women “in their place”? Do we really think that politicians who keep us in fear and ready to fight at the borders of Mexico so they can stay in power won’t keep us in fear of any other country so they can stay in power?

I heard on the radio this morning that the U.S. won’t be buying as many weapons (aka “defense products”) as developing nations.  That seems vaguely scary, unless you think that we’ve found enough places to bomb and enough ways to do it already. Building things that kill us so that we can have jobs means we have to support Hate to live. Is that really in our best interest? Let’s make money building weapons so that our enemies can fire them at us — there’s a plan for defense! No, but that’s the bill of goods we’re being sold. Actually, that’s a plan for Fear and Hate.  So who has fear and hate in their hearts? Us. It doesn’t matter much how it got here, but we need to stop it. We are standing in the need of prayer to find it in ourselves, call it what it is, and free ourselves of it.

We must elect officials who won’t “stand in the doorway” or “lock up the halls” so that we can secure real liberty for ourselves, realizing that a person who can hate can be good at all around. And if we can’t find any to elect, we need to become those non-hateful, non-fearful people and find the strength to run ourselves. The times will not change, and we will continue to live this awfully, if we don’t.