Tara Reade, Joe Biden, and Al Franken

I knew this would come up at some point. I’m pretty sure that, on Right-Wing media, it’s been non-stop and getting louder all the time. Suddenly, it’s making noise in main-stream media. A woman named Tara Reade has come forward and claimed that Joe Biden put his hand in her underwear some years ago now. What that means to the entire American political system is open to question. What it means to women is open to question. What it means to men is open to question. What it means to the morality of regular American citizens is open to question. In short, this event hypothetically puts so much on the table that we should probably deal with it. I doubt that this essay will come to any conclusions that will satisfy anyone, but it is important that we start the conversation, and start to consider the issues. I hope to do that much anyway.

Let’s start with practical issues: First off, this whole thing is based on a hypothetical situation. As near as I can tell, there are only 2 humans and 1 God that knows if anything happened. This is the same situation between Brett Kavansugh and Christine Blasey-Ford, between Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, between Al Franken and his accusers, between any accuser and any person accused. I have my beliefs regarding each of those cases, but I — and you — have no actual knowledge of the events (or lack thereof) if we weren’t there. Without a recording of some kind during the events (again, hypothetically, if they happened), you and I will never know the facts of these cases. The people involved, do, however, know what happened or didn’t. Finally, if you believe in God or some other being that knows everything that happens morally in the universe, they know as well. Those 3 parties know and have to cope with the events. If the humans have any sort of conscience, they will have to deal with what they have done.

This brings us to the next point: Since it is all hypothetical, we aren’t arguing about facts. We are arguing about meaning. What does it mean if the facts are that the accused did do what the accuser says they did? If it’s true, what then? What do we do? What are we supposed to infer from these facts? What is the moral of the story? The final question is this: “Is the moral universal?”. I think we have stopped asking that final question as a society to our own peril. We will deal with it here.

The third thing that I think is we should start with are facts. Her are facts as I know them that might relate to all of the cases. Like them or not, they are still true. 1) Rape and varieties of sexual assault happen. They happen a lot in our society; 2) Rape or assault has lasting negative impacts on the victim. These impacts can last a lifetime or a few months, but they are serious because their impact far outweighs the time that it took them to happen. 3) Women and men, girls and boys, and transgender folks all are victimized by sexual assault. 4) Women and men, girls and boys, and transgender folks can be perpetrators of sexual assault. I don’t want to get into details on how I know but I can assure you that it is true. Statistically, I would say that likelihood of it happening in those categories is :Women and girls, then boys and men. Trans folks? I don’t know enough to say, but there’s plenty of hatred of them out there, and murder against them is frequent, so I will assume sexual assault is frequent as well. In short, rape and sexual assault are egregious acts. We need to prevent them from happening.

On to meaning and experience: People in power — men, in particular — have often used their position of power to get others to have sex with them. In older days, men believed it was their right to do so. In fact, many men in leadership thought of it as a perk of the job. From the guy who picked up a guitar “to meet chicks” to the politician who thought his secretary came with the package of perks for the job, this is a long-standing tradition. Now, of course, there are groupies for band members and people who want to “sleep their way to top” via a powerful boss. None of these things are necessarily right, but they are the way things used to be. Regarding groupies of any sort, I don’t know what to make of them. I have not seen any social theories about them or why they do what they do, but they do exist. I believe that this is an area of inquiry for another time. We know why people choose to force others into sex — power. Why do people choose to have sex with the powerful (and only sex here, not long-lasting relationships)? I don’t know.

Further experience: Republican politicians and Democratic politicians respond differently to hypothetical exercise of sexual power. If a Democrat is seen as possibly having sex with someone below them, the belief is that they should leave office. Al Franken was told to leave his position. He did. A newly elected woman representative was told to give up her seat. She did. Republicans/ conservatives don’t seem to have the same response. Brett Kavanaugh didn’t back off of his prospective judgeship. Clarence Thomas didn’t. Most recently, Roy Moore didn’t. In the ultimate example of this, Donald Trump, with more accusers than any of the others, didn’t stop seeking the Presidency.

Here is where it gets interesting. We have the same facts or lack of facts. We have far different meanings and far different understandings of what to do with a supposed perpetrator. To my knowledge, none of these cases has ever gone to trial. Why is that? If, generally, another citizen accused of anything has to go to court to defend themself, and sexual assault charges are serious things, why don’t the accused politicians go to court, serve jail time, or generally deal with the criminal justice system?

Back before that, why do most people deal with the criminal justice system personally, and others have their lawyers appear instead? This inequity is a big issue. The answer seems to be that the wealthy are above the law in some way. If you are wealthy, you can afford a lawyer. If you cannot, it would have to be a really special court-appointed to go instead of their client. I have never heard of this happening. Again, why is this?

In each case, if the court system handled the case, we would have answers. In some cases, the answer would be “there’s not enough evidence to convict” and voters would know that. In some cases, and there were enough evidence, the person would go to jail. The voters would know that as well. In some cases, the statute of limitations will have run out. If the justice system thinks that there’s a reason for a statute of limitations, then *that* should apply to people in government as well. In each case, the case would be settled, and justice would be served as best as possible, on a more equitable footing. Then, voters could decide among non-criminal candidates.

What about the final “surprise” appearance of questionable conduct? This is the situation with Biden. We are being asked as voters to decide, without all of the information, to choose between two potentially horrible choices. Either she’s telling the truth and he’s a criminal or he’s telling the truth, and people believe he’s a criminal. In a world where we are supposed to always believe the woman, we’re electing one criminal over another. Surely there’s a better way to deal with this. These cannot be our only choices. A double bind simply won’t cut it. It will, as we have already seen, make a nation crazy.

I believe it is France, or perhaps Europe more widely, that puts a gag order on the press and social media regarding political candidates a week before the election. Perhaps we should do some form of this. Let’s say an election is in November of a certain year. The candidate must announce their candidacy and, from that date, accusers have 3 months to file charges. The case goes to trial or it doesn’t. If no charges are filed by then, there can be no presumption of guilt by the population and candidates are free to run for election. It is what it is.

Now, I note that the “Access Hollywood” would not have come out under this system. Still, no one would be able to say that their release was for political reasons. Perhaps victims would have come out of the woodwork sooner. In any case, we would not be a nation divided by politics in such a situation. The President would not be able to deny it as “political abuse” and the other candidate or party couldn’t use it that way.

All of this, is, of course, theory for now. We are stuck with this conundrum: if Biden did hurt this woman, we have to choose between two criminals. One of the candidates is believed to have done it once. The other is believed to have done it 20+ times. Biden is the best choice. Congress or the Justice Department can deal with it later — and should.

In the meantime, until Democratic candidates are on the same footing that Republicans are regarding allegations, then Biden only has to live with himself, and look at himself in the mirror. We have to guess. Ms. Reade either gets justice or she doesn’t. I wish for justice from both of them, whatever that justice is, at it relates to the facts.

At the very least, there must be some kind of process applied to all political candidates, regardless of party. I never want to lose an apparently good, intelligent man like Al Franken to political leadership without due process, while an apparently horrible man like Donald Trump destroys the whole rule of law. Killing the good while in search of the perfect is never a good idea. America, I think, has to get over the idea of perfect humans as the only acceptable candidate, because there are no perfect humans. There are only one relatively good candidates and relatively bad candidates.

If Biden is innocent, he’s a much better candidate than Trump regarding this and — in my opinion — on so many other issues. Furthermore, if Biden selects, as he said he would, a female vice-President and then gets thrown out due to the scandal, then Ms. Reade gets justice and women’s rights are protected in general. Trump has no such backup, nor would he want one. Trump wants to abuse women, in general and in specific. She would be abused and he would deserve to be thrown out.

On a final note is the moral of the story: If Ms. Reade becomes a campaign issue and Trump wins, it will be because of his misogyny. The moral for Trump men is that abusive men win, and the more abusive, the more likely they are to win. I don’t know what Biden did in the past. Given who he is now, I do believe he would be sorry now if what Ms. Reade said is true then. No one I know believes that Biden is a predator. Many believe he never was. If Biden wins, it would not necessarily be a win for the “abusers deserve to abuse” category. In fact, I suspect that he would process his guilt through policy that prevents such acts from happening again.

Would I prefer a woman candidate to Biden? Yes, I would. I would vote for Elizabeth Warren, with no such scandals, in a heartbeat. I don’t think that Bernie Sanders has the delegate totals to get the nomination, and Republicans seem to think he’s easy to beat anyway. Is he a better human being than Trump? Of course. Is he a visionary? Absolutely. Is he a leader? I can’t quite tell yet.

That leaves a good, if imperfect, man against a monster. While I want Ms. Reade to get justice, I think she’s far more likely to get it, in all the ways I have outlined above, if Joe Biden become President. Does that sound right? It is ironic at the least, and horrible if what she says is true. And there’s a 50% chance that it’ll only be ironic.

Resisting in Peace,

John

Trust, COVID, And How The Science Thing Works…

For all those who are making the coronavirus a political thing, or a theological thing, because science is too much of a theory, let’s talk about it in another way. Let’s talk about trust and how you should go about decision- making, so you (and I ) can get through the whole virus thing.

First off, I won’t ask you to believe anything in advance. You can be Republican, Democrat, Socialist or Nazi , or believe anything you want politically. The same is true about religion. You can have any faith or no faith. Christian, Buddhist, atheist, Jewish, or whatever. I won’t argue with any of that.

What I want you to believe is what you see, and what you hear, what you feel with your hands, what you smell, and what you have experienced — nothing more than that. The person telling you to believe them, or who you have been taught to believe, can tell you what they want. They have authority if you believe they do. What they don’t have is trust. Trust takes time, and experience. That’s how science works.

Authority can be given once. You can say, “I believe you” the first time, and you can choose to believe the person. If they say, “if you do this, that will happen” and it does, you can begin to trust that what they are saying is true. If they say, “I’m going to do something, and this will happen” and it doesn’t, then you can (and should) believe it’s not true. It’s as simple as that. Over the course of time, people will make mistakes here and there, or do an experiment slightly differently, and what they promise/believe will happen will be wrong. Trust will (and should) take a minor hit. It comes from the whole “people make mistakes” thing. That’s to be expected. No one is perfect. Also, there are small changes or weird glitches that aren’t expected. That happens. If there are enough “small glitches”, the thing they’re trying to prove simply isn’t true. There must be something else that is true. People should then try to prove that.

I don’t mean to sound simple, but all of this is called “learning”. We learn how to ride a bike this way. We learn what hurts and what helps. If we’re not convinced otherwise, this is how we learn who we can trust. This is how we learn what we can trust, and what is true. This is how we learn math and languages and how things work. If we do the math right, the number of eggs added is right when we count, you get the right amount of change at the store. If you use your language right, people understand what you’re trying to say. If your religion is telling the truth, its prophets will be proven true or your God’s promised way of life will make sense and work. This is why people of faith with texts study those texts. Most to the point, this is why education is important. With an education, you can figure your way around in life. With an education you can learn to trust yourself.

Now, you and I can’t learn everything about everything. It’s just not possible, no matter how smart you are. There are things you don’t care about. There are things you don’t have the skills for, even if you wish you did. You can figure this out by trying, over and over. If you can’t, you can’t. Everybody has things they do care about. Everybody has things they are skilled at naturally. This is why everybody is important, and how we learn about all kinds of new things in all kinds of new areas. This is how we all get smarter. We don’t have to have the skills, or do all of the basic work simply because we can rely on others who have done that work.

[All right. Stop there for a second. Go back to the beginning. Others who have done that work have earned the right to be called “Authorities”. While they can be given “authority”, trust still has to be earned. A famous leader once said, “Trust, but verify”. Try out what they say. If what they say doesn’t work, you don’t have to trust it. You never have to trust something that can’t be proven, or anyone who predicts something will happen but doesn’t. ]

Scientists are people who are seriously curious about something. Inventors are people who are almost always curious, and willing to take the risk of seeing what happens. The man who invented the light bulb didn’t view experiments as failures. He saw them as 1,000 (or more) attempts trying to figure out things. He would have been curious anyway. Curiosity was his idea of fun.

Real scientists are educated in really strict ways, and they can’t get a degree or a job if they can’t prove they are right about their ideas. If someone has a doctorate or a bachelor’s degree from a good school, with strict scientific requirements, they know what they are talking about — about the specific thing they studied. A smart foot doctor isn’t necessarily smart about ears, or astrophysics, or God. They are very smart about feet. It doesn’t make them great parents or great leaders or anything else. It makes them good foot doctors. They shouldn’t pretend otherwise.

Ok. If all of that makes sense, and you trust yourself to believe in it, let’s look at the coronavirus:

There’s a virus, or a thing, at least. It is killing people. It seems to be more contagious than other things. As of today, there are 40,000 examples of how it is killing people. There are now 250,000 examples of its being contagious. That should be enough to prove the case.

If you or I don’t want to die or get sick, and we don’t know about how the thing works, we have to listen to people who are curious, know a lot about, and can tell us how to stay safe from, this thing. Those people don’t have political science degrees. They don’t have public speaking or communications degrees. They have degrees in medicine. They have degrees in immunology.

Who in the administration has a degree in those things? Is it the President? Is it a Senator? Is it the press secretary? No. So don’t start there. Start with the surgeon general. Start with Dr. Fauci. Start with Dr. Birx. Those people are the only people who you should listen to. Even then, if they lie or what they say will happen isn’t true, don’t trust them until they get it right.

If a leader can’t or won’t answer a question, if they don’t have experience with the subject, and can’t prove what they are saying, they can’t be believed. If a leader can answer with facts, they should be believed. You may not like what the facts say. They may not like what the facts say. They are still facts. They are true.

If you and I work from those facts, and listen to people who know what they’re talking about, you are more likely to stay alive. It is as simple as that. Then you can figure out what to do from there. You’re alive to do it.

That’s how it all works in science. That’s how you can stay alive and make decisions about anything for the rest of your life. You don’t have to listen to me, or MSNBC or FOX News. You don’t have to listen to politicians. You just need facts, from people that can verify them.

Ok. Stay alive. Stay safe. Make good choices and we will make it through. I promise.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Trust, COVID, And How The Science Thing Works…

For all those who are making the coronavirus a political thing, or a theological thing, because science is too much of a theory, let’s talk about it in another way. Let’s talk about trust and how you should go about decision- making, so you (and I ) can get through the whole virus thing.

First off, I won’t ask you to believe anything in advance. You can be Republican, Democrat, Socialist or Nazi , or believe anything you want politically. The same is true about religion. You can have any faith or no faith. Christian, Buddhist, atheist, Jewish, or whatever. I won’t argue with any of that.

What I want you to believe is what you see, and what you hear, what you feel with your hands, what you smell, and what you have experienced — nothing more than that. The person telling you to believe them, or who you have been taught to believe, can tell you what they want. They have authority if you believe they do. What they don’t have is trust. Trust takes time, and experience. That’s how science works.

Authority can be given once. You can say, “I believe you” the first time, and you can choose to believe the person. If they say, “if you do this, that will happen” and it does, you can begin to trust that what they are saying is true. If they say, “I’m going to do something, and this will happen” and it doesn’t, then you can (and should) believe it’s not true. It’s as simple as that. Over the course of time, people will make mistakes here and there, or do an experiment slightly differently, and what they promise/believe will happen will be wrong. Trust will (and should) take a minor hit. It comes from the whole “people make mistakes” thing. That’s to be expected. No one is perfect. Also, there are small changes or weird glitches that aren’t expected. That happens. If there are enough “small glitches”, the thing they’re trying to prove simply isn’t true. There must be something else that is true. People should then try to prove that.

I don’t mean to sound simple, but all of this is called “learning”. We learn how to ride a bike this way. We learn what hurts and what helps. If we’re not convinced otherwise, this is how we learn who we can trust. This is how we learn what we can trust, and what is true. This is how we learn math and languages and how things work. If we do the math right, the number of eggs added is right when we count, you get the right amount of change at the store. If you use your language right, people understand what you’re trying to say. If your religion is telling the truth, its prophets will be proven true or your God’s promised way of life will make sense and work. This is why people of faith with texts study those texts. Most to the point, this is why education is important. With an education, you can figure your way around in life. With an education you can learn to trust yourself.

Now, you and I can’t learn everything about everything. It’s just not possible, no matter how smart you are. There are things you don’t care about. There are things you don’t have the skills for, even if you wish you did. You can figure this out by trying, over and over. If you can’t, you can’t. Everybody has things they do care about. Everybody has things they are skilled at naturally. This is why everybody is important, and how we learn about all kinds of new things in all kinds of new areas. This is how we all get smarter. We don’t have to have the skills, or do all of the basic work simply because we can rely on others who have done that work.

[All right. Stop there for a second. Go back to the beginning. Others who have done that work have earned the right to be called “Authorities”. While they can be given “authority”, trust still has to be earned. A famous leader once said, “Trust, but verify”. Try out what they say. If what they say doesn’t work, you don’t have to trust it. You never have to trust something that can’t be proven, or anyone who predicts something will happen but doesn’t. ]

Scientists are people who are seriously curious about something. Inventors are people who are almost always curious, and willing to take the risk of seeing what happens. The man who invented the light bulb didn’t view experiments as failures. He saw them as 1,000 (or more) attempts trying to figure out things. He would have been curious anyway. Curiosity was his idea of fun.

Real scientists are educated in really strict ways, and they can’t get a degree or a job if they can’t prove they are right about their ideas. If someone has a doctorate or a bachelor’s degree from a good school, with strict scientific requirements, they know what they are talking about — about the specific thing they studied. A smart foot doctor isn’t necessarily smart about ears, or astrophysics, or God. They are very smart about feet. It doesn’t make them great parents or great leaders or anything else. It makes them good foot doctors. They shouldn’t pretend otherwise.

Ok. If all of that makes sense, and you trust yourself to believe in it, let’s look at the coronavirus:

There’s a virus, or a thing, at least. It is killing people. It seems to be more contagious than other things. As of today, there are 40,000 examples of how it is killing people. There are now 250,000 examples of its being contagious. That should be enough to prove the case.

If you or I don’t want to die or get sick, and we don’t know about how the thing works, we have to listen to people who are curious, know a lot about, and can tell us how to stay safe from, this thing. Those people don’t have political science degrees. They don’t have public speaking or communications degrees. They have degrees in medicine. They have degrees in immunology.

Who in the administration has a degree in those things? Is it the President? Is it a Senator? Is it the press secretary? No. So don’t start there. Start with the surgeon general. Start with Dr. Fauci. Start with Dr. Birx. Those people are the only people who you should listen to. Even then, if they lie or what they say will happen isn’t true, don’t trust them until they get it right.

If a leader can’t or won’t answer a question, if they don’t have experience with the subject, and can’t prove what they are saying, they can’t be believed. If a leader can answer with facts, they should be believed. You may not like what the facts say. They may not like what the facts say. They are still facts. They are true.

If you and I work from those facts, and listen to people who know what they’re talking about, you are more likely to stay alive. It is as simple as that. Then you can figure out what to do from there. You’re alive to do it.

That’s how it all works in science. That’s how you can stay alive and make decisions about anything for the rest of your life. You don’t have to listen to me, or MSNBC or FOX News. You don’t have to listen to politicians. You just need facts, from people that can verify them.

Ok. Stay alive. Stay safe. Make good choices and we will make it through. I promise.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Every Day Can Be Easter!

As someone who struggles with depression, there are days when simply waking up feels like coming out of a tomb. That is Easter.

As someone who believes in, and occasionally fights for, justice, it has been at least 40 years of trying to support people while leaders try to bring them down. In that struggle, people like Joan Baez come along, the Parkland “kids” come along, Moms Against Gun Violence come along, Greta Thunberg comes along, the Chapin Family comes along, and lifts the burden, Those days are Easter.

As someone who tried to figure out where they fit for years, there was, and still is, the Deering community. Every time I see or hear from or hug, a member of that community, it is Easter. Lately, I have added communities: a prayer group on line, CYC people, South Church UCC in New Britain, CT. In each case, when I am there, it is Easter or at least a reminder that Easter exists.

As a therapist, when I meet people who have lived their whole lives under the weight of abuse, who think they’re crazy because life’s catastrophes have happened to them repeatedly, or have come to believe they don’t deserve to live, or that their married life is hopeless, and a light goes on their minds, or a smile comes to their lips, or a laugh comes from their belly, it is Easter. Anytime an addict stops doing the thing that has been killing them, I witness Easter.

As a human being, anytime people do a favor or show they care, or tell the truth to evil people, or they have a plan to fix things, it is Easter. Every time a hungry person gets a meal, a homeless person has a place to be, an abuse victim finds peace, or the lonely find love, it is Easter for them. Helping it happen means witnessing Easter one more time.

Easter requires a rock to be pushed out of the way. This year it feels like there are so many “rocks” between us and life: hatred, violence, oppression, abuse, destruction of any progress made under the last President, and now destruction of so many parts of our foundation as a country. It is easy to find boulders closing us off from living. Anytime one of those things is prevented, it is Easter for someone, maybe for all of us. This year, the Coronavirus is a new, very heavy rock.

I think it was George Carlin who said, “light doesn’t work so well without a “dark” to stick it into. All of our “rocks” are the dark. Resurrection and hope and Jesus are the light. Whenever those things happen, big or small, Easter happens.

When this Coronavirus isn’t the scourge that it is now, and we can go back to seeing each other, it will be Easter yet again. For right now, we have to settle for all those other Easters.

Resisting with Peace,

John

A Religious Revolution in 3 Parts: Palm Sunday

(This is how I experience Palm Sunday in my head. May God be glorified, and may the reader be edified. In short, I hope it helps make sense of Palm Sunday.)

L.

We sat at table on the Sabbath before Passover, enjoying Jerusalem and giving thanks to YHWH for all of his blessings. We had done all our oblations. We had washed our hands. We had said the Shema. We were open to The Lord’s Spirit. Life was good — as good as it can be under Roman occupation. Our taxes were high, but that’s the price of being conquered, I suppose. For roads, cisterns, and the ability (such as it is) to practice our religion, and because their gods seem stronger to them (and maybe some of us for now), we pay our taxes. If only those little greedy tax collectors didn’t add their own fees to everything, life would be almost acceptable. How can they do that to us? Our own people! It’s not right to put your finger on the scale and charge people for more than they get.

Still, it is a good day to soak in the sun, and experience our God, to forget about the soldiers’ march and noise for a day and focus on holiness, remembering mitzvahs that we have done and those done for us. We hear the Torah read by our elders and we remember God’s powerful wrath against those who have oppressed us. YHWH will teach those who hate us a lesson, just as he did when Pharaoh challenged Moses. Some day our land will be ours again!

The city, the beautiful city, shines before us and we do what is required of us. Ours is a good God, a powerful, yet patient God who will establish our dominance once again. We will control the city’s gates, the ones so near our house. Rome will be gone and David’s glory will be restored.

The next day, there is a ruckus by the city gates. There is a man who can’t make up his mind on a donkey and a horse. There are all kinds of people surrounding him, yelling all kinds of things, some seem like chants and some… what a weird mix of people! Don’t they know anything! Men are standing with women. Tax collectors are with them. There are lepers and blind people — all in the same crowd! Clearly these people, who ever they are, don’t know the first thing about purity and our Law! Such noise in our streets! Such chaos!They seem to say Hosanna, but that can’t be right…not with those people.

Our elders have gone out to meet with them. They are talking to the donkey/horse man. There is quiet for a few minutes, then the eruption of “Hosannah!” happens again and this horrible little parade of the unclean continues to move through town. When my parents speak to the elders, they say this: “It’s nothing to worry about. The riff-raff rise up like this from time to time. The Romans will crush them. And about the “hosannas”? They are not like any kind of Jews we have seen before, so they are nothing. They are ungrateful beggars. If the elders had any fears at all, they’d meet. Nothing is scheduled.

II.

This is amazing! This man, this Jesus, can see the future! He tells people that an animal will be somewhere and it is! He commands his people to take it and they do! He is powerful in some kind of way, and yet, I am here, with him. How is that possible?! I, who have been unclean for years, am just a few steps away from this man! He spit on the ground, rubbed the dirt in my eyes, and I could see! Of course I’ll stay with him for as long as he’s alive. Next to me is a woman who used to have demons in her! We don’t really talk, but she isn’t leaving him either, so I guess we’re going to be together for a while. I wonder what that will be like. People are sharing bread and figs with us, bringing us water. This is the best we’ve eaten in a long time.

I’ve been with him for a while now, and we’ve never been hungry, but this? This is a feast! I wonder how long this can go on.

Oh, no! We must have upset somebody. Some local rabbi has come out to talk to Jesus. There is tense silence in the crowd, and Jesus says the rocks will sing if we can’t. The priest mutters something, shakes his head, and walks off. Jesus told off the priest, and won! Wow! He is powerful! “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”, we shout. This man who cares for each of us in his own way — the one who tells off priests and gets away with it?Wait ‘til Rome gets a load of him!

III.

Abba? Daddy? Pops? Are you sure this is what you want? Ok. I guess we’ll go that a way. Guys? Guys? Hey, pretty soon, we’re going to need a donkey and a foal. There’s a guy over in town. When you see him, tell him I need it. He’ll give it you. No seriously, I’m telling you, he will. Just tell him it’s for me. Thanks.

Yes, here’s some bread. Of course I want to heal you. Come here! How’s that? See! I told you! Give glory to God. That’s all the thanks I need. We’re good. Hey, who touched me? Huh? Oh, you! You’re healed too. Ok. Same thing, just give glory to God. Come on! We’re going to see The Big Boys!

Hey, guys! Over here! How do you think this is gonna work? (The disciples put a board between the two animals. Jesus falls off and laughs. They try again and are successful.) Guys! I could get used to this! (He continues to laugh. People are throwing clothes on the road as if to say, “Your majesty…”. People are ripping down palm branches and waving them. Jesus thinks about it and says aloud), “Dad! Maybe, finally, they get it?! Maybe? People are saying , “Hosanna!”. Dang, this might actually work!

Uh, oh. Here comes the first test, a local leader, in his fanciest outfit, stops the parade. He comes up to me, and says, “You’re going to have to shut this thing down! They’re talking like you are somebody. Clearly you’re not, or you wouldn’t even be talking to these people. The Holy One kills blasphemers, you know!” Yup. I know. I’ve seen it, but I think we have different ideas of who is a blasphemer… The guy yells now, “Are you threatening me, young man?!”. Nope. Just stating facts, Mr. Rabbi, sir… and speaking of facts, we mean you no harm, but I gotta tells ya, it’s not gonna happen that they shut up. Dad says to tell you that if they did, the rocks and stones themselves would shout and sing. So, no, I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

(The rabbi mutters and returns to his home. As he does, the crowd begins to chant “Hossana! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!)

Dad, pops, Abba…. I hope you know what you’re doing. Yes, of course you do. I know, but that guy seemed really upset, and we just got into town. We haven’t even talked to the Romans yet! Yes, yes, I trust you… I hope they understand.

Resisting in Peace,

John

RAGE

It’s Palm Sunday and I’m reading the news, and I am enraged. I am not thinking about the Jesus revolution as much as the French Revolution.

I read someone on Twitter that said “I feel like it’s time to storm the Bastille”. I agreed gutterally then, I am beginning to think that way now.

Here’s why:

Donald J. Trump, however he got there, has always vacillated between seemingly incompetent and actively evil.

Now, during the largest health crisis America has ever seen (for once, his superlatives actually fit) he is actively weakening America.

Yes, he is going to make sure that hundreds of thousands of people are going to die. Let that alone sink in.

Let me count the ways that we know of :

He was warned about a pandemic at least 3 times. He destroyed our country’s ability to deal with one by firing/closing the task force that would have dealt with it.
1) He knew about the reality of the virus 3 months ago and he told the American people that there was nothing to see, that they had nothing to fear. His lies —just those! — will cost thousands of lives.
2) He knew that testing was the first priority during the crisis, so that we could have some idea of what we were dealing with. He did not secure test kits so that that could happen. This means more time, and thus, many more thousands of lives lost.
3) He knew that protective gear was going to be necessary to treat the virus. He did not secure that either. The deaths of doctors and nurses is on him for this.
4) He has not arranged for ventilators to help the sick fight off the virus, when he has the power to do so. The deaths of patients is on him for this.

What seems to be his incompetence has prevented preparation for the crisis, knowledge of how to cope with the virus, and our ability to practically deal with the crisis. He is responsible for all of the deaths related to this virus. He didn’t try to prevent this crisis. He didn’t allow people to plan for this crisis, and — after tying our hands behind our backs, didn’t give us the tools needed to deal with it the best way we knew how.

Now, it turns out, he couldn’t leave well enough alone.

1) Today, Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida and an absolute loyalist of Trump boasted that he had tested 109,000 people in the state of Florida. DeSantis didn’t believe there was a need for tests, but he got them! States which have actively asked for them — and run by Democrats— did not get them.
2) Today, we learned that a Republican that he supports, Kelly Koeffler, not only made money on the crisis by selling off soon-to-be impacted stocks, she actually made money by investing in the protective equipment needed to save first responders lives. Of course, in the standard practice of these companies in capitalism-run-amok, is price gouging, so they (and she) are making more money off of people’s misery.
3) Yesterday we learned that the military hospital ship that was promised to New York City has arrived, but has twenty patients on it.
Two days before this, the President’s son-in-law told America that the nation’s stockpile of masks isn’t to be given to the states because it’s “ours” (the federal government’s).
4) Yesterday, a reporter helped to clarify that the government —instead of giving equipment directly to states/purchasers — sells them to private industry, and lets them be bid on. Further, they bid against states to raise the price higher!
5) In at least Massachusetts, supplies that were purchased by the state were taken by the federal government and given to others (see above, Florida).

THAT’S JUST THIS CRISIS! Here, Trump is destroying the people of America.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

While this is all happening, Attorney General William Barr, to support Trump’s worldview, is destroying the idea of America by trying to roll back Constitutionally guaranteed rights in cases of “emergency”.

In addition to this, the Wisconsin Republican Party has decided that, in order for people to vote in the Democratic primary, they have to risk their lives! They have blocked an extension of mail in voting, and have made only in person voting possible. In other words, if you want to vote for a Democratic candidate, you have to risk catching the virus. Voting is the most central part of democracy! A hobbled Democratic Party in a swing state of the national vote for President is abhorrent to democracy.

Trump fired the whistleblower who started the process of telling the truth that led to his impeachment: another corrupt shot-across-the-bow of democracy.

3) Trump fired a commander of a ship who saved lives by telling the truth, decreasing morale in the military yet again.

4) Trump undercut a bi-partisan support package for citizens designed to help them save themselves economically — twice now— once at the signing with note responding to the bill’s passage, and once again with the labor department yesterday.

5) Trump continues to attack the press daily, despite the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of the press

In conclusion: The official leader of our country is responsible for the deaths of thousands of American citizens. The person who took an oath to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” has, by direct action and through his subordinates, damaged the very democracy he was entrusted with. I implore any legally elected member of the government or member of the federal judiciary to remove this man. Further, we need to remove William Barr and undo all of his corrupt policies regarding the Justice Department implemented at the behest of this corrupt president.

Resisting with Peace,

John

A Redemptive Theology Of The Pandemic

“When the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” — Mark 15:39

I was recently at a conference on Veterans’ mental health, when I remembered some post-Vietnam theology that said, “Soldiers die for our sins”. In its stark words, we can see the beginning of a redemption of sorts. Just as Jesus died on the cross – for no reason and without blame, –carrying the sins of society — soldiers offered us the same chance for redemption if only we take it. If we take the suffering that didn’t have to happen — because of our sin — and make sure it doesn’t happen again, we can redeem that suffering and somehow make it holy.

The ancient Greeks saw time in two ways, “Chronos” — the time on a clock or hourglass, and  Kairos – time as it is felt. The moment you meet the love of your life, hours that pass as minutes, or a minute waiting for a test result that feels like an hour – these are all Kairos moments. It is at times like this we pay attention. The pandemic presents its starkness as “reality, only more so” – It is a Kairos moment in that way. The pandemic we’re living through has brought moral and physical reality to the fore, and we are paying attention. While we are paying attention is a teachable moment, and since we all have more time to think than we know what to do with, this is a time to learn.

So, this COVID-19 era calls us to reflect. How did we get here, to this place where between 100,000 and 250,000 people will die? For years and years now, we have been taking care of “the little people” less and less, so the population of people that society doesn’t even see grows larger and larger. This morning’s news featured a “homeless shelter” on the sidewalks of Las Vegas, with CDC guidelines of 6 feet between each sleeping bag laid out on the sidewalk. It’s not bad enough that they were homeless, which they have been for years. Even the shelter they had was taken away from them. They are thousands of miles away from where I am writing this, so I don’t know who they are personally, but they are somebody’s child in whatever stage of “grown-up” they have managed. They were our responsibility before. Now, they are more so.  How many of them will die because we didn’t care about them? Will they die because they have sinned? Perhaps their immune systems are compromised because they have lived a rough life, but they are also compromised because they didn’t have a place to live. Studies have shown that the stress of being homeless itself causes mental difficulties that weren’t previously there. In any case, the virus isn’t selective in killing, and God isn’t selective in loving.

            If we make it through this pandemic, (and clearly, we all won’t), then, in order to redeem our country, we must try to understand and fix what made us not care for them in the first place. Furthermore, we must fix the way we didn’t care for them, so that we never dispose of a life unnecessarily again.

            The same thing is true of the elderly and the poor. Someone on Twitter pointed out that March 1 – March 3 is the time of the month when WIC and welfare checks come out. The elderly already go into the store at an earlier hour to avoid contact with others. From the 1st to the 3rd of every month, there will be a lot of people who need to buy for their families and will have the means to do it. Social distancing could easily be dismissed by crowds of people who need food for their children and families. They, too, will be more at risk for catching the virus. God cares about them, as well. Meanwhile, the government had been threatening to take food stamps away from them. More poor, more hungry means more crowded stores means more illness gets spread. Perhaps we should have been supporting the poor instead of taking from them. Perhaps we should be taking money who have unimaginable amounts of it, instead of giving them more than they know what to do with. If a handful of people own more wealth than the other 90%, made their “mad rush” to get food, they will always get fed, probably with no effects Perhaps we should do things differently now that we know what caused this problem.

Moving to the more straightforward medical issues caused by the virus, we can see, writ large, failures as a society. The military budget has never had a problem getting enough, because that’s where our priorities lie. Ditto, corporate budgets. Our science budgets – the need for a pandemic team at the CDC, for example – was destroyed, so that corporations could have tax cuts. Within the field of healthcare itself, owners and corporate profiteering has led to fewer beds, and fewer rural hospitals which could have been used now.

Even now, doctors and hospitals are fighting over supplies because, in our capitalistic society, demand for an item creates its price. High demand leads to price gouging. Price gouging and haggling over items leads to more deaths that don’t have to happen. In cheerier times, people see corporate raiders as a sort of hero. Times like this prove otherwise.

Finally, truth has been under fire for some time, especially during the Trump era, but well before that as well. One of the reasons that we are in this mess in the first place – one of the reasons many people will die that didn’t have to – is that our leaders and some in media didn’t tell the truth about what they knew. No knowledge meant to no preparation. Political propaganda put out as facts led to thousands of beach goers and people across the country getting sick and ultimately dying of the virus. Truth, however, will not be ignored. It has its own way of getting our attention. The virus is nothing if not truth and harsh reality.

In order to redeem the soul of our country and our selves, we must consider the innocents that didn’t have to die as the full human beings that they were, we must say to their memories, “these, truly, were children of God”, even as we come to terms with what is happening in front of us. We must grieve, we must review what we lost, and we must redeem it for future generations. If we do this, God’s redemptive power can happen and we can save ourselves. If not, things will only continue to get worse. These are our choices in this Kairos moment. Let us choose for God and redemption.

Resisting in peace,

John