Salvation Is Messy — For Joe Biden, Kamala Harris & Us

I was writing a prayer for Martin Luther King tonight and it all came down to this: Salvation is messy. It takes work to go through muck and create something with utility. Whatever else people can say about Biden & Harris, I never want to hear anyone say they didn’t work hard enough.

In order to bring us across the finish line to Martin Luther King’s “Beloved Community” and finish our country’s revolution, we need to save ourselves. In order to save ourselves, we have to go from pre-contemplation to contemplation to action, and that’s just the start. Somehow, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have to convince us that we need saving. As excited as people are to raid the Capitol, and worship Donald Trump, Biden/Harris need to turn that energy in the right direction. They need to convince those cultists that a just society for everyone — including them— is possible. They need to convince people who love power, anger, and violence that they don’t need those things to calm their fears. They need to tell they can cope with reality fine, even if everybody’s included.

There will be some who cannot save themselves from their addiction to primal instinct. We will lose some human beings in the wreckage of that turnaround. It is inevitable, because addiction is hard to fight, and because propaganda is a deep hole. As a friend of mine says, “If you walk ten miles into the woods, you have to walk ten miles back”.

It took us a long time to get here — I would say since the “Reagan Revolution” and “trickle down/voodoo economics”. It’s going to take us a long time to live into the Beloved Community. In our consumer society, we are not a patient people. Part of the reason 400,000 people are dead is because they couldn’t wait long enough for the virus to get under control. Granted, Trump encouraged that belief, but he pushed us over a ledge we were already headed to. In reality TV, a “problem” like “I’m not super rich” can be solved in an hour. In reality living, it takes a lot longer.

So, Biden and Harris’ task is to convince people that we all live together, on the same planet, and —if we want to live at all, we’ve got to get on board with reality. If people don’t want to acknowledge reality, they will die, and they will take everyone else with them. We may be forced to cut them loose to save the Republic.

They will have to prove, with steadfastness, that stability works, even if it’s boring; that a reasonable salary for everyone is better than wealth beyond imagining for a few; that truth can be spoken and old wounds healed; and that people need to have basics before frivolity and fun can be a national pastime, By “basics”, I mean “life” for most (health care, food, and place to live, a planet not about to explode or drown in its own excess) before “liberty” and “the pursuit of happiness” can happen for a few.

In doing that, oddly, they will discover that sharing, caring for each other, and working for the good of others is happiness all by itself. As we reclaim our soul as a nation, we will become grateful In ways we never could have imagined. Life will have meaning again, rather than idols like money or violence and military might.

Let’s start by defining all of the challenges the Biden/Harris team faces:

1) Getting a pandemic under control.

2) Getting our debt under control.

3) Define justice once again, and stick to it.

4) Rebuild our roads and bridges

5) Get the environment clean enough to prevent global warming.

Then there’s dealing with student debt and getting everyone healthcare. Oh, yeah, those…. and they will have to do it all while people sling mud at them politically, or in media, or just in bad jokes around the water cooler. Did I mention that it will be messy getting from where we to where we want to be?

This is a gargantuan task. Did I mention salvation being hard work? Joe is willing to put his aging body to the grindstone and Harris will learn about all the things she doesn’t know she doesn’t know. I assure you, with their histories of being poor and outcast, they know the value of work and the importance of doing it.

So, liberal, Far Left, conservative, or Far Right, I don’t want to hear bellyaching or whining “It’s too much, it’s too fast, it’s too slow, it’s too …. whatever”. Cut them some slack. Listen for a while, then respond. Forget all the epithets for people you’ve never met before or seen in action. Try it for a while. Let them build some success before you finesse their programs. At the worst, we’ll survive and be closer to King’s “Dream”. At the best, we’ll have a country that works again, that lights the way for democracies around the world — not because we told them what to do, but because we got it right, and they can see it.

Resisting with Peace,

John

On Patriotism…

Over the next few weeks, and then months, you’re going to hear a lot about patriotism. I want to weigh in before all of the chaos deepens.

As a Christian, I have trouble with allegiance to a land or to a culture. My allegiance is, and should always be, to God. If I have to choose between my country and my God, my God has to come first. That said, I’d prefer not to have to choose. I want my country to have the same values as my God, to the extent that that’s possible.

What values are those? Compassion, care, love for creation, seeking to know each other rather than hate each other, valuing life and making sure to “do unto others as I’d have them do unto me”. While the Biblical God did engage in wars and manifest destiny and crushing empires, the Christian belief that Jesus is the best example of what God looks like in human form means that if Jesus did it, we should. If Jesus didn’t, we shouldn’t.

  • But that’s just me. In saying my piece about my religion, I’m not saying anything about non-Christians. I’m neither speaking for nor against other people. My denomination is at the root of democracy – We were the Pilgrims and Puritans way back. That means we believe in one person, one vote.

Okay, back to patriotism. Since I do live here, and do believe in democracy, American patriotism must have some standards. There must be a way to know if we’re being patriots. What do we say makes us patriots? Oaths. I looked at the President’s Oath of Office, the oath that Senators take, the oath that Representatives take, and the oaths that new citizens take.

Presidential Oath of Office:1 https://www.usa.gov/inauguration

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Congressional Oath of Office 2 https://www.usa.gov/inauguration

Senators, Representatives, and other federal employees: 

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

Citizenship Oath

In order to become a U.S. citizen, you have to say this:3 https://www.uscis.gov/citizenship/learn-about-citizenship/the-naturalization-interview-and-test/naturalization-oath-of-allegiance-to-the-united-states-of-america

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

  1. First thing to notice, the President doesn’t officially say, “under God”. That’s a tradition, but it’s not required. Why is that? I would suspect that it’s because the President’s vision of God shouldn’t be enforceable as the vision of God. The President isn’t God, doesn’t have to know God, and should never claim to do so. In America, we want everyone’s voice to be heard. Many people who claim to not be my religion or any religion know how to be kind, know how to be fair, know how to be compassionate. Do I understand how? No, but it’s true.

Beside that, (again, my opinion) God is a mystery, and unknowable being. God is bigger that us, and knows and understands things in ways that we can’t.

2)Next thing to notice: Everyone on this list takes an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” By definition, then, that must be the definition of patriotism.

  • The third thing I noticed is that the lower you are on the totem pole, the more work you say you have to do.

The President doesn’t have to protect the country from “all enemies, foreign and domestic”. Everyone else does. The Congress doesn’t have to perform noncombatant service or do work of national importance. New Citizens do.  Finally, nobody but new citizens have to “absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen”

In thinking about this, there are tow ways to read it: People not in office have the most work to do to make this a democracy. We make the democracy, the President and Congress do the democracy. We provide the raw materials of our values, needs, and voices. They try to make something of it.

Another way to look at it is to say it’s assumed that the President will defend the country from its enemies. It’s assumed that Congress will perform service to the nation. That’s their job.

In any case,  the country is made up of more of us “regular citizens” than it is of politicians. If their going to do their job as officials, we have to do ours as citizens.

  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, people who are just born here, and are therefore citizens, don’t have to say any of these things.

What that means is that your average Joe or Mary doesn’t have to make a conscious choice about things in America. They don’t have to say what they’re faithful to, or what it means to be an American, or anything. They can go through life never thinking about democracy but getting it’s benefits anyway.

There is the problem. For years, there have been anecdotes of people reading the Constitution and thinking “ it’s some kind of socialist document. It’s not ours”. When America went to war in Iraq, Jay Leno said, “Maybe we can give them our Constitution. We’re not using it.

The point here is that your average citizen may never have thought about what it means to be a citizen, a patriot, in democracy. Those people might never know what they’re talking about. You can’t make good choices if you’re not making conscious choices. You can’t make conscious choices if you don’t know what the Constitution says.

So, in order to be a patriot, it seems, you have to

  1. know what the Constitution says.
  2. preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”.
  3. I would add, you have to “protect it from all enemies, foreign and domestic” in whatever ways you understand that.

In the coming weeks, you will hear people  — many of whom don’t know what the Constitution says – tell you they are patriots. They can’t be. They can’t defend what they don’t know.

In the coming weeks, you will see people who have read the Constitution, argue about what it means to be a patriot. If their idea of what that means doesn’t preserve, protect, or defend the Constitution”, they are not patriots. If their ideas of what that means does attempt to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, they are patriots. It doesn’t mean they got it right. They are still human after all. Still, if it’s clear they were trying to do those things, their trying makes them patriots.

In the coming weeks, you will see people take actions which either protect America from its enemies, foreign or domestic or don’t. If their actions destroy America or democracy, they are not patriots.  If their actions violate the Constitution, they are not patriots. If they support democracy and build a stronger union, they are patriots.

You will note that I never said anything about Republican or Democrat, Red or Blue. There will be people in both of those groups who will be patriots. There will be people in both of those groups who are not patriots at different times. As of this time, I don’t know of an antidemocracy (or unpatriotic) Democrat.

As a Christian, I don’t think that violence, lies, hateful actions are ever helpful. I don’t think you can be a patriot if you don’t know facts. Using your voice is your duty as a citizen. Propagation of lies isn’t.

For the future:

Every American need to have civics lessons in schools. Every American needs to have critical thinking skills and knowledge about things that are important to them.

Every elected leader needs to put that knowledge to good use, benefitting the country, not themselves, and creating a stronger union rather than “playing politics”. Politics is not something to play with or trivialize. It’s a part of our lives – all of our lives.

Resisting in Peace,

John

People Thought We Were Kidding…

Let’s start from the beginning. “Fascist” is not a word I use lightly. “Racist” is not a term I use lightly. “Psychopath” and “Narcissist” are not words I use flippantly. If I (or any of my friends) use them, we mean them. If I use them here, I mean every one of them.

For at least four years, we have seen a leader of our country who hates more and more of the people oft his country. He is a liar. He is a cheat. He is a racist. By that, I mean he is a White Supremacist. He, and members of his staff, believe that America is a White, Christian, male-run country. He will tell you he likes White people. What he “forgets” to mention is that he hates everyone who is not.

As a White, Christian, male myself, I can tell you there is a problem with this logic. Among the pilgrims, probably 1/2 of them were women. Non-Christian people already lived here. Beside that, it’s hard to have an all-white nation when you bring Black people to the country, even if it’s in the bottom of a ship, wearing chains.

My point here is that America as a White Christian male nation has a built-in lie that can only be kept in place by force — Men and women believing men were more important than women, Englishmen believing they were more important to God than the natives who were here, killing them to “prove” it, and White men forcing Africans into slavery.

Beside that, there is some confusion about Christianity. Jesus saw women as equal and never forced them to do anything. Jesus never killed or enslaved anyone. So the “Christianity” that was proclaimed on our shores has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus. In short, we started with two lies, and kept them in place by force. The problem is compounded by the fact that we, and our ancestors, thought that was normal.

So, what Donald Trump believes in is a bunch of lies… on steroids! It is not Christian, even if nice believers in Christ thought that kind of Christianity was the Truth. Also, there are good things that White Christians in Europe produced … democracy and the Magna Carta, for instance.

So, the “America” that Trump wants is all of those bad things that White Supremacy brings, but none of the good things. Trump, because of psychological conditions he has, can’t and won’t, believe in democracy. Democracy is based in the will of the people. Trump is psychotic (not seeing living in reality) narcissist. In his brain, he is the only one that matters, and he, and he alone, is always right. It doesn’t matter what the question is, or who he’s talking to, he believes that only he matters, and that he is always right. That kind of, in his mind, makes him God. He is definitely not God. On a good day, he can compromise from that and be king. Under stress, he goes to the “I’m God” idea, and — as God — he gets what he wants and force is justified.

Narcissists are incredibly good liars, and salesman. You know how most people get antsy when they lie? It’s because we know we’re lying. Narcissists don’t know, or care, that they are lying. They believe what they are saying to be true because they want it to be. They are convincing salesmen and always seem to be telling the truth.

That makes him seem to be a good, loving person if you believe him, and a really, really nasty bully if you question him. Anything that comes from this person is bound to fail, and be nasty when it does. If you follow him, or get sucked into his orbit, YOU are bound to fail, and be really nasty when you do.

So, we have a guy who thinks he’s never wrong and gets angry if you say otherwise as our President. For example, masks don’t stop COVID because he doesn’t like them. 300,000 dead can tell you that masks do. Even if he gets the virus, it can’t stop him because, in his mind. he’s indestructible, even if you aren’t. Science doesn’t apply to him because he can’t understand it, and he gets really mad if you point it out. Never mind that science does apply to you.

Narcissism and White Supremacy ==> “Fascist”. Trump is a fascist. He just is. He can’t be anything else.

If you believe in what he believes in, you are a fascist, or at least a White racist and a bully. You have choices, unless you also are a narcissist. Trump doesn’t have that choice.

All of this brings us to today. He is lying about losing the election. He is really lying about the election being stolen. It never was stolen — ever. It’s easy to believe he’s telling the truth, because he believes it’s the truth. It’s not the truth, and never was. All of the little fascists followers of his will ultimately get in trouble but he “won’t”. In his mind, he can’t, so he won’t. And it doesn’t matter to him if you do.

You both deserve to be in trouble, but he doesn’t believe that and never will, He can only be stopped. He will never feel guilty, so he will never believe he should be in trouble.

So, why did liberals and people from other countries see this and conservatives not? Fascist are conservatives on steroids. Liberals on steroids are Communists (not Socialists, by the way — actual communists only) Europe has seen a psychotic fascist: His name was Hitler. We really haven’t, though Nixon might have been close, sort of.

Non-Whites see racism, women see sexism, because they are generally the actual victims of such things. Trump will tell you he’s the victim. He’s not. He hurts people and doesn’t know it, or doesn’t care. People pick on him because not because they’re jerks, but because he is.

So, here are more lies that Trump believes, and a lot of White Americans do as well, because they don’t know any better:

1) Non-Whites are always violent. They commit crimes. They must be prevented from committing crimes.

2) Women are inferior to men because they don’t have penises. They can’t be trusted around people that do. They must be kept under control.

3) Liberals are a problem because they think people should share even if they didn’t do anything to earn their keep. Liberals are mooches. The person who does the deed, did it all by themselves, with no help from others. They are the only one who deserves anything. They have to be prevented from taking what’s not theirs.

4) Non-Christians are demonic because they don’t know Jesus and can’t be saved from sin. They can’t be trusted to stay out of hell.

How do I know this? At the storming of The Capitol building, out of all the faces in the crowd, none were Black, so police didn’t try to keep them down. No one in the crowd claimed to be a “feminazi” or a liberal. Only (White) Christians had flags featuring their religion.

What will FOX news say? What will Trump say, and believe? Those people were good Americans. They can be trusted. Why? Because they Are White, mostly make, Christians. They can’t make trouble. Violence can only be caused by Blacks or non-Whites, because of liberals, who are really “antifa” or “socialists” who are really “communists”, or people who have “the gay agenda” or women who want to be men, or “demonic” Muslims, or secretly evil Buddhists . It’s “obvious”, except for not being based in facts. Breaking into a building is violence, attacking the press or people in the government is violence. Attacking people you don’t know is prejudiced.

We all have choices to make. Get to know and like people or fear and hate them, Think you’re great because of what you were born like or be great because of the way you act. Trump has made his choice. People at the Capitol made their choice, led by him. We can be better or we can be worse than others. The choice is yours. Don’t blame me for it. I can do that all by myself.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Next Year In Deering

As many of you know, I still like comic books, or comic book movies, anyway. I was watching Thor: Ragnarock the other day and one of the best lines in the movie is this: “Asgard (the Norse version of heaven) is not a place. It never was. Asgard is not a place. It’s a people. That is how Deering is, and how apparent that has become this year.

There’s an old Jewish saying that I’ve become particularly fond of in the year 2020: “Next year in Jerusalem “. It’s something that people said before there was an Israel to go home to, I think. And so it is with Deering. Even if there is no Deering to go home to, there is a Deering to go home with. That is all of you. I don’t know that I have ever felt closer to a group of people in my life than I did this year. From whenever we got together at Gary Ciocci’s house until this very moment, it has been great to be with you all, even in the middle of a horrible, sucky, no good year.

Nancy Sweeney has been gracious enough to host Zoom meetings that we could all attend. Weekly, some combination of Julian McCracken, Boop , David and Kyle Hauser from Florida, Heather Bordeaux, Patty Kennedy and her husband from the Carolinas, Jean and Ruth Copelin, Judy Bragg, Kathryn Daniels, Em Ross, Paula Richards, Craig Cadieux, Rebecca Krause, and the list went on.

Music on line was great: Patty playing sweaty guitar in the summer, Charlie Russell playing gigs in Newburyport, and discussions with Mike Gatchell about albums mid year. Lindsey Sherman played flute, I think, and I coveted Gary’s PRS guitar and Charlie Hartman’s bass.

And through it all, there was the Shermans — Terry quite often, Claudia and family in Texas, Read and Stephan in Canada, and — of course — Oh, Cy. For Cy’s birthday this year, we pitched together and got her a laptop so that she could make the weekly meetings. That was incredible! All those who put it together — from idea to picking the computer out to picking it up to setting up. it was Deering extraodinaire!

I know that I have missed somebody, perhaps a lot of somebodies, in this recap. Because it’s after midnight by now, I’m going to stop writing now. But with all the crap in the world, Deering has filled my heart, even if we couldn’t all be in the same room this year.

I remember years ago, when camp still existed, Gino Kelly yelling “Hug time!” and all of the wonderful human contact that went with it. So, in 2021, I want to see as many of you as I can, for Hug Time! I hope we can get together in some form or another in person …. Next year, in Deering. wherever that is.

Peace and love to you all!

John