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

What Still Irritates Me About 2020

I’m trying to stop being angry, so I can enjoy Christmas and bask in all its holy joy. Yet, still, two days before the big day, I’m still cranky/sad/angry/overwhelmed. With that said, I want to get these things off of my chest and out into the universe. If you find them to be a bummer, don’t feel the need to read more. If you find comfort in knowing someone else has these feelings, I’m your man and this is your article.

#1, COVID. I’m sad because 2020 is the most lethal year ever for Americans. I’m angry because it didn’t have to be this way. We had a plan for how to deal with a pandemic. Trump threw it out. That’s on him. We only had so much patience for such a catastrophe, having not had anything like it for 100 years. What did we do with the time we had, before Round 2 came on? We wasted it! We wasted it with lies, and name calling, and bullying and straight out B.S!

Some people held political rallies, motorcycle gatherings, some “fought for their freedom” to kill others. The Narcissist in Charge held rallies, denied the existence of the virus, encouraged others to not wear masks, and — even when people knew he lied! — they went to see him! What the actual f… we’re they thinking?!?!

So what did that do to us? Did they get sick or not? Did they die? It doesn’t matter!!! What they did was was waste time… time where we could have stockpiled PPE, time where medical people could have rested, time when you and I could have had an economy. Yes, those who went did these things! They — not the cautious, or liberal or the believer in science — did this! They destroyed or economy! The virus killed people who didn’t ask for it. That’s the nature of a virus. But now, our whole f….ing health care system is broken, doctors and nurses have lost their energy to fight, and we keep shipping more and more people to them, to burden them even more! That is on the people who knew what they were doing and didn’t care! I want them to feel the full weight of their choices! I want them to feel guilty! I want them to feel regret… for the rest of their miserable lives! And I want to not be this angry all the time about it. Because anger is a secondary emotion, after hurt, I’m finally getting to the sadness I’ve felt about it. Damn, that’s a lot of sadness…..

#2 Is it too much to ask that Donald Trump just shut up! I’m so sick of hearing the irritating thing, the criminal thing, the challenging thing, the immoral thing, or the just plain stupid things he says every single day. Assuming we survive to see Joe Biden and Kamala Harris inaugurated, (and, yes, that’s still a orry of mine), I never want to hear that man or his family, or his sycophants, or anyone else to speak for him. I want my government to be boring for a while. I want to not think about politics for days, even weeks, at a time. I never want to worry like this again. Four plus years is enough terror for me..

#3, Sin. I’m really “sin-sick and sorrow worn” this year. I’m sick of being lied to. I’m sick of arguing with people that don’t have me or others in mind when they live their lives. I’m sick of half-truths and I’m sick of trying to decode what this person or that person really means. I’m sick of people saying hate isn’t hate. I’m sick of people yelling at me that they know Jesus, when Jesus wouldn’t recognize them on the street as followers of His. Lie? Cheat? Steal? People do them, and always have. They didn’t brag about it. Now, they’re mad if you don’t. Is it because they don’t know Jesus or have ever read his words? I’m not talking about salvation here. I’m talking about acting like Jesus, or Mohammed, or Buddha or any number of religious people lived. Salvation is great and all, but that’s “gravy” that Christians get. Caring, compassion, love, empathy… these are the things we should be aiming for in this life, here and now. In any case, I would like Jesus to be heard, so the planet and life in general can aim in the direction of those things.

#4, Children in cages. Families separated when they ask for help — and the effects of #1, #2, and #3 above on them. This should never have happened are should never happen again. The fact that I have to even say this makes me cry.

#5. Income inequality. Some of it is bound to happen. Maybe some people are worth more to society because of what they do. Ok, I’ll give you that. But, after a certain point — a point we reached years ago — its just absurd. If you have ever experienced the stress of not paying your bills — and therefore not eating, or having a roof over your heads, or being able to meet your children’s, or family’s, needs. You know how hard that is. It’s excruciating to know about or watch when people in the top 1% or 1/2 of 1% could feed a whole city for a year with their income … and won’t,

This world could be so much better if we just tried to do the right thing. I’m actually out of words right now because we are so very far off of where we should be. Some of us remember kindness as a norm. There are whole generations that don’t. I want to leave all of this behind in 2021.

It occurs to me as write all of this, that Jesus said a version of this… “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!”

It’s that seventh verse that is what I mean. Things are going to happen in life. Could we just not be people that make things worse for each other intentionally? That’s all I’m asking…

Resisting in Peace,

John

New Rules For The Press

America is at war with itself because America is at war with the truth. As members of the press, your job, as I understand it, is to report the truth. Your integrity only grows stronger when you report the truth. It grows weaker when you report lies. Because a growing number of Americans have a problem with truth doesn’t mean your objective has changed. The way you do it must change though.

The first thing to acknowledge is that The Press is not A Thing, and it certainly isn’t monolithic. It is individuals doing a task and the task is getting at the truth of the life we live. There are number of reasons I point this out.

1) When President Trump said, “The media is the enemy of the people”, he didn’t mean FOX news. They were telling his narrative. He understood that “all media” didn’t exist. The ellipsis that was unstated was … “that disagrees with me”. Telling the truth, in this case, means challenging the ellipsis by calling it out.

2) When someone in media says “Media outlets are saying…” unless they are talking about you, they are lying. If they are lying, your reputation gets tarnished, and the integrity of all media is diminished. In psychology ethics, we are required to respond to lies told about us — good or bad. I believe you should do the same.

3) In the same way, when a politician says “Politicians are evil”, there’s nonsense involved in the question. This needs to be called out.

I began feeling better about the press when individual reporters began standing up for themselves, and breaking the fourth wall. When an Asian-American reporter asked, after Trump seemed to make an anti-Asian connection to COVID, “Why did you say that, Mr. President?” A light dawned. She was not just recording what he said, she was asking an open question. She was challenging him about his motives. She wasn’t accepting his truth as the “the truth”. She changed the rules of the game.

In the old days, truth was not a game. When politicians make it a game, you as individuals determine the rules of engagement. Until there is a truth again, you must choose what the game is. The idea, hopefully, is to corral truth and put a fence around lies.

There is a saying that “Sometimes, the only way to win is to not play”. This idea is tantamount when truth is a game. So another idea of how to work is this. If a politician is saying something you know is not true, you don’t need to publish it, air it or let it onto the internet at all. In the past, the rule was cover it, tell why it’s not true, and let it go. But why put the truth and your integrity in a hole in the first place? The liar will stop lying when it doesn’t get them anywhere at all. The lie can’t be put back once it’s out in the atmosphere, so please don’t put it out there. Note how much things changed when major networks, including FOX, cut away from the press secretary. That’s the point, so we can get back to a world of agreed upon truth.

Resisting with Peace,

John

STOP! Don’t Go!

I have to get this off my chest…

To people holding, attending, and covering Donald Trump’s rallies as the campaign wears down: It’s excruciating to watch a massive murder/suicide pact take place. Yes, you may say that not everyone at a massive rally will get sick, and — of that, fewer will die — but, as a therapist and a human being, I don’t know which of the people will get sick, and my head spins at the thought of worrying about tens of thousands of people’s physical and mental health.

JUST STOP IT! Why, on earth would anyone attend a rally with thousands of people, packed in like sardines, not wearing masks, and yelling. It’s like the anti-CDC guidelines are being followed. You know that. In some cases, that’s the point! No politician, no science, no authority is going to tell you what to do! Scream it away, with people who are as sick mentally as you are. You will lose this argument — not with politicians, or science, or authorities, or even with me. You will lose the argument with a virus. You will lose the argument with your illness. Some of you will lose the argument with death itself.

Folks, we are in the middle of two of the most major crises in our history — the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential loss of everything a democracy holds dear. People who attend these rallies contribute to the deaths in both cases.

Let’s say, for the sake of the argument, something you can’t even entertain as a thought: Donald Trump wants to kill America. What better strategy could a person come up with that 1) having people participate at mass super-spreader events in the middle of a pandemic and 2) making it unsafe to vote in places where he might be losing the his bid to become an elected dictator.

Campaigning two weeks before an election means the places he campaigned will become show symptoms two weeks later — on or near the election day itself. Because the virus doesn’t just stay in the place where you met, it goes with you, back to your community, the time of the election becomes the most hazardous to go out. If a person’s in the hospital, they won’t vote. The doctors and nurses taking care of those people won’t vote. People who just get sick won’t vote. Want to feel more hopeless about the election? This is the way to do it.

Trump knows better. Trump shouldn’t set up these rallies. You know better. You shouldn’t go to these rallies. News sources know better than to make this seem exciting. They shouldn’t cover them.

If Mr. Trump’s campaign suffers because of the virus, it will be like everything and everyone else in the pandemic. Furthermore, if you want Trump to win, it’s a lot more efficient to just go vote for the man than it is for you to stop at a rally along the way and get sick and infect others.

If you’re old enough to remember Jim Jones and the tragedy of his followers killing themselves in Guyana, you know how jarring it is to watch. Picture doing that every day for 2 weeks and you can now understand how truly bizarre and sad this is to watch.

I don’t care how outrageous Mr. Trump is. I don’t care how humorous Mr. Trump is. I don’t care that you can give the finger to The Libs. I don’t care why you go. None of that can be as important as your very life, or the lives of others — none of it.

So, I beg you, Mr. Trump, don’t hold rallies. I beg you, attendees, don’t go to these rallies. News outlets don’t cover these rallies. If you are the mayor of a city where these rallies are being held, don’t allow these rallies to take place in your city or state. This must stop, for all our sakes.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Why?

It occurs to me that no one is asking why Republicans seem so intent on putting Amy Comey Barrett on the Supreme Court. “Because they can” isn’t really a reason. “Because Trump wants it” indicates that they can’t act n their own. Also, if Michael Cohen is to be believed, Trump doesn’t know one judge from another, and she is being put up by the Federalist Society. In short, they are responsible for her being put up. Why? What is it about her perceived opinions that they want, and why do they want it? I don’t get it.

As I understand it, she’s conservative and they want the Conservative views to reign over the land. What are conservative values? They aren’t asking for conservative values that I would understand. They are asking not for conservatism. Because Trump wins and might get his way, they are asking for fascism. Do Republicans really want that in America? I can’t imagine why, but I think they should consider the question.

Next, they believe that she will overturn the Affordable Care Act, formerly known as Obamacare. In the past, they tried twenty times to repeal it… when Obama was in office. They couldn’t then. Now, under Trump, they couldn’t because people nearly rioted over losing it. Why, then, if they know the outcome of having her on the court leads to the overturn of Obamacare, why do they want what the majority of Americans don’t want? Again, as Representatives (Senators) how can they push for something that clearly the majority of people want?

Trump wants to crush anything with the word Obama attached to it. He hates Obama more than he loves America. I don’t believe all Republicans think that way — witness the Lincoln Project. I’m sure that don’t or didn’t like it, but that was water under the bridge for most of them. Why are they still trying to end it? Again, I don’t get it…

Finally, there is the all-but-guaranteed overturning of Row vs, Wade that they believe will come from Barrett’s seat on the Court. Again, I don’t understand. Aren’t there women Republicans? Surely they too want control over their bodies. Does all control over bodies equate to abortion? No, I suppose not, but they are integrally linked. Why would any woman vote against more rights for women? To put it bluntly, do Republican men ever want to get laid again? I can see the likelihood of that dropping if Roe. V. Wade is overturned.

Finally, there’s the word from Clarence Thomas and Justice Alito that they would like to repeal equal marriage rights. I don’t know where Bennett stands on LGBTQ rights. That’s not the point. The point is what they expect of her. Log Cabin Republicans never made any sense to me, but they did exist. That means there must be gay Republicans.

So, here’s the final and ultimate question: If Democrats don’t want this nominee’s values on the Court, and women don’t want her values on the Court, and gay folks don’t want her values on the Court, who exactly are they representing? Isn’t their job to represent the people of their state?

Their voting is entangled with a fascist’s dreams, and I think she’s too far to the Right for most Republicans in the Senate. So why are they doing it. I suspect it’s a moment of passing insanity, and they will regret it as much as the rest of the country does. I would urge them to think about it.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Does The Economy Matter If We’re All Dead?

I’m watching the Vice-Presidential Debate and something came up that has always bothered me. It’s not about either of the candidates said, nor is it about a particular party. It’s about logic and priorities.

People talk about the economy like it means more than human life. In the beginning of the pandemic, some people — captains of industry, mostly — wanted to have people go back to work while it wasn’t safe. The governor of Florida continues to want to open that state because tourism is affected, again, when it’s apparently not safe. My father lives in that state and I am well aware of how important tourism is to him and to people’s livelihoods. Still, I don’t think he’ll be going to Walt Disney World if he’s dead.

More important than that, and on a much larger scale, there’s the question of climate change. We all have lives and traditions that we want to keep going. The oil industry, the gas industry, factories, and so on, belong to an old prosperity. It was prosperity. I remember it. But even then, rivers with pollution killed fish and we couldn’t swim in them. Air pollution in California was so thick, a mountain could hide. Yes, I loved paying $.57 per gallon for gas, but I also like to breathe.

When I lived in Southern California, friends and I would go into the San Gabriel mountains, above the smog line. We would cough while we were up there as our lungs cleaned out, then they would fill back up with pollution as we came back to sea level.

Now, 9 out of 10 scientists believe that ozone change in the atmosphere has led to climate change that will destroy all human life on earth. Again, whether people have jobs or not won’t matter if they are dead.

From a moral standpoint, Jesus said it thousands of years ago: “What does it profit a person if the gain the whole world and lose their soul?” What good will Jeff Besos’ billions do him when it’s all said and done? Or the Koch Brothers? Or oil barons, bankers, or, in literature, Ebenezer Scrooge?

People like Greta Sunburg — young people with no filters like politeness — see what is important and what is not. Money and what it buys are okay, but none of it matters if we’re dead. How can people not get that ?

Resisting with Peace,

John

American History From An Addiction Perspective…

The other night I realized that many of Trump supporters … and whole other sections of our society — are acting like addicts. They seek something that will kill them and they know it, but they go there anyway. Those of us not in that addictive phase, or without that gene or whatever, don’t understand the apparent suicides. This is becoming more and more apparent at this moment in history, and it might be worth taking a look at it.

Years ago, I worked at a detox unit outside of Boston where the majority of clients were dealing with a heroin problem. Relatively fresh from grad school, I had a book knowledge of the addiction and recovery process. Having worked in a church with three AA groups meeting daily, I witnessed the recovery process often, including getting addicted, but not really what being addicted was like.

At the detox, that changed when my boss told me to ask the clients about their experience. I did and heard much, but the thing that struck the most was a woman who said, “You don’t get it. If we’re watching the evening news and they say, ‘the new deadly drug being sold has, let’s say, a skull on crossbones on the bag‘ , you think you should avoid that stuff. It’s deadly. I and all the addicts I know think, ‘That’s the good stuff!’ . Those other people are wimps who can’t handle it. We go out looking for it.”. At that moment, I understood how “out there” they could be and how I could misunderstand it so much.

For those clients, in active addiction, good is bad and bad is good. Death feels like life, and normal, boring life feels like death. Systems therapist Virginia Satir says, “once you understand the premise, everything makes sense”. So let’s start there and bring it to our situation.

That story brings me to the Trump rally in Michigan yesterday, the Republican Party under Trump, anti-vaxxers and Q Anon, and addiction in general. Trump’s supporters believe that good is bad, and bad is good. When Trump supporters, or Q Anon people, or whoever start, they hold rigid beliefs that deny their own experience. Russell Brand, a well-known (recovering) addict says that addiction isn’t about the drug or sex or whatever. It’s about trauma. In my time working with addicts, I have yet to meet an addict without a trauma history. Sometimes that’s before they started using, sometimes it’s a trauma like a friend dying while they used, but there is trauma involved somewhere. Does this mean that trauma causes addiction? No, but it certainly hastens or deepens any addiction one might have.

So, backing up to history, people who know right from wrong, and know what they see and hear, come to believe the opposite of that. That takes a lot of work, and a lot of denial about how bad or troubling an experience is. Satir says that nearly all dysfunction comes from shame.

Let’s say, person A did something to person B that they know is wrong, and they feel ashamed of the pain they know they have caused. A healthy individual might apologize and try to fix things… unless th thing they did is so awful that they can’t imagine that it can be fixed. Sometimes, with abusive parents, every error is that big. Sometimes, the person has actually done something so bad that to hurt someone else, that coping with it required denial, and a lot of it.

If we combine the two, we get a child who has hurt another person, and feels bad about it, and their parent yells at them, tells them that they are bad, because they didn’t hurt the other person enough. Donald Trump not only says that people don’t need masks, he says you’re wimpy, or bad if you want to wear one. The listeners are stuck between what they know about the virus and its effects, what they have done to others, and the information that they’re bad for feeling bad. Denial/ doubling down is an easier escape route from their shame than facing it, and so the psychosis begins.

On a larger societal scale, what is racism or sexism or homophobia but abusing people while knowing that abuse is wrong? All of those old children’s stories of two children who grow up together and one is the dominant group and the other isn’t, so they have a falling out — what if those stories happen more often than we know? What if White Billy and Black Billy grow up as friend, and had a falling out while their parents said, their friendship wasn’t “proper” anyway, and should have happened anyway — that they were stupid for trying, or trusting, the other person because that’s just how “they” are? Soldiers who have been forced to do horrible things in war speak of moral injury. All of the -isms involve moral injury. When we treat humans as non-humans, and feel we have to because it would be wrong to do otherwise, we morally injure ourselves while we demonize the other.

This is consistent with any number of religious teachers, including Jesus, Mohammed, Gandhi, and in America, Martin Luther King, but I’m psychology we can see it as well.

It is often said that children aren’t born hating. They are taught to hate. What if that process of changing from “open to the possibilities of others” to “hurting them due to some biological reason” — skin color, gender, national origin, sexuality , or whatever causes moral injury and shame to the person taught to hate? What if the act of hurting a person we know — and being told that is the right thing — is the cause of an addiction to hate, because it causes shame that can’t be removed under those conditions.

Regarding recovery from addiction, the key to recovery is complete honesty, facing the acts that were done under the spell of the addiction, and coping with them, then living honestly for the rest of one’s life. If there is an addiction to hate, or ignorance, or fear, we must break it in order to be free. All of the acts of genocide or individual violence in our history have led us to this time. As victims acknowledge their own hurt and call for justice, and average people witness extreme violence against others for no particular reason, our society feels shame or guilt. Those who can acknowledge their own issues in it (and many people have not had personal conflicts with “the other”, so only feel sadness or guilt) can be be free by working the issues through in this time of reckoning. Those who cannot, or will not, will remain addicted and getting sicker and more challenging as time goes by.

May we all find the freedom that honesty provides.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Radical Christian Terrorism is NOT Christian At All

In the 1967 “Batman” movie Commissioner Gordon, the Dynamic Duo and Chief O’Hara are beginning to figure out that the world’s 4 top super-criminals are getting together to destroy something that will turn out to be the UN Security Council. As the pieces come together in their mind, the Commissioner says, “it would be something so terrible, I dare not give it utterance”. So it is as the pieces come together in my head about *my* faith. Actually, it’s not my faith. It’s like my faith in Bizarro world, or my faith in a really bad “fun house” mirror. And it is “something so terrible that I dare not give it utterance”. Remember “Radical Islamic Terrorism” and how it was used to scapegoat people who were neither radical nor terrorists, (and, amazingly not always Islamic either)? That is what I don’t want to name, and that is why.

I am reading the book, “See No Stranger” by Valerie Kaur, a Sikh woman whose family and friends were beaten or killed in America, after 9/11 by people who thought they were a) Muslims because they wore turbans; and b) all Muslims were terrorists. Some were beaten. Some were killed. Many (70% of Sikhs!) were terrorized by hate crimes because American “Christians” (always said loudly, apropos of nothing in a conversation) thought Turbans = Muslim= Terrorist Threat/Target for Murder — instinctively.

Ten minutes after 9/11, while building pieces were still falling Kaur’s uncle saved someone in his taxi and was threatened by people who “knew” that he was a terrorist. She says that this is before pictures of Osama Bin Ladin had even been published! That kind of thing can only be understood as instinct or deep, fearful brainwashing. What it can not be is Christian.

If it were, Jesus’ story of the “Good Samaritan” would have had another chapter where the Samaritan, after saving the man’s life and paying for his lodging and medical care, gets beaten to death. It doesn’t, because that’s not the world Jesus envisioned— ever. Furthermore, the founder of our faith would never have said “Love your enemies” (He did) and would have been quite happy when one of his disciples cut off an enemies ear on the night of his betrayal. (He wasn’t).

So, let’s get right to it: The words “Christian” (follower of Jesus) and terrorist should never be used in the same sentence. Jesus wasn’t a terrorist. People who follow him shouldn’t be. People of his faith might have called him a terrorist after he used a whip in the Temple, but even that wouldn’t have been true. It would have been propaganda spoken by others about him. So it is with faithful people who are misunderstood and stretch the boundaries of their faith. They don’t speak for themselves, but are spoken about disparagingly.

I will tell you upfront that I know almost nothing about Islam, so I don’t believe I can say anything about it. About Christianity, however, I know a lot. There is a spectrum of Christian beliefs, from “non-denominational” and “Bible believing” Christians to more-denominational, less built on the Bible, more intellectual and reasonable, Christians. The first group are more grounded in the “Jesus died for your sins, you need to be saved” worldview and the second group are more grounded in the “Jesus taught us how to live”, “social justice” model, also known as “the social gospel”. Both of those may see the other as “radical” in a bad way, and themselves as “radical” in a good way. Both understandings are part of the faith. I suspect that this is like “Sunni” Muslims vs. “Shiite” Muslims, but I don’t know. Neither of the two types of Christian believe the “if you’re not a Christian, I get to kill you” model, though sadly the church and military conquerors have used in the past. The conquering of the Incas, the destruction of Native American civilizations, and so much more tragedy is under the misguided (evil) belief of “be Christian or die”.

Where that happened, I can tell you that not only isn’t it Christian or Jesus-like, it’s anti-the teachings of Christ, and the early church. Jesus told parables about wheat and weeds that grew up together until the planter (God) decides to decide. Jesus said things like, “judge not, lest you be judged”. Jesus also tells rigid thinking people in his faith that they will ultimately go to hell for thinking they are saved, and not acting like it. In the Old Testament, the Bible says, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord”. It doesn’t say “Vengeance is yours. Go get it.”

The fear that “Muslims are going to impose Sharia law“ would be like the fear that Christians were going to force Old Testament-type law down others’ throats. What I want people to know is that I suspect Sharia Law is no more Islam than the Old Testament law is Christian. It’s simply rigid thought, with rigid categories of “the way things ought to be” that make some people more important than others. It’s hierarchical, “do what I say, because I said it!” Culture. Since Jesus says we are “not to lord our authority over others”, the whole “do what I say!” thing isn’t Jesus’ plan. It’s human’s plan. That’s a problem. Imposing “not-Jesus’-plan” on others simply can’t be Christian by definition.

So, to sum it all up, there are lots of people who claim to be Christians. There are also plenty of people who actually are Christians. There are radical Christians, of one sort or another. Even Radical Christians can’t claim terrorism as a model.

There can only be radical terrorists. The minute they become terrorists and killing others because they are different is the minute they stop being Christians. Again, I suspect it is the same in other religions. I know it is true in mine.

Resisting in Peace,

John