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

Prepare For Impact: The Only Way Out Is Through

I have been listening to a morning news podcast as I usually do, and today it was really scary. Every possible thing you could imagine was being threatened by the coronavirus. There was, of course, people’s health — not enough test kits, no vaccine, no coordinated response to it, hoarding of masks, and so on.

Then the people on the podcast started getting into the economic impact: The stock market is temporarily closed because oil futures plummeted 1500 points. People are being told to stay home from work. People can’t stay home from work if they want to get paid. They have to get paid if they want to eat. When or if the market continues its crash, what will the world economy look like. Nobody knows, but no one seems to think it’s good, except people related to the White House (and I assume they don’t either, really).

Putting those two things together, there are all the un-insured and under-insured in this country, who won’t be able to pay for treatment and who will do what they have always done: not get treatment. Plus, there’s what happens to society of we can’t get together in public. Politically, the reporters reminded us that all three Presidential candidates may have health affected by the virus. Congress is considering not meeting for awhile. Ted Cruz and another person who attended a conservative convention (CPAC) are now self-quarantining.

As a therapist, I see this type of problem all the time, by way of a metaphor. I have a client who has been mandated by his company to get treatment. He’s an alcoholic. I suggest to him three options: 1) Go to detox and deal with it fully. Start recovery with a clear mind. 2) Get antibuse, a medication that will prevent you from drinking by making you ultra-sick if you drink. This offers a steep learning curve for alcohol treatment. 3) Go to AA meetings and get support from other people. He has these three options. His company has given him an ultimatum. Stop drinking or be fired. I have offered him two ultimatums: 1) stop drinking or lose your job and the ultimate one: 2) stop drinking or die.

My client has had weeks to decide, and it looks like he has made attempts at all three. Has he stopped drinking? No. Why not? There’s always some technical reason. Besides, he’s … “trying” and it looks like he might get treatment. Has he gotten treatment? No. He has not. When pushed, he likes drinking and he can’t imagine the “boring” life without it. He’s depressed as well, so — to cope — he drinks, which makes his depression worse.

It is at this point that he has to make a decision, and it’s going to hurt. He has to decide for reality — a reality he doesn’t like. The problem is that it doesn’t matter if he likes it, though. It is still reality. This is the point that people in AA would say, “The only way out is through”. What they mean by that is that you have to face the problem, that your one coping mechanism doesn’t work, and the denial behind that one coping mechanism doesn’t work either.

We are a country that, in large part, is using coping mechanisms that don’t work.

  1. Many of us believe that having money solves all problems. As long as you’re rich, nature can’t get to you. This virus doesn’t know or care about your wallet.
  2. Many of us believe that power, in and of itself, can keep bad things from happening to us. Ted Cruz is a prime example that it is not true.
  3. Some of us believe that health insurance is not important. The sick among us know differently.
  4. Many of us believe that belief matters more than facts, that philosophy is more important than science. The problem is that the virus doesn’t care what you believe. It simply doesn’t. The virus doesn’t care what you post on Twitter or Facebook, what political party you belong to, or how much pretending you can manage. Wishing it were so, doesn’t, in fact, make it so. Facts are reality, whether we like them or not. We’ll have to get over ourselves.
  5. Many people believe that we are not connected to each other, and what affects someone else doesn’t affect us. When Bill or Mary can’t show up to their work, it will become clearer that that isn’t true. Even people in China, whom you’ll never know or meet, impact your life when they can’t go to work, or to the farm, or out of the house.

So, here’s the reality of our coronavirus: Some people are going to die — not everyone but some people are going to die. Quite possibly, a lot of people are going to die. It will hurt. The economy will hurt, possibly a lot. We will be different at the end of this than we were at the beginning of this, but we will survive. Even in the very worst case scenarios, 97% of us will survive.

Can you do anything about it? Like everything, there are some things you have control over, and some things you don’t.

You can control your own hygiene, and how contagious you are, with the knowledge we have. See the “Nurses Talk About Coronavirus” post from last week. https://revlmftblog2.com/2020/03/07/guest-column-nurses-give-actual-coronavirus-news/ Do what the nurses say. They live with it. I can, and do, trust them. If new knowledge comes up, we’ll update the page. Talk to your primary care doctor. Talk to someone at a walk-in clinic, but talk to someone you actually know and trust in real life.

Your local or state authorities can give you any information they have. As far as I know, you can trust them. That said, if you have reason to not trust your elected officials, don’t. Trust the World Health Organization for the large picture. They don’t care about American politics any more than any other country’s politics. The federal government, at least regarding this issue, and for the foreseeable future, is of no use. They will not be save us, because they can’t. They can’t decide about facts, they cant decide how to get the information, or how much they’ll share with us. Because they can’t do that, they can’t formulate a plan to deal with it. Because they can’t formulate a plan, they can’t deal with it.

For all of the reasons I have listed above about denial, our government — a reflection of much of our culture — isn’t willing to face issues around us. Until it actually does face up to those issues, there will be trouble. If it can’t choose between good options now, it (and we) will have to face bad options later.

So, in the end, what’s important? Money? Power? A certain political belief? individualism without apathy? A good fantasy life? No. What’s important in life, the illness can’t touch: facts, logic, people you can trust, and caring for each other, so that everyone has what they need. The only way out is through the crisis, armed with those things. Will it always work? Probably not. We don’t know what we don’t know. On the other hand, we definitely won’t survive without them.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Guest Column : Nurses Give Actual Coronavirus News

Author’s note: Every once in a while, I share my blog space to give information that I don’t have on my own. This is a prime example of things I don’t know, but these people do. The primary information was written by Julie LaBarr, a public health nurse, near Rochester, NY. Additional comments were from Paula Richards, a nurse from Boston, and Karen Ross Gardner Gatchell in the Springfield, Massachusetts area. They are each to be commended for their expertise and knowledge. I have simply edited the notes. I trust each of them implicitly. There is no politics here. As I heard on the radio today, there are no Red viruses and no Blue viruses. The topic is too important to make this opinion piece.

The critical thing is that we do not panic over this- panic causes more harm than the virus.

A couple of the most reliable resources are your local state health department and the cdc. Coronavirus is something that hangs around all the time- this version is novel- meaning new and unknown. That is to be respected but no cause for panic.

80% of people that are positive for the COVID19 virus will just get better and maybe even not know they have it. It may just look like a cold. Don’t go to the ER unless you are severely ill. Call your primary care or a health department if you dont have a pcp. Immunosuppressed individuals are at the most risk- especially the elderly. Children don’t seem to be affected.

The illness is probably passed by direct contact with droplets, which are spread by contact, sneezing, or coughing. Hand washing is best practice. And don’t lick stuff, like doorbells or handrails!

Wash your hands! Stay home if you are sick. Same precautions as flu. Use regular soap for washing your hands. 20 seconds. Wash in between your fingers, back of your hands, thumb, wrists, etc. Use you own pen, try to avoid door handles and railings if you can. Again, wash your hands….

The basics of respiratory illness hygiene is imperative! Hand hygiene, cover your cough and stay in when you are sick. Healthcare workers are also at risk- to carry it not necessarily get sick. What’s most important is that healthcare workers have the appropriate protective equipment- meaning the general public need not use up all the 😷 masks! Wearing a mask when you aren’t sick will not help.

NY cases have been doubling each day. Is that because we are testing more? Probably.

You can get it by touching your hands to your face, being sneezed or coughed on, etc. what else?? The frontline (healthcare) is being updated and educated daily on how to keep themselves and all of you safe and healthy. Trust your professionals and keep yourselves well. Self-care: eating right, a little exercise, fresh air are all still important!

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html has the official information.

Testing positive does not mean you are severely ill. Once they determine that it is widespread, testing will slow and data like this will not be pertinent any longer. The WHO (World Health Organization) has a map on their site- it is affecting almost every continent at this point.

We will see some economic impact from what I understand. Governments are preparing to support with emergency management like funding. Insurance companies are preparing to offer coverage of testing etc.

I Get It Now: The Silence of the -Isms

Wow. I just got slammed with an epiphany. It happens when you go into other people’s cultures experience their experience, see what you see or don’t see, hear or don’t hear. For the past few months, I have been a visitor to women’s (political) land and the weirdest thing happened. I got to experience… nothing, crickets, and then apathy about the crickets, and then worse — anger for people speaking up, blaming the victim.

That is the Elizabeth Warren campaign. Even reporters and pundits were saying that they had never seen anything like it. Warren is, among all of the candidates, the smartest, most practical, and, in my mind, therefore, the best candidate out there. She has plans for all kinds of things. Further, it has been incredible being part of the phone call set for Warren. The community of supporters is wide. In Star Power, she had John Legend. In the debates, she had great moments and took down Bloomberg’s billionaire campaign. In coverage? Crickets. In votes… very little. In delegates, not enough to count. Joe Scarborough, who I generally agree with, was furious that she was still in the race at all, and furious for being called sexist. Mika Breszinski, his wife, was less so, but agreeing in the background. Dang!

People can reasonably argue that America is ready for a woman President. For instance, Hillary was popular. Klobuchar was in the race for a good long time. People respect Kamala Harris. But, after Hillary lost, everyone thought — to some degree — that the moment for a woman President was gone. That put Harris, Klobuchar, Warren, Williamson and Gabbard at a disadvantage all to start, simply because one person with their gender lost once. That’s the sign of an -ism at play!

When it looked like one of the women might win, the establishment and Capitalists like Bloomberg worried, and threw their money in, forcing out Harris. One could say that Warren’s anti-establishment ways pushed her down. But that didn’t happen to Bernie Sanders, so I would say I don’t think it’s that. Pundits like Scarborough and “establishment” democrats really seem to hate progressives. Bernie got publicity with his hatred. Elizabeth got crickets.

She got un-listed because she wasn’t a threat any more. She simply didn’t exist.

It is that that clicked it for me. Here’s a story to illustrate the point. Years ago, in one of the most consequential experiences of my life, my friend Greg Coles and I went to an upscale restaurant outside of Rochester, NY. Greg drove a beautiful Saab and I drove a beat-up Ford. Greg knew about this restaurant. I didn’t. In short, the place matched Greg’s personality a lot more than it did mine. We sat down at a table and waited to be served…. and waited… and waited. 15 or 20 minutes went by. I asked Greg what was happening as waiters walked on by us. I attempted to get one to serve us and Greg just rolled his eyes. Greg is Black. He shook his head and I said, “No, that can’t be”. Greg said it was — racism. We just left, and never were served, never even acknowledged.

Later, when I moved to Bridgeport, I decided that I wanted to work with Black pastors because they were there. 50% of Bridgeport is Black. At first, there was some sort of nod to the work by my White colleagues, especially the men, who would volunteer their opinion. But after awhile, as it became clear that this wasn’t a flirtation with political correctness, but an actual part of my ministry, those same pastors asked me, “Why would you work with them?

Again, it’s more complex than that, because African-American pastors in Bridgeport are, by and large, charismatic in their faith. Still, as time went by, I felt more isolated from my White, denominational, male colleagues. When I left Bridgeport, my Black colleagues came, en masse, and my closest White clergy friends came. My Black friends never said to me, “Why do you hang out with them?”, so I came to see, in balance, that there is more of a problem with Whites ==> Blacks than Blacks==> Whites, but to read the paper, it’s exactly the opposite.

So, here’s the thing: it’s not the anger or the overt action that makes an -ism so powerful. Those things are horrible. Don’t get me wrong, they are worse than being left alone. The difference between abuse and neglect is obvious. Abuse kills the body, but neglect kills the soul.

It’s the silence, the blank stare that doesn’t even get noticed by most people, the unopened doors, the not-considered applicants, the unacknowledged talents, that make the difference. And because, like neglect, it’s hard to prove, it’s hard to see privilege, unless you go into a community not your own. That is why doing so (seeing others) is so important to develop compassion. For those people who aren’t nasty to others, the silence looks the same as their actions. This is why privilege is hard to fathom.

Back to the election and Warren, there is a final piece that made a difference: fear. Because people fear another four years of the destructive Donald Trump, they wanted to make their vote count. They worried that if they didn’t get the right answer in their vote, there would be consequences. In that case, “electability” became an issue, so voters went back to “traditional” (I.e., safe) voting. Why women are considered a less safe bet is because of, well, sexism.

This is all complex, but it’s also a problem for half the population. Throw in Black folk, and more than half of the population isn’t served by it. It’s not working for more people than it is working for.

We have to do something. We have to …

Resist with peace,

John

The List of Things We Shouldn’t Have To Say… (And What To Do About It)

Every once in a while, I get in full-on rant mode. This is one of those days. On the anniversary of the mass shooting at the Marjorie Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, I thought I’d start off with simple one. Still, when one of my favorite teachers died recently, it became a research project for positivity.

No child should ever be shot at school. Schools shouldn’t have to have “active shooter” lockdown drills.

For what to do about it, check out : March for Our Lives: https://marchforourlives.com/anniversary-2020 Sandy Hook Promise https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/

While I’m there, no person should ever be shot in church… or at the mall, or at the park, or anywhere else. As I understand it, guns are for hunting. People should not be hunted. For what to do about it, check out https://blacklivesmatter.com/ and Anti-Defamation League https://www.adl.org/

Most times —if not all — people should be able to believe their leaders. For what to do about it, check these out: Black Lives Matter Disinformation Page https://blacklivesmatter.com/black-lives-matter-global-network-defends-against-disinformation-going-into-2020/ The Toronto Star https://projects.thestar.com/donald-trump-fact-check/ and Factcheck.com https://www.factcheck.org/person

People involved with the law should not break the law. For what to do about it, check these out: The American Bar Association and their list of topics https://www.americanbar.org/topics/civilright/ and, in theory, the Department of Justice…https://www.justice.gov/crt/addressing-police-misconduct-laws-enforced-department-justice

Children should never be put in cages. Children should never be stripped of their families by a government for no reason. For what to do about it, check this out: Never Again movement http://neveragain.org/mission/ and The ABA immigration resources https://www.americanbar.org/groups/departments_offices/FJE/yourphilanthropy/migrant_justice/ and the Quakers https://www.afsc.org/key-issues/issue/defending-immigrant-rights

People have to eat. People need to drink (clean) water. These are basic needs. For what to do about it, check these out: WhyHunger https://whyhunger.org/ Heiffer International https://www.heifer.org/ Flint Water Challenge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9b-fWGZs80 Water.org https://water.org/

People need to have shelter from the weather. Again, this is a basic need. For what to do about it, check these out: Habitat for humanity http://www.habitat.org Mutual Housing California http://www.mutualhousing.com/ Mutual Housing Connecticut https://www.mutualhousing.org/

People should not mock, taunt, beat up, attack, or violate each other’s rights or bodies simply because they are different. For what to do about it, check these out: Southern Poverty Law Center https://www.splcenter.org/ NAACP https://www.naacp.org/ The Trevor Project: https://www.thetrevorproject.org

Men, women, and everyone in between have the right to and it’s good for their mental health — to control their own bodies.

For what to do about it: Planned Parenthood https://www.plannedparenthood.org Rainn https://www.rainn.org/ for women’s issues and general support https://www.rainn.org/articles/sexual-assault-men-and-boys for men and boys

Money is a means, not an end unto itself. If you have far more than you will ever need, give it to people who don’t have as much as they need for basic needs.

For what to do: Try The Giving Pledge https://givingpledge.org/ Alternatively, check out Poor People’s Campaign https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/

Financial abuse of others is wrong. Taking advantage of people because you can is wrong. For what to do: Elizabeth Warren’s original Consumer Protection Bureau, though sadly, it may have been gutted by the present administration. https://www.ftc.gov/about-ftc/bureaus-offices/bureau-consumer-protection This may look too radical now (Or not) , but they used to have really good information. http://occupywallst.org/ This is a new idea and mission within my denomination, and I am so proud of it: https://www.chhsm.org/news/chhsm-joins-ucc-effort-to-abolish-medical-debt-for-low-income-families/

Nuclear war is not a good idea, nor something to be trifled with.

For what to do, check out these: Union of Concerned Scientists: https://ucsusa.org/nuclear-weapons and the Quakers https://www.afsc.org/key-issues/issue/international-peacebuilding

People should not be punished for doing the right thing.

For what to do, check here: but — as all federal government agencies right now — I don’t really trust them to live up to their task. Still, it’s worth a try. The Federal Office of the Inspector General https://oig.hhs.gov/ For non-governmental agencies, try the ACLU https://www.aclu.org

None of these will matter if we don’t have a planet.

For what to do, check here: Union of Concerned Scientists on climate: https://www.ucsusa.org/climate and Climate Project https://www.climaterealityproject.org/

For MLB … And, of course, if there are suggestions for organizations to go on here, write them in the comments section…

and still Resisting In Peace,

John

A New Strategy: A Multi-Front Election

As the Department of Justice messes with Roger Stone’s sentencing, it becomes more and more apparent that people need to feel hope in the political arena, just as we have had our hope overwhelmed for the past 3 years.

Trump has been the Trojan Horse for all kinds of evil, but he is not the only problem. Each member of the cabinet has come out of the horse like a soldier and is destroying their part of our democracy. Most important to me is the danger to the rule of law — the raw material of a constitutional democracy — posed by William Barr.

Kamala Harris is as fine a prosecutor as we have in the Senate. She would make a fine Attorney General — a strong supporter of the rule of law and a voice for equal justice under the law. Even the people who ran against her, bar none, say that they miss her presence in the debate. In short, she is widely respected and loved by most of the Democratic base.

So here’s my idea. Each of the candidates for the Democratic nomination should announce now during the campaign — that they will make Kamala Harris their Attorney General.

This will have three effects: 1) it will mark a public turning of the tide toward the rule of law and against the corruption that is William Barr. It will be a shot across the bow of the present administration, and it will draw Republican attention away from the Presidential candidate, changing the dynamic of the race.

2) It will say to the people of the country that we will have a more diverse administration regardless of what else happens. Women’s issues will stand a fighting chance, rights of minorities will be respected, corrupt people who have abused their power under this administration will quake at the thought of justice aimed at them.

3) Finally, the addition of Harris will add a piece of stability to the Democrat cause. If all of the current candidates agree on her, it means no matter what happens, justice will happen, and we will be back on track toward hope.

Note, of course, that I haven’t spoken to Sen. Harris about this, nor do I know how it will play out in wider politics. My point is that with creativity, we CAN save our democracy.

Resisting with Peace,

John

My Child, Your Child: Why Racism Matters

Mr. Trump, Mr. Miller, et. al.: I am a long-time liberal, so I have given up on ever convincing you because we share values. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am appealing to you purely on the grounds of your self-interest. There is something to be had in it for you: wealth beyond even your wildest dreams, if you can only access it.

My eldest daughter posted a story on Facebook about a brilliant third grader whose intellectual property rights are of incredible value: “Xochitl Guadalupe Cruz, is an 8-year-old coming from the Chiapas highlands, in southeastern Mexico. Earlier this week she became famous for being the proud recipient of the Nuclear Science Institute (ICN) Recognition for Women award, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Cruz is in 3rd third grade of a Mexican rural school and has shown big interest in Science from a young age. When she was 4 she took part in Mexico’s “Adopt a Talent” Program (PAUTA) for intellectually advanced children which paved the way for her recent achievements.”

Now, as you well know, she couldn’t get into our country because she is Mexican. If her country’s people could not protect her, and she sought asylum here with her parents, Border Patrol agents would separate them and she would end up in a room with I don’t know how many children. She would have to share a toilet with all those other children. She would be given a blanket and sleep on the floor after being put in a “cold room” and not allowed to get a flu shot. All of the wealth that she has in her head would be lost to you.

Now imagine she’s already there. Believe, as you already do, that she looks like every other Mexican girl, and you now understand your problem. I say your problem because I would welcome her into our country, welcome her into my house, and do everything I could to both listen to her and encourage her. She would, if I treated her well, share all of her ideas with me for free. I’d wish her well on them, and we’d be friends until I passed away at some point.

For all you or I know, every child in ICE custody has the same ideas or gifts that she does. All of that wealth will never be yours, simply because you chose not to see it. That is what racism does.

Remember all the wealth America accumulated because Einstein came here, instead of staying in Germany? Hitler and his White Nationalist buddies lost all of that in thinking he was “just a Jew”. He was just one person! If you think like Hitler, how do you explain that to the Israelis or your Jewish son-in-law? I don’t understand how Stephen Miller can be in the same room as Jared. Somebody’s not thinking this through, or one of them is lying.

And while I’m on the subject, your Muslim ban, and your new extensive travel ban? Same thing. I’m sure that one of those people has the cure for cancer or AIDS or heart disease. Remember, all it takes is one. But you will never know, because you see no benefit to having them here.

Finally, a child doesn’t have to be from a foreign country to possess incredible skills or incredible intellect or incredible anything. Any Black child, every Asian child, every Native American child, that your police kill because you said it was okay, is your loss. I say your police because there are plenty of police with my values. It’s the ones that see no blessing in those children’s lives who can kill without remorse. There are plenty of Americans who also share my values and treasure their kids. Their children’s deaths at the hands of bigots will prevent you from getting anything from them as well. Another loss for you.

Having a hard time filling your cabinet or getting good cops to serve in the FBI or CIA or good scientists in your administration? Why do think that is? Because you don’t respect their gifts if they are not White. Most White people I know have friends that are some minority you despise. Another loss for you.

To bring it full circle, every poor White child that dies because your policies starve them, because you think they are unworthy of getting assistance, you’ll get no assistance from them. Or, in their desperation, they will turn to opioids or crack as they do in West Virginia or Kentucky or any of those other coal-country states. In any case your decision to punish them by withholding aid, will cost you more money in treatment to get their gifts, or they will be lost altogether.

Children —all children — have the potential to change the world. Their parents, with the right resources, would do anything to give their children those opportunities. Your hatred —the one that often gets you laughs at rallies or in rooms with your buddies — is costing you a lot. Screw me. Go ahead. “Own a lib”. It’s not me keeping you from all that money, all that glory for the America that you clam to love. It’s you and your racism.

Resisting In Peace,

John