When Is Treason … Treason?

There’s a story that has people on Twitter going absolutely nuts. Because it’s a weekend, I want make sure it’s gets seen because it explains a whole lot about a whole lot of things. Someone in the Executive Branch, or maybe Congress, seems to have committed treason. Yes, I know we need another scandal/something else to worry about like a hole in the head, but, boy-howdy, this is a scandal.

Here’s the story: Apparently, Vladimir Putin, leader of the Russian state, put a bounty on American servicemen and women serving in Afghanistan. He paid members of the Taliban a fee for killing Americans. In war, this may or may not be a standard practice. I don’t know. Nothing surprises me anymore. That’s horrible enough, but that’s not where the issue ends. It seems to end in Washington D.C., with our government. That’s where the treason part starts.

At some point this year, the CIA informed the White House about this. As near as I can tell, the response was… crickets. During the time the White House (and some Senators? The Gang of Eight? Unknown) the Trump administration sold PPE to Russia, Mr. Trump pushed for Russia to rejoin the G-7talks, and, in general, acted buddy-buddy with Putin’s Russia.

What seems to infuriate military folks is that Trump made a big deal of speaking at the graduation ceremony of cadets at West Point and talking about his support of our troops while knowing this information. You may remember that Trump forced the cadets to get together in the midst of the pandemic so he could tell them how proud he is of his own work in getting them the things they need. As Commander-In-Chief, he had both the right and the ability to make that happen, even against the protestations of his generals. He made it happen. They did what they were ordered to do. If he actually knew this at the time, then having bounties on their heads wasn’t something he saw as conflicting with what he was saying.

So, what is the White House saying about this? The White House Press Secretary has just today said that “the President and Vice-President knew nothing of the ‘alleged’ incident”. So, there it is. The New York Times said that the White House was briefed on this “in late March”.

There are a bunch of problems with this. 1) Did the briefing happen or not? 2) If it did, why was there no response against the Russians? 3) If the White House knew and did something about it, why not say so? 4) If the President was briefed and did nothing, did the CIA tell Congress? 5) If they told members of Congress, who were they and why didn’t they say something? 6) What did our Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who used to run the CIA, think of all of this?

The bot/spin wars are already starting. Most people on Twitter seem to be calling this treason, but one guy split hairs by saying, “no it’s not. We’re not officially at war with Russia, therefore, it’s not treason”. We’ve heard enough splitting of legal hairs in the last 3+ years to know that this might actually be legally true. Still, if cozying up to a regime that you know is actively trying to kill our troops isn’t “legally” treason, what is?

The chaos brought on by this has just begun. I just don’t want it swept under the rug on a weekend in June. Yes, Black Lives still Matter. Yes, there still is a pandemic. But our President may be a traitor. He may be pursuing policies that actually hurt Americans, while helping our enemies, enemies who want to sow discord among us. Does that sound like Donald Trump to you? And if it does, what should we do about it?

Resisting with Peace,

John

Simple Ideas About Justice

I’m getting old, so every once in a while, I like to go back to my roots. These are simple sayings/ideas that I have gotten along the way, mostly from my mother and my grandfather. Jesus in the gospels seem to make simple statements. Educators and authors along the way, politicians, and yes, even Republicans in the past, have said things that we haven’t heard for a long time.

From my mother: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said”. Why do people in the news not get this?

Also: “If you didn’t do anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about”. Why does our justice system not share this value? Innocent people go to jail while awaiting trial and can’t afford bail, while heinously guilty and repeat offenders people never even have a trial because they have lawyers.

From Jesus: “Love your neighbor”. “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you”. Why are laws — any laws — written which prevent this from happening?

From Leonard Nimoy, as Spock: “Nothing unreal exists”. Either something is true or it isn’t. Climate change, the coronavirus, people’s experiences, and inner reality, gravity, all exist. They just do. Whether you believe they exist doesn’t make them any less true. Oceans still rise, objects still fall. People People die. People know when they are being hurt. People experience all kinds of things that you and I can’t imagine. If you don’t want those things to happen to you, you have to acknowledge that they exist, and plan accordingly. If those things never happen to you, it doesn’t mean they don’t happen to others. Which leads me to…

From an old client in recovery: “90% of your life is none of your business”. This is the thing that I find missing in our political world, and our social world, and have for years. Libertarians like the former Governor of Minnesota, (a former pro wrestler) believe this. When asked about denouncing gay rights he said, “What does this have to do with me?”. No, he did not come out and support gay rights as I would have preferred, be he didn’t make life worse for anybody either”. I’m not sure this belief will hold up in modern society, nor am I sure it always should. Perhaps a better way to say it is what my grandmother used to say, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all“.

From Spiderman, words by Stan Lee: “With great power comes great responsibility” If every single member of Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Supreme Court believed this, we would not have the corruption that we have in government today. It goes with Jesus’ “do unto others…”, but it specifically deals with the issue of power. In fact, if police forces used this rule, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

From Mavis Staples and the Staples Singers: “People walking around, talking ’bout air pollution. Put your hand over your mouth when you cough. That’ll help the solution”. Prescient? About the coronavirus? Nope. This is another example of old beliefs that we all know, that can simply make life easier for everybody. This is not rocket science, folks. Before COVID, this was just plain kindness. Now, people on videos are taking off their masks and coughing at people. What happened? When did kindness and civility become “politically correct” and to be mocked? They did when we went crazy. Can we be sane again? Please?

From Robert Kennedy: “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” For years and years and years, politicians have said, “Why do we need to fund arts programs? Why do we need to give people welfare or food stamps? Why do we have to guarantee women’s rights, or why should we fund voter rights efforts, or why should we protect the environment? These all seem like good ideas to most people, but we can’t seem to find the money for them because we have to save a few dollars in tax money or balance the budget… we just can’t, they say. They say, “be realistic”, so we try that. Then hope gives way to cynicism, when we suddenly have a war, and we can suddenly find all the money necessary to destroy things and people’s lives. The whole Medicaid for All aka Universal Healthcare is a prime example of people telling us what we can’t do as a society, right after 20 years of non-stop war and a $3 Trillion deficit! It is right for people like Alexandria Ocassio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders to say “let’s try!”. Faux- “realism” and cynicism have gotten us here. It’s time to think about what we can do, and try to make it happen, about things other than destruction.

Resisting in Peace,

John

Enough of Season 2+: No More Black Deaths

A few years ago, every time I looked at the news, there was some new reprehensible death of a Black man, followed by an awareness of the death of Black women who didn’t have to die either. More often than not, these deaths took place at the hands of police.

Here’s the list from 2012 – 2015

February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida Trayvon Martin

March 1, 2012 Dante Price, 25, Dayton, Ohio— July 17, 2014

Eric Garner, in New York City

August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, MO. Injured in the attack, 22-year-old friend Dorian Johnson.

Oct 20, 2014, in Chicago,  Laquan McDonald.

Tamir Rice, 12, Cleveland, Ohio—Nov. 22, 2014

Freddie Gray in Baltimore, On April 19, 2015,

Sandra Bland in Waller County, Texas, July 13, 2015 was a 28-year-old African American woman who was found hanged in a jail cell in, three days after being arrested during a pretextual traffic stop.

This list doesn’t include the man who was shot in his home by his next door neighbor, or the man who was shot 50 times while in his car, or others, or the church in the Carolinas ravaged by a gunman. I believe those came later.

8 high-profile murders that didn’t have to happen to (often) unarmed people was way too much for a three year period.

So here we are again, in 2020…

Ahmaud Arbery, killed while jogging. Police had a video of the killing, but didn’t arrest anyone until the video became public a month later. When the video caused the police to investigate, they arrested two of the men … and the third man, the one who took the video! — was arrested a week or more later.

On April 27, according to the LA Times, “In a 50-second video, two officers can be seen ordering a man to turn around near a fence outside the church. A male officer tells the suspect to “stop fighting,” and the suspect responds, “Ain’t nobody fighting.The officer then begins throwing overhand punches to the back of the suspect’s head while shouting profanities. At one point, the suspect attempts to take a few steps away from the officer, who follows and continues to punch the man in the head and body. A female officer stands by, occasionally reaching her hand out but otherwise not intervening.

On May 8, there was video of a Rancho Cordova policeman slamming a young Black man’s head into the concrete of an alley. Sen Kampala Harris posted about it.

Today, video surfaced of 4 officers in Minneapolis arresting a Black man man. One officer in the video is kneeling on the neck of the man. The man can heard saying “I can’t breathe”. The officers were fired. To my knowledge, no arrests have been made.

Yesterday, while birdwatching in Central Park, a black man saw a woman whose dog was not on a leash, and she appeared to be hurting the dog. When he asked her to leash the dog, she threatened to call the police. He said, “ok”. She called the police and said “There’s an African-American man threatening me”. He videotaped the whole thing. The video was shown on Twitter, the woman was not identified and possibly fired by her company.

THAT IS 5 BLACK MEN INJURED OR KILLER IN AMERICA IN LESS THAN TWO MONTHS BY EIGHT WHITE PEOPLE. NONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WERE ARRESTED IMMEDIATELY WHEN THE POLICE KNEW ABOUT THE CRIME. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. WHEN ARE WE GOING TO DO SOMETHING THAT LOOKS LIKE EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER THE LAW?

The White woman who threatened the Black man yesterday filed a false report. Did she get arrested? No. Her employer held her accountable, not the police. Who could live under such a cloud as Black people do in our country? No one. Jogging is a crime, punishable by death for them. Birdwatching is a crime for them. Standing next to a church is a crime for them. Asking to breathe is a crime for them. Do we get it now? President Obama isn’t making this a focal point which divides the nation, despite what we heard at the time. Police officers or White citizens choking Black men, others beaten or shot is not a “made up issue by the politically correct thought police”, regardless of what you may hear or believe. I never want to do this again, and I will spend every day that I can making sure it never happens again.

Resisting with Peace (barely),

John

Underneath It All

While he sucks all the air out of the news, there are a few things President Trump doesn’t want you to notice:

The Government still is fighting the pandemic with one hand tied behind its back. Who’s twisting that arm? DJT! We need testing for everyone! We need results from everyone! We need tracing! We need PPE! A *good* vaccine will take time. It just will. It doesn’t matter whether we like it or not. We know what to do. The Guy won’t let us! Why?

DJT’s taxes come before the Supreme Court. Did he forget to mention that? I’m shocked that there’s gambling in River City!

America’s healthcare is threatened. How? The Feds, at DJT’s request, are trying to dismantle Obamacare. “Why?”, you may ask. Does it matter why? People will die.

The DOJ under Bill Barr is destroying the rule of law. All of the Russians will be let off, then the American criminals. Why? DJT.

The Postal Service is threatened with being taken out of business. Why? It’s because DJT doesn’t like Jeff Besos. I don’t particularly like Besos either, but I’m not going to destroy his competition to prove it.

Abortion Rights are coming up in the Supreme Court. Why is no one protesting? 1) Because of the pandemic and 2) because idiots are protesting first… for their “right” to get their hair cut, have a beer, go to the beach and threaten a governor with guns.

The economy is destroyed, and won’t be able to get better until we do…testing, tracing, and so on. What’s the plan to fix it? Same as always — give the CEOs money.

Racism is being stoked by DJT and Steven Miller. New deaths in Georgia, more repression of the vote for Blacks in Southern States. Nazi flags show up at “Freedom” riots?

There’s been the release of the Russia Collusion Report by the Senate Intel Committee. Yes, Russia did collude with DJT, no matter what Mr. Barr says. Deal with it.

Given all of this going on, why would DJT want to stop the coronavirus, and let you think about those things? Just saying…

Resisting with Peace,

John

The Revolution Has To Start Here — For New York City Teachers

I received one of those change.org petitions tonight. It said that Bill DiBlasio, the mayor of New York City was proposing a massive and heinous cut to the school department. I don’t know much about New York City or its budget, or even its teachers, though I do know one. What I do know is right from wrong, and national politics, and how things are going in this country I once loved. The bleeding needs to stop. The revolution in how we view each other and how we value each other — the acknowledgment of real heroes — needs to start now. This is not the way to do it.

If there’s one thing that this crisis has made clear is who honestly works hard for society, and who wants to claim America’s wealth via stealing from others — not just money, but power in so many areas of our lives. We have seen that doctors, nurses, EMTs are willing to die to save others in society. Many parents have seen just how hard it is to teach children first hand. We will see social workers and therapists picking up the pieces of it all. Is it too much to ask that their value come in the form of being able to eat, have a place to live, and see their kids in the same day? We need to start valuing the helping professions more than we do those who sell stocks. We need to value the honest and caring more than the corrupt and self-serving, and we need to start now.

I don’t actually blame Mr. DiBlasio for the problem of a budget crisis. I blame that on Mitch McConnell and the Republican establishment in deeply red states. Places in the Deep South that proudly let their people starve so as to not make conglomerates pay taxes, places that don’t educate their children because they don’t believe in science or ‘liberal views”, like equality and rights have the wrong model. It doesn’t work for most people in those states and it has led us here as a country, with its hatred or misunderstanding of science, a love of blind loyalty over critical thinking, and now 70, 000 dead.

Mr. McConnell has made it clear that blue states can suffer as far as he’s concerned. The man who runs the country at this point wants to foment those divisions, and Mr. McConnell’s beliefs about the way things should be go right along with it. The answer is not what we have been trying since “trickle down economics” came to the fore. The answers are not found in less education in those red states or in any state. The answers that we need to survive are found in more education, more belief in science, more critical thought, and more creativity. Education offers all of those things. Just because McConnell doesn’t like it, and That Guy in the White House doesn’t read doesn’t make this any less true.

What I do blame Mr. DiBlasio for is buying into the forced choice that McConnell and his ilk have been pushing for years: we can’t seem to find money for programs that promote kindness or support people who do most of the work on a day-to-day basis, but we can always find money for wars and CEO’s salaries. After the federal government steals PPE and then charges exorbitant rates to hospitals and municipalities in blue states and cities that That Guy doesn’t like is not the time to give up on justice or intelligence.

The answer is to make a stand for justice, and to model kindness and intelligence that comes through conscious decision-making. The answer to this crisis is to return the country to a blue majority where we value people’s lives and the education needed to meet the challenges in life. The money will be returned to the majority of people if we get it back from the thieves who have profited from the pandemic and every other ill-gotten gain of the last 40 years, That will only happen if more of the people are represented in the halls of power. Democrats are working to make that more likely.

In a world where politics, greed and theft determine so much, we are witnessing the last bid of the corrupt and greedy to own it all. We must not let that happen. I believe we won’t let it happen come the fall, but the revolution of kindness and thought needs to start in the city with the most people in it. That, of course,is New York City. We cannot succumb to ignorance and greed. It will only teach people that selfishness is more important than other people, and we have had enough of that lesson to last us a lifetime.

So, Mr. DiBlasio, I beg you to support teachers and students in your fair city. I beg you to make choices for free thought and people’s lives by paying your teachers, your school staff, and others what they are worth. The pandemic has shown us what teachers are worth, and how important education is. Make a stand and fight for it. Thank you for your time.

Resisting with Peace,

John Madsen-Bibeau

Tara Reade, Joe Biden, and Al Franken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting in Peace,

John

Trust, COVID, And How The Science Thing Works…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting with Peace,

John

Trust, COVID, And How The Science Thing Works…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting with Peace,

John

Every Day Can Be Easter!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting with Peace,

John

A Religious Revolution in 3 Parts: Palm Sunday

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

L.

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

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

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

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

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

II.

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

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

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

III.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting in Peace,

John