Next Year In Deering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace and love to you all!

John

What Still Irritates Me About 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting in Peace,

John

New Rules For The Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting with Peace,

John

STOP! Don’t Go!

I have to get this off my chest…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting with Peace,

John

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting with Peace,

John

Does The Economy Matter If We’re All Dead?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting with Peace,

John

American History From An Addiction Perspective…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May we all find the freedom that honesty provides.

Resisting with Peace,

John

Radical Christian Terrorism is NOT Christian At All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resisting in Peace,

John

Calling Each Other The Right Political Names

One of the things that drives me nuts in this propaganda-driven world is names. The fact that we call each other names at all is first, of course. After that, the idea that we call —and get called — the wrong names. I can put up with the political names that actually represent me, but if you’re going to dislike my views, at least talk about my actual views, than some random category that doesn’t represent me at all. To that end, I want to straighten things out with facts as far as I know them. I won’t make a judgement, I’m just going to explain, I hope it helps make things easier between people to mean the same things when we talk.

Part 1 — Politics vs. Economics — not always the same.

The first misconception is that the opposite of “democracy” is “communism”. Communism is about money and who owns what. Democracy is about politics, it’s about who makes decisions about the way things are in the country. The opposite of Communism is Capitalism. There are a whole lot of things that are “opposite” of democracy, including “oligarchy” and what we had under a king. By the way, the term Oligarchy means, “a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.” It, as we’ll see later, is the opposite of democracy.

Capitalism is the older of the two types of economic systems. That’s the one we have in America. Communism is the one that Russia and China used to have when I grew up. Now, my friend Jen, a history teacher, reminds me, the only actual Communist country still left is North Korea. Russia has become an Oligarchy and China is moving towards capitalism economically. Economically, an oligarchy means that the people will all the power also have most of the money.

Capitalism is the idea that people who have money or ideas own those things. They convince others to make those things. Those people who make things are workers. The owners pay them for their work. The owners pay other workers to sell those things. In the end, though, the owners make the bulk of the money because it’s their idea, their product, and they own it. They also take the risk by putting it out there. If it fails, in whatever way, the owners take the risk and therefore the pain. This used to apply to land owners and farms as well. They owned the land, the workers got paid, or protected by the owners or something. The land owners were in charge of, and responsible for everything.

Communism is an economic theory, proposed by Karl Marx, that says, in essence, that the workers do the work, therefore they should get the profits. Any profits made should get divided up and given to everybody. I don’t know enough to say where ideas come from, or who puts up the money, and who decides to put them on the market. As far as who is responsible if things fail, but I assume that everybody is because that’s the way it turns out now, here — the workers get the blame. Since the economy is controlled by the workers and the public as a whole, everybody should feel the pain of failure.

Now, to be totally fair and honest, there’s another part to the capitalist world: stockholders or investors. Stockholders don’t come with the ideas, nor do they build or sell them. They use their money to own a piece of the product’s profits, if it succeeds, or losses if it fails.. They lose if it doesn’t go well, but they are not creators or workers.

Also, to be fair, there has never been a perfect example of either of those systems. Hard-core Communism yields authoritarian leaders or dictators in reality. So does hard-core capitalism, not because of the theory, but because human beings, who can be kind or they can be jerks. Human flaws, magnified in leaders and their policies, create really flawed societies. Human goodness, magnified in leaders and their policies, create better functioning societies.

Part 2 — Who’s Who in Politics

We usually talk about left and right in politics. I think it was the French legislature that was first set up according to parties. One group sat on the right side of the room, another on the left side of the room, with moderates in the middle.

I’m going to start on the left and move toward the right on the political spectrum.

On the left are people who want change. Right now, their party is the Democratic Party. They are liberal, (open) in their understanding of what is and can be. On the far left are radicals who want a lot of change and they want it now! They tend to use violence to get what they want. Then there are progressives, who want change and are constantly pushing for it, but understand that change doesn’t go as fast as radicals want it to. Then there are liberals who want change to happen but aren’t as forceful about it. They are okay with change when it happens, but they don’t often push for it. Moderates liberals have to think about changes that happen before they agree to them. On the far left in WWII was the violent Stalin and supposedly “Communist” Russia. I say “supposedly”, because economics don’t have to be violent, but violent revolution has been part of Russia’s historic leadership.

On the right side, conservatives want things to stay the same. Right now, their party is called the Republican Party. Starting from moderates, we move to moderate conservatives, to “regular” conservatives who don’t want things to change unless you can a) prove that they must and b) that your plan is better than what they already have. After that, you have “reactionaries” who want things to back the way things were before usually when they were in power. Reactionaries want things, for example, to go back to a White society, run by Christians, landowners, and men. Far, far right people are reactionaries and — in their purest, most violent form are “Fascist”. In World War II, Hitler was a Fascist, as was Mussolini, and Japan’s leader.

Part 3 — Between Right and Left — a free America

In theory, as borne out during World War II, America is neither violent Leftist (Russia) nor violent Rightist (Fascists). In theory, America is about ideas, and people argue about them. The best idea, proposed by the best debater, wins. The people all have a say in things, but not purely. They make their opinions heard to those people who represent them. Those people make laws after arguing/debating. This is supposed to provide the best laws for the people who elected them.

Steering the balance between Right and Left is The President. We the People elect the President, whom we think is capable and has good ideas for our country. If they don’t have great ideas, they know people who do. Those people present ideas/policies that become the President’s laws proposals. The President and Congress generally duke it out verbally to come up with the best policies for people.

Now here’s where it gets weird: The people we elect to represent us are supposed to both represent us and be trusted to do that. If they don’t represent us, we are supposed to protest. If they can’t be trusted, and/or they actively hurt us, they are corrupt and should be thrown out of office.

Part 4 — Back to Names and Name Calling…

One of the strange things happening in America is that people call liberals “unpatriotic”. This is usually done with disgust in the voice and an eye-roll. Liberals aren’t bad or good, more or less patriotic. They’re just liberals. Conservatives aren’t bad or good, and they usually aren’t “fascists”. In fact, very few liberals even use the word “fascist” about Conservatives unless they actually are.

But here’s the weird part, this President, along with Right-wing radio use the word “fascist” a lot. And they mix it with to call us Fascist Leftists. There is no such thing as a Fascist Leftist! Fascists are the opposite of Leftists! You can’t be one and the other. It’s that simple.

Going back years, for example, Rush Limbaugh coined the phrase “Femi-nazis”. By that, he means feminists, or left-leaning women. In fact, Eva Braun would be a female Nazi. In America, what we would now call “Karen’s” would be actually closer to femi-nazis. Women on the very conservative right — the lady screaming about being anti-abortion in the 1980’s — was the actual femi-Nazi.

About me? I’m a progressive Democrat, who likes the idea of more people getting what they need, and representing more people as American, including Blacks, Women, Hispanics, and people who are all over the place sexually. Economically, I’m closer to socialism than capitalism , but I’m not violent, and I shouldn’t be scary to you. If my wanting more people’s voice to be heard and included in the debate that is our electoral system, then well, that’s just too bad. If wanting more people to eat, have a place to live, and get health care is scary to you, that’s you are immoral, not me.

Resisting in Peace,

John

Police: This, Not That

I inhabit this space between two worlds. I have White police family members and friends. I have Black friends. I also have clients of all colors, with many careers. As a minister, I see good and evil as categories. As a therapist, I see, often, how good and evil start in family systems and in communities of addiction which taint judgement in so many was. Some of these are different. Some are the same.

Some basic assumptions, before I start:

  • There is good and evil in the world.
  • Police believe it is their job to keep evil people from the good people. This is a noble goal.
  • Police often decide who they believe are good and those who are evil,
  • Police are often called specifically to make that decision.
  • Police officers believe in law and order. They see their job as enforcing the law and thus keeping order. They do not write the law, they enforce it.
  • I suspect that that policing is also a numbers game. “Good” police are supposed to enforce the law so many times in a certain period to prove they’re doing their job.
  • In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: The police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders.
  • In addition to that, there are lawmakers who decide what is crime and what isn’t crime.
  • Because the system of policing and laws are made by human beings, there is the possibility of bad/evil laws made by bad/evil lawmakers.
  • Because the system of police is made up of human beings, there is thBecause the system of policing and laws are made by human beings, there is the possibility of bad/evil laws made by bad/evil lawmakers.
  • Because society is made up of human beings, any given member of society can be anywhere on the spectrum between good and bad.
  • We have to live together.

Here’s where it gets muddy: If the good police are enforcing bad laws, are they really good police? Also, if there are bad police, and there are, are the police as a whole good?

Here’s what I know from my Black friends and life in the city:

  • Most Black people are decent, kind, hardworking people. They just are.
  • They go to church on Sundays, they believe in God. Those that don’t are deeply affected by those who do, because so many do.
  • In addition, many people — Black and White — practice Islam. Islam, like Christianity, has a moral code at its base.
  • In other words, Black people, like White people, are most often good, decent people who know right from wrong, and try to do right. This is my experience. From my perception, it is fact.
  • Many (most?) White people don’t know, as friends, Black people. In short, they don’t actually know any Black people. This means that what they do know is based on media reports, rumors, myths, and stories about Black people, told or seen by White people.

Unknown to most White people, (because most White people don’t make laws) there’s a reason for this. The reason is because there were laws made so that Black people couldn’t live in the same area as Whites. In California, there were also laws made that said Asians couldn’t live with Whites. This type of lawmaking is known as “redlining”. Like everything else, it’s not based in actual experience of the Black community, because, as I said, the Black community is basically good, decent, hardworking people, who know right from wrong and try to live decent lives.

So, if police just enforce the law, and it’s a bad law, are they good or bad for doing their job? If White police have to make judgement calls about who is a criminal and who’s not, but all they know about Black people is what they’ve seen on TV, read about, or heard from other Whites, how can they even do their job? It’s a set-up, bound for failure.

So, this week, for the millionth time, White police officers enforced the law on a Black person they couldn’t know personally. For what seems to be the hundredth time this year, they killed or wounded that Black person. Is it any wonder?

There has got to be a better way to do this. Maybe it involves having police know the people they are policing. That means living in their communities, or maybe knowing Black people outside of work, or having Black police officers policing Black communities.

Maybe it involves less firearms (Brits don’t use guns, and they still have law and order. By firearms, I include tanks, armored vehicles, assault weapons, etc. Maybe the general society shouldn’t have as many firearms. Maybe we shouldn’t worship guns as what make us free.

Maybe it involves electing more lawmakers who actually know Black people in their daily lives and wouldn’t dream of separating people by color.

In any case, this can’t go on. Lack of understanding combined with bad laws can only lead to more chaos in our streets. Blaming problems on people you don’t know won’t solve anything. If you want peace and quiet, this isn’t the way to get it. Good people that we don’t know are getting killed, and they are sick of it, because they should be.

Resisting with Peace,

John