Presidents Day – Monday, February 15th, 2021

Presidents are human beings.

They have all been men (so far), flawed men; everyone who has ever held the office has been flawed. Some have had heroic attributes, but all of them have had craven moments.

There have only been forty-six them, and we have just lived through the chaotic and criminal presidency of the 45th, ending with his second impeachment after a failed and hapless insurrection that he waged in a desperate and feeble bid to retain power, or simply to assuage his mad vanity…

Today the occupant of the oval office is a long serving government official, former Senator and former Vice President, the oldest man ever elected to the office, Joseph R. Biden, and it seems like he wants to do some good for the people of this country, which would be nice for a change since the government is meant to be there to work for us…all of us.

We are in the middle of a global pandemic, a catastrophe that we have been struggling through for over a year; nearly half a million Americans have died from it, in large part do to the rank incompetence of the 45th President.

There is a lot of work ahead of us, and I do not know if we are up to it, but at least we have a President who understands that it is his task to hold us all-together while we try to get the work done.

We have a President who seems interested in doing more than simply manage the moment in front of us; his team, which includes the first woman to hold the office of Vice President, his team is looking past the pandemic, they are looking forward to the job of rebuilding our country, of redefining the American experience, of making the American Dream a reality that includes everyone, lifts the spirits of everyone, distributes what is just and good to everyone, cares for everyone, and leaves no-one behind.

We can do this; we can do it if we have the political will to push our elected representatives to do the right thing.

I for one am grateful that we have a new President, a hopeful President, but our problems go well beyond the ability of one man to fix, just as they go well beyond the scope of one man’s depravity.

Keep hope alive!

Thanksgiving, the Via Negativa

Today is Thanksgiving, a secular holiday; nevertheless, Thanksgiving is sacred to most Americans.

Many of us write reflections on this day, posting memes that express to the world the things we are thankful for, and that is nice, conscientious, appropriate. We have much to be thankful for as Americans, and we should never forget it.

A heartfelt expression of gratitude is always welcome, even the gratitude that is expressed in general for the many things we receive from those we love, by whom we are loved, for the things we are given that make our lives more comfortable, more challenging and more meaningful.

It is never inappropriate to thankful.

To express gratitude is to make one’s self humble; it is to acknowledge our reliance on others for making us into the people we have become.

Thanksgiving is a day for humility; therefore, be gracious. Be thankful…insofar as you are able, in-so-doing you will be following the way of the wise.

In theology there is something known as the apophatic tradition. In this tradition it is understood that God, by whatever name you call the creator the universe (of all that is and all we are), that God dwells in a mode of being that is beyond human understanding.

The apophatic tradition tells us that God is shrouded in mystery, a state of being that mystics describe as the cloud of un-knowing.

According to the apophatic tradition, we are not able speak in the affirmative about what or who God is, because God, the eternal and infinite, God will not be circumscribed by the finite constructs of human thought and language.

We are not able to posit meaningful assertions about the nature of the Divine; what we are left with is the via negative, the way of understanding who God is by stating what God is not.

In keeping with the via negativa, I am in the custom of forgoing the traditional giving-of-thanks, even though I am truly grateful for my friends and compatriots, I am grateful for everyone in my life, grateful for all of those who inspire me, who love me and who are patient with me every single day.

I am grateful for you.

For thanksgiving I follow the via negative, the negative way,and express what I am not thankful for.

I am not thankful for the coronavirus and COVID-19.

I am not thankful that 260,000 Americans have died from this virus, with thousands more dying everyday.

I am not thankful that there are more than 20,000,000 million Americans out of work do to safety measures we have had to take in order to fight this pandemic.

I am not thankful that tens of millions of Americans refuse to participate in those safety measures, that they do not care for the lives and safety of their neighbors, or their families or even themselves enough to wear a mask, and keep distant from one another.

I am not thankful that the track record of the United States is the worst in the world for dealing with this crises, that with four percent of the population we have twenty percent of the deaths.

I am not thankful that Donald Trump lies about these facts and figures as a means of trying to avoid responsibility for his dismal failures.

I am not thankful for the food lines that stretch for miles in some communities this holiday season so that families can have something to put on the table to celebrate the good things in their lives.

I am not thankful that the economic relief which the entire country is in desperate need of receiving is being held up by the political machinations of Mitch McConnell the senate majority leader and his caucus of heartless, short-sighted republicans.

I am not thankful that in the Fake President, Donald Trump, continues to divide us by class, culture, color, and is desperately trying to overturn the results of the election he just lost by 7,000,000 votes, and counting

I am not thankful for their collective failure of Congress to protect the constitution, or for the individual members who have forgotten their oath of office.

I am not thankful for our failures of leadership.

I am not thankful for white supremacy, and domestic terrorism.

I am not thankful for terrorism anywhere. I am not thankful for the religious fundamentalism that drives it. I am thankful neither for the fear that spawns it, nor for the fear it generates

I am not thankful that there is hunger in our bountiful world. I am not thankful for the greed and the sloth and the bad public policy that fosters it.

I am not thankful for willful ignorance, for anti-rational, anti-intellectual, demagoguery. I am not thankful for the cultural relativism that has promoted it, for anti-objectivism, for liars.

I am not thankful for Donald Trump. I am not thankful for my fellow Americans who voted for him, I am not thankful for his allies in congress or people anywhere who continue to support him.

I am not thankful for the media outlets, the reporters, the editorialists who failed and continue to fail to take the threat Donald Trump represent to our Democracy seriously. I am not thankful that they abdicated their responsibilities as the gatekeepers of society, as the so called 4th Estate, allowing his corrupt and criminal regime to cause so much harm to ordinary people.

I am not thankful for his corruption of the rule of law.

I am not thankful for our government’s continuous assault on our population of immigrants and refugees, for the way we have abdicated our responsibility to care for the asylum seeker.

I am not thankful for these things.

I am not thankful that there is so much more to add to this list.

Did I say that I am not thankful for white supremacists? I did, but let me say it again…I am not thankful for them or their apologists, both their soft supporters and their ardent advocates. I am not thankful that they have had a seat at the table in the Trump administration, I am not thankful for the normalization of that kind of hate in our society.

I am not thankful for that.

Halloween – A Holiday Reflection

When I was young I imagined that Halloween was for children.

Halloween was all costumes and candy and imaginary play. It was as an escape from reality, an opportunity to gaze into another world, to pierce the veil of what is real and true.

We use to go block to block in our costumes, we called it Trick or Treating, we carried pillow cases slung over our shoulders, taking candies at nearly every door we knocked on, with nearly every bell we rang.

We scoffed at the people who only handed out little bibles or tubes of toothpaste, and shunned those who handed out home-made fare, thinking they were doing something good.

We would rather have nothing at all than have those things, and they quickly found their way into the trash; all those little popcorn balls, boxes of raisins, apples and bibles.

With fondness I recall the drill that came at the end of the night, searching through our candy piles, looking for suspicious things, open packages, search for pins and needles and razor blades.

We understood that some people hated children and would slip these into the candies.

I never found anything dangerous, never once in all of those years, but the fear that there could be, haunted us for real.

Halloween is not all fun and games, though, it has a deeper meaning than we were taught as children, and a much longer history.

Halloween is not just about ghosts and goblins and friendly witches.

In the celebration of Halloween an ages old conflict is present, a real struggle between the Christian Church, and the “Old Time Religion,” the customs of the pagans, paganus, pagani, the country folkand their persistent traditions that lurk just beneath the surface of the Christian rites.

On the Christian Calendar; Halloween is All Hallows Eve, a celebration of the honored dead, of all the saints who had passed before, who have already gone to meet the maker.

For the old pagans; whose traditions are tightly interwoven with the Church, Halloween is a celebration of the dead, plain and simple, of all of the dead, of the saints and sinners who have passed from this world together.

Halloween is an acknowledgment of the dead whose spirits walk among us still, good and bad, honored or not.

In modern times the holiday has been largely stripped from its affiliation with Christianity, celebrating the dangerous, the macabre, the frightening and the weird, those qualities and characteristics that every person hides within themselves, because they are in fear of the world.

I was fourteen the last time I went Trick or Treating, and really, I was only chaperoning my younger brother then, I was not dressed up, but I took some candy nonetheless.

In that same year I remember the Pastor at my church lamenting the popularity of the pagan festival. Believing that the Christian feast should be honored above it instead, to the exclusion of anything else.

There was no fun in that, there was no fun in him. He was just an old man watching his tradition fade away, being usurped by those of another generation, by children who were less committed to the Church than he was when at their age.   

In the years that followed, the number of children who go out in costumes seeking candy has declined by 25%, so the media outlets say.

Halloween is no longer considered safe or wholesome; it has yielded to the real dangers of the real world.

For me it is just another day, Halloween, I do not believe the dead walk with us. I have never seen a ghost, or any evidence of magic, as far as national holidays go, this one is an anomaly, though my maternal grandmother was born on this day.

There are real horrors in the world, we have a pumpkin colored demagogue for a president, spreading fear, night and day and lying to us at every turn. We are in the grip of a global Pandemic that is the claiming the life of an American citizen ever ninety seconds.

We are three days away from a national election where the prospect of reelecting this made man is all-too-real.

So now that I think about it, today of all days we should all be thankful that we have this day to luxuriate in the fantastic and the surreal.

Happy Halloween!

2020.10.31

Indigenous Peoples Day – Not Columbus Day

Let us forgo the celebration of Christopher Columbus and the extraordinary crossing he made with Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, and recognize what a monster he was.

I learned this refrain in grade school: In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He set out on his adventure, sailed in pursuit of fame, wealth and titles and vanity. He sailed across the Atlantic four times and back; he became wealthy and famous, he earned the titles he sought, but his vanity was never satisfied.

Christopher Columbus was an Italian from Genoa and he was born in obscurity. As a boy he went to sea where he learned the skills and the knowledge that brought him to a captaincy.

In this aspect he was remarkable and deserving of respect.

He became an adventurer in the service of Ferdinand and Isabella, the monarchs of Spain. He made his first voyage for them in 1492, setting sail on September 6th, and sighting land in what we now call the Islands of the Bahamas on October 12th. He named the island that he landed on San Salvador; exactly which island this was is now lost to memory.

He expected to be in Asia, but to his surprise, and to the surprise of everyone back in the Spanish and European courts, there were other continents and other oceans they had yet to traverse in order to get to India.

They still wanted a westward route to India, but they were more than happy to discover the truth for themselves and learn the real shape of the world.

Columbus opened up these continents and all of their peoples, to the incessant appetites and cruelties of the Europeans, to their hunger for gold, and for land and for war.

He never sailed past the Islands of the Caribbean. He never set foot in what came to be known as the America’s, and his life after his first voyage was not without controversy.

He became wealthy and earned titles, but he was also arrested, jailed and relieved of his governance, before eventually being released.

His heirs did not inherit the titles he had earned, he never entered the true nobility. He died at the age of fifty-four, a sailor from Genoa bearing the meaningless title Admiral of the Ocean Seas.

His coming to the West, was the beginning of the end for countless peoples, for tribes whose names history did not record, peaceful people who were captured and enslaved, and worked to death, the encommendero system marked by genocide and the tyranny of Spanish rule began with him.

Columbus’ journey was one of historical significance, we should take note of it, but the truth should be told and not celebrated.

Columbus was a petty man, reckless and pitiless and a harbinger of death.

Labor Day – A Reflection

Labor Day

Today is Labor Day, a great national holiday, a day set aside for the American worker and to celebrate the ordinary citizen.

This day is meant to honor laborers, it is a day to honor work. It is meant to be a day of rest, repose and respite, but this year it is a day that we must acknowledge our collective anxiety as there are twenty million Americans unemployed, out of work and uncertain of our future.

I spent most of my life working in the hospitality sector. Now I am self-employed but my clients are mostly restaurants, this year many of my friends and colleagues have had to shutter their businesses, close their doors, cut their hours, reduce their staff change their business model to account for the global pandemic COVID-19.  

There are millions of workers that have the day off this year who would rather be working. We have had too much time off, but the nation is not ready to reopen.

Our chief executive has abdicated the responsibility for managing this crises, preferring to pretend that it will go away on its own.

It will not.

Each of our fifty states has a different plan to handle the pandemic, some governors have followed the president’s example, abdicating their responsibility, putting it off on local governments at the county and municipality level. Some of these governors have taken even more draconian steps and signed orders that limit what local governments can do to protect their people and find a safe way to live, go to school, engage in commerce and move forward.

Today we count the number of dead at 190,000 and climbing.

On Memorial Day we were poised to cross the 100,000 threshold. Ninety thousand more Americans dies over the summer, and it did not have to be this way.

It does not have to be this way, but it will continue to be this way until we have leadership that acknowledges the scope of the emergency, and puts together a plan to manage the crises.

The economy will continue to struggle, the stock market notwithstanding, a million Americans will file new claims for unemployment every week, the unemployment rate will continue to hover around ten percent, Americans will not return to work for as long as the status quo remains the same.

The unemployed American worker needs relief. The House of representatives has passed a bill to provide. The Senate has opted not to address and the president is actively working against it.

We need the Hero’s act to pass to provide this relief, we need to keep those who are still working, working, we need it to help those who are not working return to work. We need it so that American families can keep a roof over their heads, keep the lights on, keep gas in the car, and keep food on the table

We need leadership, or we need a general strike!

Happy Labor Day my brothers and sisters, lets due the right thing!

Strike and Unite!

2020.09.07

Independence Day – A Holiday Reflection

I have always loved the fourth of July; the mid-summer holiday, the nostalgic look back at the victories of the Continental Soldiers, the American revolutionaries who threw off the yoke of tyranny and the oppression of kings.

 

I loved it.

 

I loved it uncritically as a child.

 

I loved it without thought or question, and a part of me still does.

 

As I grew older and learned more about the real history of the revolutionary war, the real politics of the founders, the philosophies that drove them, the numerous ways in which they were morally and ethically compromised (compromised is too light of a word), compromised by war mongering and profiteering, compromised by slave-holding and the exclusion of women from governance; compromised by religious intolerance and a greed that drove them against the First People, as I learned more about these historical-truths it became self-evident that the nation was founded on a carefully balanced set of ideals that the founders themselves did not have the courage to live up to.

 

America was founded on a compact of lies.

 

The preamble to the constitution states that all people are created equal, that all people inherently possess rights which we cannot be separated from, the foremost of which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident that these rights are inalienable, or so we are told. We are told that these rights do not derive from government, they derive from God, the creator of the universe, God the creator of every person in it, these rights do not belong to us because we are Americans, they belong to us because we are human beings and the American purpose is to defend those rights, both within our borders and around the world.

 

We have only ever paid lip service to these ideals. It was never more than wishful thinking, and today within our own borders we are trampling all over these rights, rights which belong to everyone, including, the immigrant and the alien among us, including our black and brown skinned sisters and brothers, including the working poor, and the homeless and everyone struggling to get by.

 

Instead of welcoming and protecting and sheltering the poor and the disenfranchised who have come to us for asylum, we are imprisoning them, denying them due process, dehumanizing them, abusing them, and it is breaking my heart.

 

Instead of protecting and serving the citizenry we are paying huge sums of money to police forces that kill the people with gross prejudice and criminal discrimination.

 

We have always failed to live up to our ideals.

 

The expression of these self-evident truths in the Declaration of Independence, and its codification in law in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, did not at the same time abolish the institutions of slavery, give women the right to own land, to vote and other modes of self-determination, neither did it not outlaw wars of aggression against the sovereign nations of the First People. These self-evident truths, these inalienable rights, did not prevent the United States of America from entering a campaign of genocide and extermination against them.

 

The founders applied these principles to themselves and their “peers,” they used those principles to justify their separation from the dominion of the kings of England, they used these principles to protect their property after the War of Independence had been won, but they refused to extend these principles to everyone within the aegis of American power; we continue to live with those failures today.

 

The 4th of July is Independence Day, it is a day to celebrate our freedom, and our victory in the Revolutionary War, there is much to celebrate in that.

 

I am a veteran, I know that war and battle create many opportunities for selflessness and displays of courage that most human beings cannot help but admire and applaud, even though the antecedents of war and the causes of conflict are always unjust, morally vacant and abhorrent.

 

Always and without exception war represents a failure of human beings to live up to the purpose we were created for.

 

In my heart, I want to celebrate the revolutionaries, their courage, the flag which unifies us as a nation, but I find it difficult. The story of America, beginning on July 4th, is one that has many bright moments, but we are foolish, cold-hearted and ignorant if we do not at the same time recognize the millions of slaves who built our first cities, who farmed the plantations, who established our first industries and the millions of people belonging to sovereign nations that we crushed in our westward expansion, starving and killing them without mercy, displacing them, outlawing their religion and customs, erasing their languages.

 

I find it difficult.

 

Who among us, knowing that history, finds it easy?

 

You would have to be a monster to be unmoved by the tragedies that ensued after the signing of our Declaration.

 

Yesterday Donald Trump held a political rally at Mount Rushmore, a sacred site that was stolen from the First People and carved up into a monument to honor a group of men, who may have been brilliant and wise and courageous, but who were also deeply flawed and guilty of the worst crimes against humanity

 

Donald Trump did it to exacerbate the racial tension that has griped the country in the fourth year of his presidency. He held it there like a cartoon villain, bankrupt and with no good reason to continue, he did it to stroke his ego to cover up the blemish of his incompetence at handling the worst public health crises the country has ever seen.

 

The 4th of July should be a time of soul searching and deep reflection and community, forget about the flag waving and jingoism.

 

Ask yourself what it means to be an American; immigrant, refugee, stolen people, enslaved people, conquered people, vanquished people, and the revolutionary. We are the descendants of them all, the immigrant, the refugee, the stolen, the enslaved, the conquered, the vanquished; we are their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren…we are one people with a common history, and a common set of ideals we should be continuously striving to live up to.

 

We are a great nation, if and only if we remember it all.

 

4th of July

 

Given – 2020.07.04

Given 1st – 2016.07.04

Memorial Day – A Reflection

Memorial Day is a day set aside for reflection, a day meant for us to honor our fallen dead.

The meaning of Memorial Day has changed a great deal since it was founded. At its inception, the day was set aside to honor the African-American soldiers who fought and died in the Civil War, both our soldiers who were born-free, as well as those who were former slaves; men and women, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters who gave everything they had to keep the United States of America whole, and to make it a free nation.

Memorial Day was established to honor those who died for an America which they only dreamed could exist. They died for these United States, for a vision of it that they prayed for, but was not yet real; they got something different, they got this reality, an America that is still in a state of becoming, one that is more or less just, depending on where you are born, what color your skin is, what class you belong to.

Those men and women died for us, for good or ill, they died for us. They died for promises that went un-realized, they died for a dream deferred, as our poet Langston Hughes wrote of the African-American experience in his poem Harlem(1) :

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

We have yet to repay those good people, we have yet to fulfill their hopes for the America they dreamt of; America, daughter of liberty, America the true and good, America the arbiter of justice, an America that could be if we pursue the dream of her, and exercise the will to make it so.

Now, we honor our dead on this day; our soldiers and sailors and airmen, our police and firefighters; we honor them.

We are too frequently called upon to honor children, children who stand in the way of gunfire to protect their classmates, who had to pay for it with their lives.

We must honor them and their sacrifice, all of them who died upholding our most cherished values, we honor them in recognition of the fact that we are one people descended from many nationalities and ethnicities, and that we each come into the world with the absolute right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that all other rights are subordinate to these.

This year we are called upon to honor all of our citizens who have spent their lives, giving it to public service. We honor our teachers and the good works of our ordinary citizens, of our friends and neighbors, we honor the sacrifice of everyone, known and unknown, and those yet to come.

We must honor the 100,000 Amricans and more who have perished from a deadly coronavirus we call COVID-19, and we must honor the doctors and nurses, the EMTs and paramedics, the orderlies and custodians who are charged to risk their lives and give their lives to care for them.

On this day of all days, do not make the mistake of thinking that it is our service women and men who keep us free.

It has been at least sixty years since America faced an “existential” threat from a foreign power.

We are not kept free through armed conflict.

We do not face such an existential threat from beyond our borders and shores right now; not from Iran, not from North Korea, not from Russia, not from China or anywhere.

The real threat we face is from ourselves, we face an existential threat of ignorance, short-sightedness and greed.

We stand in our own way; we, and we alone who can protect us from ourselves.

Our apathy and selfishness, our prejudice and hatred, our gluttony and cowardice, these are the most dangerous forces aligned against us, these are the forces that threaten our freedom. They are more deadly than any other worldly power, these are the forces which have gone unchecked by our elected representatives, even encouraged by our President and his criminal regime that are killing our fellow Americans in numbers greater than the last five decades of armed conflict.
It is shameful and terrifying.

To honor our fallen dead, you must do your part to keep us free. You must participate in our democracy.

Vote, stay informed, organize, build alliances and collaborate.

Our collective failure as citizens of the Unites States has allowed a criminal, autocratic, demagogue to hold power in the White House, allowed the Supreme Court to state that corporations are to be treated as people, and money regarded as free speech, while those same justices have told ordinary American’s that their right to free speech does not include the right to be heard, and that our right to vote does not include the guarantee that our votes will be counted.

This rank cynicism is more dangerous to our lives and freedom than any rag tag group of militants half way around the world, more dangerous than immigrants looking for a better life on our side of the border we share, people who are only seeking the same thing as my own forebears did when they came here a little over a hundred years ago.

Honor our fallen dead. Not with cards and flowers and barbeques (but do those things because they are good), honor them by standing up to racism and bigotry, to religious zealotry and corporate greed, to scientific ignorance and xenophobia, to corruption in our public officials in our highest offices, and to the notion that the right to keep and bear arms does not include our responsibility to regulate them.

Honor them by participating in public discourse. Do not lose heart, and do not give up.

Honor them by wearing a face mask when you go out in public, by practicing social distancing, and by supporting your neighbors in the weeks and months and years ahead, as we rebuild our country in the hopes of achieving the dream that is still being deferred.

Stand up, and be counted!

We must rebuild America and reform our institutions; we must do this for the sake of all Americans and all future generations.

We must take responsibility for our live and freedom.

We will have nothing to protect if we let apathy and ignorance, selfishness ad gluttony provide a vector for a virus that cannot distinguish between borders and political parties.

Honor the fallen, in this way.

Participate!

Jay P. Botten, Veteran, U.S.N., Hospital Corps, 1990 – 1994

(1) Langston Hughes, “Harlem” from The Collected Works of Langston Hughes. Copyright © 2002 by Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates, Inc.369th_15th_New_York_large

 

Earth Day is my Birthday

All of our eggs are in one basket, I have said it before.

We live here, all of us-all-together and we have no place else to go.

The world is a big place and it can take a lot of damage, but the ecosystems we depend on are specialized and fragile. The world itself will survive many things that we individually and our bio-systems collectively cannot.

We are in peril, and that has never been more obvious to our generation than right now, in the era of COVID-19.

We are responsible for the care of this world. It is a sacred obligation, we have been charged with its care by our holy books, and more importantly under the aegis of common sense.

We are responsible for and to each other, we live together in this common-wheel.

The care of the world is a categorical imperative; if we do not care for it, the world may just shrug us off, or shrug just enough that a calamity will ensue that will alter our future destiny forever, changing our cultures, our languages, even our DNA.

Listen!

There are natural disasters pending, they are built into the structure of the planet, into the thinness of the mantle, and in conjunction with the heat emanating from deep within our planet’s core.

There are massive volcanoes, and there is continental drift, the geological forces at work just below our feet could easily destroy us all.

If we allow it.

There are calamities heading our way from outer-space, celestial bodies sailing through the ether, already on a collision course with Earth. There are asteroids and comments that we will collide with us, if we are unable to work cooperatively to change their course, these certain eventualities will overwhelm us. They are baked in, such disasters are existential threats.

Foreseeable events also represent opportunities for the advancement of science, and the unification of humanity. Given enough time, it is possible that we could even harness the power of the greatest volcanoes, turn their destructive energies to the benefit of humankind, or move the near Earth objects that threaten us from our path, capture them for their mineral wealth.

We need time, but more than that we need a willingness to understand these challenges, and rise to them.

We face other threats right now, immediate threats, viral pandemics, and threats of our own making.

We are changing the climate, the planet is warming.

Our oceans are becoming acidic, we are changing their salinity.

We are filling our atmosphere with toxins.

Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising

We are polluting our freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams.

We are losing topsoil, our forests and our coral reefs.

Our stewardship is failing.

We are divided, against each other…by greed which drives a short sighted political mindset, seeking and succeeding at turning people against their long-term interests.

Politicians and their wealthy patrons, silence and undermine our scientists, they cast doubt on any field of inquiry which might lead to a curtailment of their industrial enterprises, or their short-term profits.

They treat the Earth and all of its resources like it is a grab-bag full of goodies, opened for them to plunder, like children with a big stick whacking at a piñata.

Those in the most powerful positions treat the rest of us the same way, we are not people to them, we are assets, expendables. You can hear their spokespeople cajoling their followers right now, attempting to convince them that “saving” the “economy” is worth the cost of millions of lives, our children and our grandparents, our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, husbands and wives.
They are actively trying to convince us that we should accept the risk, like buying into a lottery, blithely ignoring the statistics that suggest the virus, if left unchecked, will kill between one and three percent of us.

They would sacrifice millions and millions of lives for their “economy”.

Our stewardship is failing.

We are failing.

It is Earth Day 2020, and all of our eggs are in one basket, the basket is fragile, and there is no other.

Earth Day is my Birthday.

04.22.2020

Easter – A Holiday Reflection

When I was a child Easter always came in conjunction with a week off from school; Spring Break we called it, and we still do.

Spring Break always came with Eastertide, but in the public schools we were not allowed to call it Easter Break, on account on account of the separation between church and state, a separation that we are wise to maintain.

I am not sure when it happened, but at some point those conventions began to change, school boards stopped planning the spring break to coincide with the Christian holiday.

Maybe this was due to a sensitivity that had begun to develop in the broader culture, or a desire to cohere more closely to such constitutionally required demarcations, or maybe it was just because the Easter festivities follow an erratic cycle, because it does not follow the solar calendar.

Easter, like Passover, follows Selene, the wandering Titaness, the silvery-moon.

Sometimes Easter comes as late as my birthday, April 22nd, Earth Day, other times it is as early as my sister Raney’s birthday, March 28th.

In the years when Easter fell on our birthday we were able to experience the sense of being overlooked that other kids feel whose birthdays fall on holidays like Christmas or New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July or Halloween.

In one sense Easter is all-about the palette of pastels, donning spring garments, hats and dresses for the ladies, pressed suits for the boys, it is about greening lawns and budding trees, and it is about hard-boiled eggs died with bright colors and then hidden around the house. It is about jelly beans and chocolates and other candies.

There is an Easter feast, ham being the most common thing we put on the table in America.

For many people Easter has little to do with the commemoration of the risen Christ, which is at the root of the holiday. Jesus, the new lawgiver leading the people to a new promised land in a new Passove, leading the poor and downtrodden to a world beyond the veil of time and space, one that is free of pain and anguish.

When we were young my brothers and sisters and I would always watch the Cecil B. De Mill epic, The Ten Commandments, featuring Charlton Heston as Moses, and we watched him transform from prince to exile as he discovered his identity and lead his people away from a life of bondage.

It was a tradition that more clearly connected the Christian holiday to its Jewish roots than any sermon I ever heard in church.

My family rarely went to church on Easter, we hardly ever went to church at all.

For many folks, Easter marks the equinox, a celebration of the change in the arc of the sun, the angle of light, the change from the dark days of winter, to the bright days of spring.

The Christian tradition is a celebration of the risen Christ, it is a celebration of the power of life over death, and the expectation of summer, the season of planting and of hope for the future.

This Easter came at the median, falling just about in the middle of its shifting arc.

This Easter is different from any other Easter that has come before as the whole world experience a devastating pandemic, and we are all shuttered in our homes.

In America twenty-thousand people have died from it in a matter of weeks.

Church bells are ringing above empty halls. Families dine with one another by teleconference.

This Easter, as with every Easter since the murder of Jesus, there is good reason to mourn the terrible state of humanity, and some reason to hope for its betterment.

It is a day that we can ask ourselves how best we can return to life?

How can we be restored in ourselves, in our families, in our communities, and how we can share that hope with the world.

Blessings, and peace be upon you…may the force be with you, always!

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The Feast of Saint Patrick – Patron Saint of Ireland

Saint_St_Patrick_Enlightener_of_Ireland_Hand-Painted_Orthodox_Icon_2_2Today is the feast of Saint Patrick, today we celebrate his sainthood, and the ascendance to heaven of a British man, of Roman heritage, who lived sometime between the fourth and fifth centuries CE.

Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland, but he was not Irish at all, he was a Roman of the Patrician class, from a family of rank, and privilege.

Patrick (Patricius) is credited with converting the people of Erin to faith in the Universal Church, the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ, in so doing he separated the Celtic people from their Gaelic traditions, and subordinated them to the Catholic Church in Rome.

It is no wonder that he was named a saint for this, Patricius.

He won with the Word what could not be accomplished by through war, by sword and spear, by fire and blood.

It should be noted that Saint Patrick has never been canonized, or even beatified not by any Pope. Therefore Patrick is not officially a Saint of the Catholic Church, and nevertheless, he is recognized in the annals of the Saints of the Church of England, I hope that all my Irish kinfolk appreciate the irony of this.

It is worthy of song.

History tells us that Patrick was a humble man, a rare quality for those of rank. History also tells us that he proofed the plan of spreading the faith by converting Irish chieftains first. Patrick was a politician of great skill. Every missionary who followed him, emulated this method.

He spread the faith, he established churches and he earned the rank of Apostle, by popular acclamation.

History tells us that his mother was a relative of Saint Martin of Tours, the patron Saint of Soldiers, Saint Martin of the Sword whose biography was written by Pope Saint Gregory the Great, but we know that was a work of pure fiction. Saint Martin never lived, even so, his story gave license for Christians to become soldiers, to serve in the army, and as such it brought the Roman legions into the fold.

Patrick was said to have had “heroic piety,” praying day and night, in the mountains and the woods, he prayed through the rain, and through storms of snow and ice, he should be the patron saint of post men if this were true, but then again…all hagiographies are lies.

His story tells us that he spent six years as a captive and servant to a Celtic Chieftain, the Druid named Milchu in Dalriada, where he mastered the language of the common folk and learned all of their stories.

However, if you appreciate history you will know that it is much more likely that he fled his home to wander abroad in order to escape the duties that were expected of him as the son of a nobleman. Such departures were common in his time, they were referred to as the “flight of the curiales.” Patrick was no captive at all, he was a boy running from his responsibilities.

Rather than being taken captive it is more likely that he paid for asylum in Milchu’s house, and that he paid for the services of tutors to help him learn the language.

The Druids were great teachers and oral historians that much is true.

The story of his escape (if it was in fact an escape from servitude), and subsequent journey were of his own account. He cast the entire experience in dramatic, even biblical terms, they served both to cover up his crime of abnegation, and also to establish his fame.

It is said that Patrick escaped from Milchu and then fled to the mainland of Europe where he entered the priesthood and became a missionary. On his return to Ireland however, the first place he went was to his former home in Dalriada. Where, after some period of conflict with his former captor (or patron) and the affectation of some miracles on Patrick’s part, Milchu immolated himself to make way for the upstart, throwing himself on a fire after burning the collected scrolls and mysteries of his people.

This event may be seen in metaphorical terms as Milchu offering himself as a human sacrifice, at the foundation of the church in Ireland.

That’s how Patrick wrote it.

In reality. the whole episode denotes the ritual destruction of the Celtic people in favor of the ascending Romano-British invaders.

On Easter Sunday, 433 a conflict of will ensued between Patrick and the Celtic Arch-Druid Lochru, historians mythologized it as a battle of divine forces like the contest between Moses and the Egyptians, or Elijah and priests of Baal, and it ended with Saint Patrick magically hurling Lochru into the air, and breaking him to pieces on a sharp rock.

It was another ritual murder at the foundation of the Irish Church, another human sacrifice to be sure. There is no other way to read this, it was a good old-fashioned Roman slaughter.

On a side note, while speaking of his vaunted magic powers, not to be outdone by Jesus, this same Patrick was said to have been able to raise the dead.

It should be noted the Columbanus, who was the most significant representative of the Irish Catholic Church after the Dark Ages, who lived and wrote and sent missionaries from Ireland to Continental Europe, building Churches and founding religious communities, makes no mention of Saint Patrick in his writing, not once, not anywhere, Columbanus tells us that the Church in Ireland was founded by a man named Palladius.

The entire legend of Saint Patrick is little more than a myth designed to subordinate the Irish heart to a British noble of Roman descent, and a fictitious one at that.

Be mindful when you celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day!
Revised 2020.03.17

Given First 2018.03.17