Presidents Day – Presidents Speak for Themselves, a Reflection

Presidents Speak for Themselves
A Reflection
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. All of them have had craven moments.

There have only been forty-four of them, until now, now we are living through the chaotic and criminal presidency of the 45th.

A couple of other presidents have barely made it into office, only a handful have won the office while failing to earn the popular vote, the 45th is one of them.

The forty-third was appointed by the Supreme Court, it was the first time that ever happened. Nevertheless, all of our presidents have legitimately held the office…until now.

Today the occupant of the oval office, the forty-fifth person to do so Is Donald J. Trump. When he took the oath of office I was prepared to accept him, even though he lost the popular vote. I was prepared to accept him, but I quickly realized that I could not, because there is certain intrigue surrounding his victory that has tainted it for all time. There was foreign interference by the Russians, the conspiracy of his campaign to collude with them and defraud the people of the United States. There was other domestic malfeasance such as; voter suppression, and other shadow campaigns, by actual candidates, and run by anonymous groups on social media platforms that took from the majority of the people the candidate that they preferred.

I was prepared to accept him, just as I had accepted Regan, and Bush who were also elected to the highest office, without my support, or my enthusiasm, or my vote.

I accepted them because I believed that they would uphold the rule of law (even though plenty of illegal things were done during their administration, done in their name and in the name of the American people).

Despite the flaws of those Presidents I believed they would support the American system, the separation of powers, the separation of Church and State, the freedom of the press, and an independent judiciary.

By and large, they did.

The forty-fifth president has not, and will not.

Donald Trump is seeking to undermine the courts, at every turn. He actively undermines our institutions and works to undermine the rule of law. He continues to solicit foreign interference in our elections, and he has turned the instruments of law enforcement against his political rivals.

He dismantles our alliances, pulling out of treaties, starting trade wars, usurping the powers of Congress, and lying through his teeth, to the American people, about what he is doing and what his motives are.

His has declared National Emergency so that he can manage his political problem. He has assumed emergency powers, this is the path to a dictatorship.

This weekend he referred to himself as our king.

He must be stopped.

Consider George Washington, did you know that the city of Cincinnati was named after him. Cincinnati was named after Washington, in his day our first President was affectionately called “The Modern Cincinnatus,” a Roman general from the time of the Early Republic, (c. 519 – c. 430 BCE), who was granted emergency powers by the Senate of Rome, twice, so that he could defend the Republic. He was given the title Imperator and given supreme authority, and on both occasions, upon the resolution of his mission, he laid that power down.

In the same way George Washington set the standards for all future presidents, by refusing to be called anything other than Mr. President, eschewing such titles as Highness, Majesty, Excellency. He served two terms, then he laid down the gauntlet of power, suggesting that to hold power longer would lead the country to an imperial presidency.

Forty-five presidencies later, we are faced with the criminal and corrupt regime of Donald J. Trump.

It is the duty of any person who has ever sworn the oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, to oppose this man and his criminal regime right now.
He has called the free press an enemy of the people.

This kind of rhetoric makes him a threat to the Republic. The power of his office makes him a threat to humankind

Donald Trump should listen to the words of these presidents, and we should listen to him. We should take seriously the things he says and does in our name.

The words of the presidents:

1st George Washington (Two Terms)
“If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter…reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.”
A Real President – April 30, 1789 – March 4th, 1797

2nd John Adams
“The liberty of the press is essential to the security of the state.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1797 – March 4th, 1801

3rd Thomas Jefferson (Two Terms)
“The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1801 – March 4th, 1809

4th James Madison (Two Terms)
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
A Real President – March 4, 1809 – March 4th, 1817

5th James Monroe (Two Terms and Last of the Founders)
“Free people seldom intrigue together; because there is no motive for it. Between the leaders however of a free people, and the neighboring monarchs, such intrigues have often taken place, and always will take place, whilst liberty is odious to monarchs, and men can be found base enough to betray her.”
A Real President – March 4, 1817 – March 4th, 1825

6th John Quincy Adams (Lost the Popular Vote)
“The freedom of the press should be inviolate.”
President – March 4, 1825 – March 4th, 1829

7th Andrew Jackson (Two Terms)
“As long as our government is administered for the good of the people, and is regulated by their will; as long as it secures to us the rights of persons and of property, liberty of conscience, and of the press, it will be worth defending.”
March 4th, 1829 – March 4th, 1837

8th Martin Van Buren
“There is a power in public opinion in this country – and I thank God for it: for it is the most honest and best of all powers – which will not tolerate an incompetent or unworthy man to hold in his weak or wicked hands the lives and fortunes of his fellow-citizens.”:
A Real President – March 4th, 1837 – March 4th, 1841

9th William Henry Harrison
“There is no part of the means placed in the hands of the Executive which might be used with greater effect for unhallowed purposes than the control of the public press. The maxim which our ancestors derived from the mother country that “the freedom of the press is the great bulwark of civil and religious liberty” is one of the most precious legacies which they have left us. We have learned, too, from our own as well as the experience of other countries, that golden shackles, by whomsoever or by whatever pretense imposed, are as fatal to it as the iron bonds of despotism. The presses in the necessary employment of the Government should never be used “to clear the guilty or to varnish crime.” A decent and manly examination of the acts of the Government should be not only tolerated, but encouraged.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1841 – April 4th, 1841

10th John Tyler
“The guaranty of religious freedom, of the freedom of the press, of the liberty of speech, of the trial by jury, of the habeas corpus…will be enjoyed by millions yet unborn…”
A Real President – April 4th, 1841 – March 4th, 1845

11th James K. Polk
”Thank God, under our Constitution there was no connection between Church and State, and that in my action as President of the United States I recognized no distinction of creeds in my appointments office.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1845 – March 4th, 1849

12th Zachary Taylor
“As American freemen, we cannot but sympathize in all efforts to extend the blessings of civil and political liberty, but at the same time, we are warned by the admonitions of history and the voice of our own beloved Washington to abstain from entangling alliances with foreign nations.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1849 – July 9th, 1849

13th Millard Fillmore
“The law is the only sure protection of the weak, and the only efficient restraint upon the strong.”
“Church and state should be separate, not only in form, but fact – religion and politics should not be mingled.”
A Real President – July 9th, 1850 – March 4th, 1853

14th Franklin Pierce
“While men inhabiting different parts of this vast continent cannot be expected to hold the same opinions, they can unite in a common objective and sustain common principles.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1853 – March 4th, 1857

15th James Buchanan
“The country is indebted for the clause prohibiting Congress from passing any law respecting an establishment of religion or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or of the right of petition. To this we are also indebted for the bill of rights which secures the people against any abuse of power by the Federal Government.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1857 – March 4th, 1861
16th Abraham Lincoln (Assassinated, Ended Slavery)
“Whenever this effect shall be produced among us; whenever the vicious portion of [our] population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands, and burn churches, ravage and rob provision stores, throw printing-presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure and with impunity, depend upon it, this government cannot last. By such things the feelings of the best citizens will become more or less alienated from it, and thus it will be left without friends, or with too few, and those few too weak to make their friendship effectual. At such a time, and under such circumstances, men of sufficient talent and ambition will not be wanting to seize the opportunity, strike the blow, and overturn that fair fabric which for the last half century has been the fondest hope of the lovers of freedom throughout the world.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1861 – April 15th, 1865

17th Andrew Johnson (Impeached)
“Notwithstanding a mendacious press; notwithstanding a subsidized gang of hirelings who have not ceased to traduce me, I have discharged all my official duties and fulfilled my pledges.”
Impeached President – April 15th, 1865 – March 4th, 1869

18th Ulysses S. Grant (Two Terms)
“Let us labor to add all needful guarantees for the more perfect security of free thought, free speech, and free press, pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments, and of equal rights and privileges to all men, irrespective of nationality, color, or religion.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1869 – March 4th, 1877

19th Rutherford B. Hayes (Lost the Popular Vote)
“I am not liked as a President by the politicians in office, in the press, or in Congress. But I am content to abide the judgment the sober second thought of the people.”
“But at the basis of all prosperity, for that as well as for every other part of the country, lies the improvement of the intellectual and moral condition of the people. Universal suffrage should rest upon universal education. To this end, liberal and permanent provision should be made for the support of free schools by the State governments, and, if need be, supplemented by legitimate aid from national authority.”
President – March 4th, 1877 – March 4th, 1881

20th James A. Garfield (Assassinated)
“In the long, fierce struggle for freedom of opinion, the press, like the Church, counted its martyrs by thousands.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1881 – September, 1881

21st Chester A. Arthur
“If it were not for the reporters, I would tell you the truth.”
A Real President – September 19th, 1881 – March 4th, 1885

22nd and 24th Grover Cleveland (Elected Twice, Serving Two Non-consecutive Terms)
“Officeholders are the agents of the people, not their masters. Not only is their time and labor due to the government, but they should scrupulously avoid in their political action, as well as in the discharge of their official duty, offending by a display of obtrusive partisanship their neighbors who have relations with them as public officials.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1885 – March 4th, 1889, March 4th, 1893 – March 4th, 1897

23rd Benjamin Harrison (Lost the Popular Vote)
“God forbid that the day should ever come when, in the American mind, the thought of man as a ‘consumer’ shall submerge the old American thought of man as a creature of God, endowed with ‘unalienable rights’.”
President – March 4th, 1889 – March 4th, 1893

25th William McKinley (Assassinated)
“Equality of rights must prevail, and our laws be always and everywhere respected and obeyed. We may have failed in the discharge of our full duty as citizens of the great Republic, but it is consoling and encouraging to realize that free speech, a free press, free thought, free schools, the free and unmolested right of religious liberty and worship, and free and fair elections are dearer and more universally enjoyed to-day than ever before. These guaranties must be sacredly preserved and wisely strengthened. The constituted authorities must be cheerfully and vigorously upheld.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1897 – September 14th, 1901

26th Theodore Roosevelt (Two Terms)
“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”
A Real President – September 19th, 1901 – March 4th, 1909

27th William Howard Taft
“The intoxication of power rapidly sobers off in the knowledge of its restrictions and under the prompt reminder of an ever-present and not always considerate press, as well as the kindly suggestions that not infrequently come from Congress.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1909 – March 4th, 1913

28th Woodrow Wilson (Oversaw the end of Women’s Sufferage)
“Publicity is one of the purifying elements of politics. Nothing checks all the bad practices of politics like public exposure.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1913 – March 4th 1921

29th Warren G. Harding
“We must not abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of press, or the freedom of assembly because there is no promise in repression.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1921 – August 2nd, 1923

30th Calvin Coolidge
“The freedom of the human mind is recognized in the right to free speech and free press. The public schools have made education possible for all and ignorance a disgrace.”
A Real President – August 2nd, 1923 – March 4th, 1929

31st Herbert Hoover
“Absolute freedom of the press to discuss public questions is a foundation stone of American liberty.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1929 – March 4th, 1933

32nd Franklin D. Roosevelt (Four Terms)
“Freedom of conscience, of education, or speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged.”
A Real President – March 4th, 1933 – April 12th, 1945

33rd Harry S. Truman (Two Terms)
“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”
A Real President – April 12th, 1945 – January 20th, 1953

34th Dwight D. Eisenhower (Two Terms – Hero of the Second World War)
“Censorship, in my opinion, is a stupid and shallow way of approaching the solution to any problem. Though sometimes necessary, as witness a professional and technical secret that may have a bearing upon the welfare and very safety of this country, we should be very careful in the way we apply it, because in censorship always lurks the very great danger of working to the disadvantage of the American nation.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1953 – January 20th, 1961

35th John F. Kennedy (Assassinated)
“Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed-and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian law-maker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment–the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution–not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1961 – November 22nd, 1963
36th Lyndon B. Johnson (Two Terms, Passed the Civil Rights Act)
“Democracy is a constant tension between truth and half-truth and, in the arsenal of truth, there is no greater weapon than fact.”
A Real President – November 22nd, 1963 – January 20th 1969

37th Richard Nixon (Two Terms, Resigned)
“You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.” ~ Last press conference before resignation…
Resigned the Presidency amid Charges of Corruption and Obstruction of Justice
January 20th, 1969 – August 9th, 1974

38th Gerald Ford (Un-elected)
“I believe in the first amendment and the absolute necessity of a free press.”
President – August 9th, 1974 – January 20th 1977

39th Jimmy Carter
“When people are intimidated about having their own opinions, oppression is at hand.”
“We live in a time of transition, an uneasy era which is likely to endure for the rest of this century. During the period we may be tempted to abandon some of the time-honored principles and commitments which have been proven during the difficult times of past generations. We must never yield to this temptation. Our American values are not luxuries, but necessities – not the salt in our bread, but the bread itself.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1977 – January 20th, 1981

40th Ronald Reagan (Two Terms)
“The First Amendment was not written to protect people and their laws from religious values. It was written to protect those values from government tyranny.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1981 – January 20th, 1989

41st George H. W. Bush
We know what works: Freedom works. We know what’s right: Freedom is right. We know how to secure a more just and prosperous life for man on Earth: through free markets, free speech, free elections, and the exercise of free will unhampered by the state.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1989 – January 20th, 1993

42nd Bill Clinton (Two Terms, Impeached but not Removed)
“The road to tyranny, we must never forget, begins with the destruction of the truth.”
A Real President – January 20th, 1993 – January 20th, 2001

43rd George W. Bush (Two Terms, Lost the Popular Vote in the First)
“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy…that we need the media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”
A Real President – January 20th, 2001 – January, 20th 2009

44th Barack Obama (Two Terms)
“We have to uphold a free press and freedom of speech — because, in the end, lies and misinformation are no match for the truth.”
A Real President – January 20th, 2009 – January 20th, 2017

45th Donald Trump (Lost the Popular Vote, Elected with the Aid of a Foreign Adversary, Impeached but not Removed)
“The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, AABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”
A Fake President, Failing – January 20th, 2017 – One year and one month in, and it cannot be over soon enough.

These words speak for themselves. One of these quotes is not like the others.

The despot uttered it should be removed from office, not because he made this statement, but for this sentiment and his many other crimes.

Vote him out of office, it is the only way to save the Republic.

Remember This:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
– U.S. Constitution, First Amendment

Saint Valentine’s Day

Jennifer is she
Bright as a morning in May
Sensual and sweet

A light in the dark
My warming breeze in winter
February’s love

Freckles, and green eyes
Her flashing smile lights my heart
As the sun in spring

Clear as the bright stream
Swift as the rising moon, cool
In the evening

She listens to me
Sheltering my hopes, and dreams
Believing in me

She is strong, and fierce
I lean on her when I’m tired
And she carries me

Six years of loving
Kind and caring Valentine
Jennifer is she

Frank Herbert – Author

I was fifteen years old the first time I read Dune. I had been an avid reader since I was eight years old, when I began reading novels in the third grade. I read the books that inspired me over and over again, I read all kinds of things, but at that point in my life I read mostly fiction, and with that said, at the age of fifteen, I found Dune to be somewhat dense, and challenging.

I had taken that first copy from the carousel of the library at the alternative high-school I was attending. I read it, perhaps not as carefully as I should, but as carefully as I could, and I went to see the motion picture when it came out later that year.

I found David Lynch’s adaptation to be one of the worst movies ever made, and with that Dune passed from my thoughts for a time.

In the summer of 1988 I was visiting a friend in Montana, and I picked up a copy of Dune from the bookstore in Bigfork. I needed something to read on the bus ride home to Minneapolis.

Four years later I was able to engage the book in a completely different way, after the first two pages I was hooked. I was nineteen years old, and in the intervening years I had learned enough and grown enough to understand what Frank Herbert was getting at.

Dune changed my life.

I would read it and all six books in the original Dune series, eight times in sum, as well as everything else Frank Herbert wrote on my quest to absorb his wisdom.

He was a giant.

I have given away dozens of copies of Dune throughout my life, and recommended it to more people than I can count, always with the words this book will change your life.

Many of them came back to me to tell me that it did.

Frank Herbert wrote science fiction, but he wrote science in his fiction had less to do with spaceships and laser beams (though it had those things), and more to do with the science of politics, religion, ecology and psychology.
What is most significant about Frank Herbert’s writing is this: he opens a window for the reader on what it means to be human, and he asks open ended questions about the range of human potential, in a way that allows the reader to believe in those possibilities for themselves.

Frank Herbert is inspiring.

He makes the reader believe that we can do more, be more, see more of the world than our sense sallow…if we are disciplined, if we are attentive to the world around us, and if we cultivate within ourselves the desire to live a life without fear.

He died thirty-four years ago today, when he passed a heroic light left the world.

 

Given First – 2020.02.11
Frank Herbert

Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Author

When I was still a teenager and began to move away from reading science fiction, fantasy, and my comic books, when I got past the authors I had been introduced to in school, the so-called American Classics such as Lewis, Fitzgerald and Steinbeck, it was then that I discovered Dostoyevsky.

A whole new dimension of literature opened up to me, literature became philosophy.

Through the great Russian novelist I came to understand the power of narrative, and its effectiveness at conveying certain truths that are universal to the human condition.

For whatever reason there are no authors more adept at this function than the Russian’s, with Dostoyevsky being the foremost at the craft.

His influence on me was profound.

From Crime and Punishment and Notes from the Underground, to The Idiot and the Brothers Karamozov, which are perhaps his most famous works in English, I spent years all through my twenties and into my thirties tracking down his cannon, until I was left with translations of his notebooks to read, which I did.

I purchased the notebook for A Raw Youth, at a used bookstore in Minneapolis (Majors and Quinn). It was the first one that I discovered, In its pages I could see the way he constructed the arc of his stories, and developed his characters from ego to id, and I found an Imperial Ruble, tucked into its pages, a bookmark left behind by whoever was last to read to it.

The note was wrinkled and faded but still a treasure to me.

I considered Dostoyevsky to be the father of existentialism, and through him I learned to love Dickens, who Dostoyevsky considered to be the greatest author of all time.

It has been one hundred and thirty-nine years since he died, and his influence has not waned.
Given First – 2020.02.09

Dostoyevsky

Reflection – Ursula K. Le Guinn, Author

Ursula K. Le Guinn

It has been two years since this great thinker moved on to the next world.

She was a hero of mine.

The first book of hers that I ever read was titled The Lathe of Heaven. It was science fiction, but it was so much more. The book spoke to me about the nature of reality, of consciousness, of what it means to be a human being.

She took the title from the writings of the Taoist, Chuang Tzu (book 23, paragraph 7):

To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven ~

Her book, which then recapitulated this warning, took me outside of myself and allowed me to see the world in a different way.

I was sixteen years old at the time, and without realizing it I found that I had been introduced to Taoism (the esoteric tradition), which provided me with a perspective that would shape the course of my life.

I read many other books and articles written by this great lady. When I was in the Navy I found great comfort in the Earth Sea Chronicles, in which she introduced a hero whose greatest enemy was himself, but not himself exactly; his enemy was the shadow of guilt that most if not all human beings carry with them, because they are unable to ask for and accept forgiveness for the things they have done that have hurt or harmed other people, even their adversaries, because they are not able to forgive themselves.

They books were so simple and brief that they could really be seen as fairytales for children to read, and indeed they can be read on that level, but the story is so masterfully crafted that its depth lingers right below the surface.

Two years ago today one of our great luminaries departed from our world, leaving a legacy of literature to light the way for us.
Given First – 2020.01.22

Martin Luther King Day 2020 – Monday, January 20th

Today we celebrate the life and work of the Reverend Doctor, Martin Luther King Jr., a man who fulfilled the role of prophet in our time, as a voice of conscience, and like so many prophets before him he was killed for speaking the truth.

Martin Luther King was a prophet, not in the sense that he saw the future (though he did), that is not what a prophet does. A prophet is not a seer, or an augurer. He was not a prophet in the sense that he had a unique channel to God, the creator of the universe, or that God spoke to him in a privileged way.

God speaks to all of us in the same way, and that is one of the things that the Reverend Doctor spoke to us about, the responsibility we all have to listen to the demands of our conscience when we here it speaking to our hearts.

Martin Luther King had no more and no less access to supernatural powers than any of us, what made him different was that he chose to listen.

He listened to the voice of God that speaks to each and every one of us. He heard the voice of God and he responded to the call by cleaving to the message and sharing it with the world.

He loved mercy, he worked for justice and he walk humbly, as an example to us all.

There are many memes circulating today of the good Reverend Doctor, memes like the picture I have pasted at the beginning of this essay.

Today we are given countless opportunities to reflect on his likeness, to consider his words, to reflect on their meaning and on the life of an American Saint (if there ever was one), and we are wise to do so.

We are wise to remember the man, Martin Luther King Jr., a rare person whose measure exceeded the ordinary flaws that make us all human, he lived beyond them.

Martin Luther King Jr. transcended even death, though he was taken by the assassin’s bullet. He lives now in our collective consciousness, our collective conscience, in our global psyche, speaking to us from the dimension of myth; a human being who was more than human, a child of God, a man overflowing with grace and wisdom, sharing its cup so that upon drinking we may aspire to do the same.

He spoke truth to power, and offered hope to the powerless, and he was murdered for it.

He was once considered by the director of the F.B.I. to be the most dangerous man in America, and from that status he became our most beloved hero, the prime exemplar of what it means to be an American.

He was beaten and arrested dozens of times for the crime of seeking justice.

His life was threatened daily. His reputation was smeared without regard for the truth, or appreciation for his selfless works.

He was killed for his efforts, shot down, but not destroyed.

He was, and continues to be an example to us all.

Our prophet, The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. still points the way, lighting the long journey that still lies ahead of us, a journey toward justice that will not be denied.

mlk

Observation – January 5th, 2020, Sunday

The sky is bright, light
Blueish-gray, matted by clouds
Thin as wisps of frost

There are a few leaves
Dried things that cling to the trees
Flutter in the breeze

Outside my window
Dark limbs stretched across the pane
The old glass cascades

It bends the soft light
Waving in its fluid state
Windows on the world

New Year’s Day 2020 – A Holiday Reflection

Today is a day of beginnings.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct, the Princess Irulan said, in her biography of Muad’Dib

A small miscalculation at the outset, a subtle deviation from the plan, will cause you to miss your mark by a wide margin. It may cause you to never reach your end, or to end in a place you never intended to be.

Great care must be taken at the beginning.

Be mindful of your aim.

Today it is a day of resolutions.

Doing is being, is what Ray Bradbury said:

To have done is not enough.
You cannot lie about, and lie about the things you might just do someday.
But do, and win the game.

Great things are accomplished (and by great I mean great on any scale; socially, professionally, personally, spiritually, privately), great things are arrived at, built, discovered, in a series of small, regular and consistent steps.

With the steady application of effort, we can learn to do, and we can do just about anything.

Resolve to do something; be resolute.

Know this, if life is a river, it is a confluence of contradictions.

The process is just as important as the goal.

The archer is not only concerned with the object of her aim, but with the drawing of her bow, with the tension in the string and movement of her goal.

We must be prepared.

2020 marks the end of an era in American vision and the American experiment. The assault on truth, and the understanding of what truth is has finally undone its relevance to the social order.

It is doubtful that we can return to it.

Like the beast in the Book of Revelation, we have turned power over to the father of lies.

In 2020 we will put the liar on trial for abusing his power, for conspiring with our adversaries, he will be acquitted by his allies, and they will all lie some more, in the hope of continuing their grip on power.

We may hope for the future of America’s promise, and the extension of the promise to the whole world, but all we may have is hope…

Compassion, accountability, charity, honesty, integrity to call for these things is to speak to the wind, we hear them like voices crying out in the wilderness, lost in the din of madness.

Today is the first day, it is a day for unity and finding common purpose.

We will need to stand together if we are going to put an end to the madness, but our house is divided.

Today is the first day, it is a day for unity and finding common purpose.

We will need to stand together and support one another if we are going to advance the common good, but our house is divided, and those who are seeking to step up as champions, to lead the charge against destroyer are tearing each other down and lying to make themselves heard.

We are undone.

Star Wars – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
12.28.2019

Star Wars
I saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. I am going to try to tell you how utterly disappointing it was.

Let me begin with this. We have been told through the media that this is the final episode in the Skywalker saga, that this is the ninth and final movie focused on these characters and their story arc; so, why did they name it The Rise of Skywalker. People rise to do something, they donot rise to fade away.

The title itself is just another stroke of cognitive dissonance in a three part series that is replete with it.

Don’t let anyone try to say that the title has some other meaning, that it isn’t related to some future action, that it merely summarizes the story and its conclusion. Don’t believe it, because Rey, the so called last Jedi, takes the name in the final scene, when she takes up residence in the abandoned moisture farm that had belonged to Luke’s uncle on the desert planet of Tatooine.

It is not as if people will not seek her out, she is a Jedi, and she is not going into hiding as Luke did, she is taking up residence on a planet long associated with the Skywalker name. Where Anikan was born, where Luke was raised. These are figures whose names ring out throughout the galaxy. But never mind this, those stories have yet to be written, rest assured that they will.

This is just another glaring example of the cognitive dissonance these movies are steeped in. Remember how in The Last Jedi, we were shown images of children on far flung worlds in whom the force was present and active. How is it that Rey would be the last Jedi if that were the case.

It is just poor writing.

It is kind of like the title of the first film in this trilogy, The Force Awakens; had the force been sleeping? No, the force does not sleep. Obi Wan Kenabi tells us in the original Star Wars film, A New Hope. The force is permeates the entire universe and binds all things together, it touches everyone. The force is not good or bad, light or dark, it is by whom and how it is used that gives it those characteristics.

What is so utterly disappointing about the J.J. Abrams vision of Star Wars, is his utter lack of understanding about what the force is. It is not just the bad story telling.
Let’s dwell on the bad story telling for a moment.

The Force Awakens was merely a retelling of A New Hope, capped off with the destruction of a new Death Star, only a bigger-badder death machine, one with the power to destroy stars and not merely planets.

The Last Jedi was merely a retelling of The Empire Strikes Back, and though they changed the order of the plot, it repeated all of the elements, a long chase through space, a Jedi training camp, a pitched battle with lines drawn up in front of a rebel stronghold.

In the most recent bastardization of the original trilogy we are given a remaking of the great conflict above the Emperor’s throne room, while he attempts to turn the Jedi Rey into a vessel for his own dark power, only to be destroyed in the nick of time to save the rebel armada which succeeds at destroying his massive fleet of super ramped up Star Destroyers, each with their own planet killing gun, mounted weirdly on the underside of their hulls.

The writing was terrible. It was replete with nonsensical cameos, storylines that began from nowhere, and went nowhere. New characters with no back story, old characters returning with explanation of where they had been how they had been found what they had been doing.

There were flying Storm Troopers. There was light-speed-skipping. There was widespread and diffuse knowledge of Sith lore. Including commands built into C3PO’s programming that forbid him from translating the Sith language.

There was the completely unexplained reappearance of the Emperor, stowed away on some hidden planet for decades, living in some dank and dirty dungeon like workshop on some uncharted wasteland of planet.

How did that happen? Where did the tens of thousands of cheering sycophants come from who filled the theatre where the final conflict with Rey come from? What were they doing on that secret world? What did they eat? Why did they build a fleet of hundreds of starships (perhaps thousands) on the surface of the planet? Where did the crews for that fleet come from? Where did they get their training? How did they keep it all secret?

None of that made any sense. It just doesn’t make sense.

Do you remember how in The Attack of the Clones, George Lucas took some time to tell the story of how the clone army came to be. Obi Wan discovered it while he was on an investigation. He learned how decades earlier a Jedi came to a remote planet in the outer rim whose inhabitants specialized in cloning, and army building, and they were commissioned by that Jedi to build a Grand Army of the Republic.

There a back story, it tied things together, it assisted in the plot development, and it enriched the broader narrative by providing a backstory for the notorious bounty hunter Bobba Fett.

The Attack of the Clones was not a great movie, but at least it did that.

Bad storytelling and plot holes, and plot theft, poor acting and an overreliance on special effects is not what makes this movie such an utter disappointment.

What is so utterly disappointing about Disney’s new Star Wars films under J. J. Abrams so bad is J. J. Abrams total lack of understanding about what the force is.

Abram’s is a moron, and Disney should know better, after all Disney also produced Rogue One, and that film was a masterpiece, it was completely in tune with the ethos of Star Wars, while the J. J. Abrams films are totally destructive of it.

J. J. Abrams seemed to think that the force is all about power, the power to freeze a bolt of laser fire from a blaster in mid-space, the power to stop a ship from taking off until it tears itself apart, the power to teleport, the power to blast a fleet of ships out of the sky, more power, more power, more power.

J. J. Abrams concept of the force is a long way from what Obi Wan told Luke in A New Hope, when he said that the light saber was the weapon of the Jedi, elegant, made for a more civilized time.

Abrams should understand that the force is subtle, sure there is power in it, but its real strength comes in the power of self mastery, the power to understand, and the power to persuade. A Jedi can do amazing things, but it is not their raw power that makes them amazing, it is their commitment to peace and justice.

Remember what Yoda said when Luke referred to him as a “great warrior.” Yoda said, “wars do not make one great.”

You may argue that while this may be true of the Jedi, it is not necessarily true of the Sith. You may argue that but you would be wrong. The Sith were also subtle, just one Lord and one apprentice, ruling from the shadows, manipulating, controlling.

J.J. Abrams’ movies were a disaster for the Star Wars franchise, worse than the prequels, I hope he never gets offered the chance to make another one again.

Thanksgiving, the Via Negativa

Today is Thanksgiving. It is 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.

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.

Be humble.

Therefore, be gracious.

Be thankful…insofar as you are able, 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 beyond human understanding.

This tradition tell us that God is shrouded in mystery, described 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 finite constructs of human thought and language.

We are not able to offer positive assertions about the nature of the Divine, there is only 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 are patient with me everyday.

I am grateful for you.

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

I am not thankful that there is no peace in the world,

In Yemen where the Saudia Arabia and Iran are fighting a proxy war, and hundreds of thousands of Children are on the brink of starvation. I am not thankful for this.

In Palestine, where the occupied territories continue to suffer under apartheid, where millions of people live in cities and towns that are in reality, nothing more than prisons, and the walls of their homes are the walls of a jail.

I am not thankful for the Turkish invasion of Northern Syria, I am not thankful that the President of the United States opted to abandon our allies the Syrian Kurds.

I am not thankful that in America we are divided by class, culture, color, by a pretender to the office of President.

I am not thankful for the dismal failures of our elected representatives who cannot discern their obligation to oppose Donald Trump or hold him accountable for the crimes he committed to become president, and the crimes he is committing to keep alive his hope of retaining it.

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 that we have sold out our national interests to the likes of Vladimir Putin, or that our president dances on a string like a puppet for him.

I am not thankful for the failures of civilization to address our deepest problems such as the existential crises of climate change, destroying communities around the world, including the recent fires in California that have destroyed thousands of homes, killing dozens of people.

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 that my friends have to beg on the internet to be financially supported when in the natural course of their oives they come down with cancer, and other debilitating illnesses. I am not thankful for the gaping holes in the social safety net.

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, his allies in congress or anywhere who continue to support.

I am not thankful for the media outlets, the reporters, the editorialists who failed to take him seriously. I am not thankful that they abdicated their responsibilities as the gatekeepers of our society, as the so called 4th Estate, and allowed his criminal regime to hold the seat of power.

I am not thankful that they have not collectively figured out a way to redress their failures.

I am not thankful and I am ashamed everyday because of his antics as the President of the United States, for his capitulation to murderous regimes, and strong-men anywhere who Donald Trump thinks he can profit from at some future point beyond his presidency, I am not thankful he has sold out our interests to them.

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

I am not thankful for the on-going and continuous assault on the working class, the threats that are levied against the average citizen in the spheres of public policy like health care, and taxes.

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.

I am not thankful for the shortsightedness of liberals and progressives who cannot stand united in the face of the social forces that threaten us all.

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 a seat at the table in the administration of Donald J. Trump.

I am not thankful for them.