Memorial Day – A Reflection

Memorial Day is a day set aside for reflection. It is 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, it was meant to honor 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 union whole.

Memorial Day was created 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 the 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.

We have yet to repay them, 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.

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

We honor all of our citizens who spent their lives, who gave their days to public service; we honor our doctors and nurses and teachers, the good works of our ordinary citizens, of our friends and neighbors, we honor everyone’s sacrifices; known and unknown, and those yet to come.

This year we must even children, who stood in the way of gunfire to protect their classmates and paid for it with their lives.

We must honor them, and their sacrifice, they died upholding our most cherished values, in recognition of the fact that we are one people, that we are descended from many nations, 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.

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 anywhere.

The real threat we face is from ourselves, from our ignorance and from our fear.

It is we, and we alone who can protect us from ourselves.

Our own apathy, our prejudice and hatred, these are the most dangerous forces aligned against us, that threaten our freedom. They are more deadly than any other worldly power.

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 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, they 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.

Stand up, and be counted!

We must rebuild America, reform our institutions, we must do this for the sake of all Americans and our future generations. We must take responsibility for our own freedom.

We will have nothing to protect if we let our freedom be stolen from us while we are busy watching TV, posting pictures on social media of the last meal we ate, and arguing with one another about who is the most liberal, most progressive, most concerned about the common good.

Honor the fallen, in this way.

Participate!

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

Given 1st 2015.05.25

Revised 2019.05.27

Easter

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

Spring Break always came with Eastertide, but in the public schools we were not allowed to call it Easter Break, we could not do this on account on account of the separation between church and state.

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.

Perhaps this was due to a sensitivity to such constitutionally required separations, or maybe it was just because the Easter festivities follow an erratic cycle. It defies the regularity of our 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 those years, when we were growing up 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 or Halloween.

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

There is an Easter feast, ham being the most common thing on the Easter table.

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 Passover.

When we were young we would always watch the Cecil B. De Mill epic, The Ten Commandments, featuring Charleton Heston as Moses, leading the people from 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 brightening of the day. Whereas at solstice in winter we celebrate the lengthening of the day and the light’s return, at the equinox in spring we celebrate the rising of the increased warmth of the sun and the thawing of the fields.

Easter and the equinox are slightly out of step, but the spring ritual is the same nevertheless.

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 late in the year, falling on the day before my birthday.

This is was marred by religious violence in Sri Lanka, more than two hundred Christians killed in bombings across that country, the bombers targeted churches.

This Easter we were witness to the destruction of one of the world’s great cathedrals, Notre Dame in Paris.

This Easter, as with every Easter since the murder of Jesus, there are causes to mourn the terrible state of humanity, and 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.

Holiday – Martin Luther King Day

Martin Luther King Day 2019
Monday, January 21st

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

He was a prophet, not in the sense that he saw the future (though he did), that is not what a prophet is. 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.

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 speaking that speaks to all of us in the hidden chambers of our hearts, and he responded to the call, by cleaving to the message and sharing it with the world.

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 more than human, a child of God a overflowing with grace and wisdom, sharing its cup so that upon drinking we may aspire to the same.

He spoke truth to power, and gave hope to the powerless.

He was once considered to be the most dangerous man in America, and from the 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 still points the way, lighting the long journey that still lies ahead of us.

Election Post Facto – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
11.10.2018

Election Post Facto
Hope.

The electoral response to T-Rump was fantastic. We voted and T-Rump vision for America was checked.

It was checked, and that is hopeful.

There is hope, but the struggle is far from over.

The Democratic Party lost a couple of races that we had hoped would win. We lost them narrowly. We can take heart in the fact that the race for the Senate in Texas was as close as it was, even though Beto went down.

The same is true of the Governor’s race in Georgia, though we are still counting votes, and there is a sliver of a chance that when the votes are done being counted, it will result in a run-off election on December 4th. We have to keep our energy up, and be prepared to turn out for that race, if it should occur.

The race for Governor and Senate in Florida is still being counted as well, we cannot allow these races to be concluded until every vote that has been cast has been counted. We cannot allow Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion to stand, that the right to vote does not guarantee the right to have your vote counted.

The Democratic Party won big, but we need to keep on winning. We cannot rest and we must take stock of the campaigns that ran successfully, in Texas and Florida and Georgia, even if the candidates ultimately lost or loose.

I have always been a proponent of supporting the moderate middle, not because I am a moderate at heart, but because I believe that politics is about the art of compromise.

However, we were shown something, and I have learned something, that the right candidate can carry a progressive message, and drive it straight into the heart of conservative Texas, and Georgia, even congressional districts in Oklahoma, the right candidate can take the message home, and turn out people who have never voted before.

The Democratic Party has to learn its lesson from this, we have to field progressives in every district where the contrast and distinction of the platform will stir the people up, and get them to take a chance on changing direction.

I still believe in compromise, but I also believe in the necessity of reclaiming the starting point on where the negotiation must begin, and plant that flag far to the left, and reclaim the middle for fairness, equality, and common sense.

There is hope, yes, but there is also cause for grave concern.

T-Rump is afraid, and he is stirring up his base. They are coming out to support him with guns and bombs, literally, his people are willing to kill to defend his fake presidency, his criminal regime.

There is hope, yes but there is a certain need to stay mobilized and keep the pressure up.

Tens of millions of people came out in support of the Republican agenda, of Donald T-rump and the sycophants in Congress that do obeisance to him. The fake president still have control oft the executive branch, Mitch McConnell will remain the senate majority leader (unless a couple of conscientious Senators decide to go independent and caucus with the Democrats), and so-called conservatives still hold out of nine seats on the Supreme Court.

The country showed more of who we truly are last Tuesday, both the good and the regrettable, we came out in large numbers, and we have to keep up the struggle and push our majority through the year 2020, and the redistricting of congressional districts that will take place then.

A Homily – Mark 10:2-16 ©

The Gospel According to Mark – 2018.10.07

We Are One

The reading for today brings us to the heart of the gospel:

What God has united, man must not divide.

We should be clear about this, because on it rests the entire foundation of Christian faith and hope.

The greater truth is this:

What God has united, man cannot divide, and we must not even try.

While the reading for today begins with a discussion concerning the practicalities of divorce, and human relationships. In actuality it is a discussion about our fundamental relationship to God, and each other.

We are created in unity, with one another and with God. There is nothing we can do to tear that unity apart.

In John’s Gospel we read that all things were created in and through God, exist in God, by the will of God, and that without God not one things comes into being.

In this sense our fundamental, ontological relationship to the creator goes to the core of our being.

This is true of our relationship to God, and through God it is true to our relationship with each other.

Our relationships with each other are a part of the reality of our being, relationality is a dimension of our existence. Our relationships do not just include our family and friends. We are in relationship to every other person who is, ever was, or ever will be, even those we despise, even our enemies.

We cannot change this, even the power of sin cannot alter this reality.

Here is the truth.

When I say this goes to the root of Christian faith and hope, I am speaking of salvation.

The salvation of one is not possible without the salvation of the whole, because the whole exists in the part, as the part does in the whole.
What God has United, Man Must Not Divide

Some Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’

They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’

‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’

Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’

People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Redemptrix

A young woman weeps
Celestial Madonna
The mother of faith

A mother’s tears fall
The young woman is pregnant
Madonna alone

Madonna crying
A mother grieves in darkness
Young woman with child

A young woman wails
The Madonna becoming
The mother of hope

Mother is moaning
A young woman hides her pain
Madonna of life

Madonna of groans
The mother’s dreams crash in waves
The young woman’s fate

Young woman rising
Madonna of dust and sand
The loving mother

Mother of the wind
A young woman praying, Ru’ha
The blind Madonna

Madonna breathing
Mother whispers to her child
The young woman speaks
She is the stranger
The girl is an alien
Her child illegal

She has no recourse
No standing before the law
They are refugees

The mother and child
Our salvation is with them
In being with them

Dawn

Sunrise in pastels
The pale melody of Dawn
Pink-violet fire

The lake, un-rippled
Capturing the softest shades
A silver mirror

In still life portrays
Beauty surpassing knowledge
A goddess of light

Goddess, beyond time
Seizing the divine, rapture
Grace, in the pure-land

Soft now, she rises
Prismatic-brilliance, light
Across the still plane

Radiant vision
Pale gold in the morning, bright
Rising to her touch

Ecstatic moment
The sorcery of desire
Love’s inspiration

An angel en-fleshed
Sweet as the rose in morning
Quiet and lonely

The Earth-bound goddess
Daughter of Hope, beloved Dawn
Sister to the Sun

 

Lost

Silver in moonlight

The still sea reflects the stars

Hope, love’s bright mirror

 

Keeper of dreams, witch

Calypso whispers softly

Come sleep on my shore

 

Eat the wild fruit, live

Drink the lotus nectar, rest

In the sweet perfume

 

Step into heaven

The deep green horizon, pure

Beneath the banyan

 

While Penelope

Waits, and the light slips away

Crashing on the shoals

Earth Day is my Birthday

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

We live here, 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 they collectively, and we individually cannot.

We are responsible for the care of this world. It is a sacred imperative, charged to us in our holy books, and more importantly, under the aegis of common sense.

The care of this 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 us forever, changing our cultures, our languages, even our DNA.

There are natural disasters pending, they are built into the structure of the planet, in the thinness of the mantle, in the heat emanating from deep within the core. There are massive volcanoes, and there is continental drift, the geological forces at work in these could easily destroy us all.

If we allow it.

There are calamities heading our way from outer-space, celestial bodies sailing through the void, on a collision course with Earth. There are asteroids and comments that we will collide with, if we are unable to work cooperatively to change the course of these eventualities.

Those things are baked in. They are existential threats, but they 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.

We need time, more than that we need a willingness to rise to the challenges.

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

We are changing the climate, the planet is warming.

Our oceans are becoming more 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 reefs.

Our stewardship is failing.

We are divided, against each other…as greed drives a short sighted political mindset, seeking and succeeding to turn 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 industries, and their short-term profits.

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

Our stewardship is failing.

We are failing.

It is Earth Day 2018, and all of our eggs are in one basket, the basket is fragile, and there is no other.

Earth Day is my Birthday.

It was cold when I was born, I am guessing
Though I do not remember it, I am sure that I was cold
Coming from the womb, all pink and shivering
Ten pounds-eleven ounces of me, my mother’s sixth
And most difficult, all shoulders, and a big round head

I do not remember that first, sudden-sharp breath

It was Earth Day, that Tuesday in April, 1969
For years before we had called it Arbor Day
In honor of trees, the 22nd day of the 4th month
What tangible thing do we honor now
Earth-soil? Earth-planet? Earth-Mother?

Taurus, the primal-bull?

Roman soldiers worshipped Mithra as a god of light
Mithra slew the sacred-bull, spreading a feast on the sacred table
A meal for human-kind to share, I was born in a soldier’s place
West Point, New York, I do not remember being there, but that name
Resounds with power, with victories no Roman soldier could imagine

I was born in the spring, in the hallowed halls of War

Spring is the season of hope, and life, of expectation
Of Plowing, of sewing, of planting, and the greening of the fields
Of roots pushing down into the thawing soil, drinking
From the deep black earth, of sprouts shooting up, to bud
And blossom, April is a month of showers, of rain

It is a time of ritual-remembering

I was born eighty-nine days before Neil Armstrong flew to the moon
Landing his vessel on another world, to walk on her bright face
His ship was named for Apollo, god of poetry and prophecy
Of healing and of light, I remember the moon landing…almost

I have seen it on TV, and heard these words countless times:

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”

What hopes drove our rockets there?

Whose prayers carried those soldiers to the stars?

To spread the celestial table there, a feast of hope for all too share

What hope have we?

04.22.2018

Easter

When I was a child Easter always came in conjunction with a week off from school, Spring Break.

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

Perhaps this was due to a sensitivity to such constitutionally required separations, or maybe it was just because the Easter festivities follow an erratic cycle. It is our lunar holiday.

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 those years, when we were growing up 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 or Halloween.

In one sense Easter is about the palette of pastels, the donning of spring garments, the greening lawns and budding trees. It is about hard-boiled eggs died and hidden, and it is about jelly beans, chocolates and other candies.

There is an Easter feast, ham being the most common thing on the Easter table.

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.

When we were young we would always watch the Cecil B. De Mill epic, The Ten Commandments, featuring Charleton Heston as Moses, leading the people from bondage.

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

My family did not go 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 light, from the dark days of winter, to the brightening of the day. Whereas at solstice in winter we celebrate the lengthening of the day and the light’s return, at the equinox in spring we celebrate the rising of the sun’s arch, the increased warmth, and the thawing of the fields.

Easter and the equinox are slightly out of step, but the spring ritual is the same nevertheless.

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