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

Transform VI – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion

07.04.2020

 

Transform   VI

 

 

Change the names.

 

Take down the monuments and memorials.

 

Do it now.

 

There is plenty to be proud of in the American tradition, and much to be ashamed of. If we want to transform our culture into one of enduring justice then it is time for us to stop elevating what is reprehensible in our collective story and time for us to promote what is truly good and beautiful, the things that unite all of us and speak to our common humanity.

 

We must stop fetishizing the flag, the national anthem, the military, war.

 

Bravery is good. It is good that men and women are willing to put their lives on the line and even die for their brothers and sisters in arms, but war itself is reprehensible and always marks a failure of human beings to navigate the maze of their self-interest.

 

Slave holders, including men like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson presented in history as the men that they were: brave, brilliant, despotic.

 

There was much to be admired in them, but also much to be abhorred and we should not shirk from our responsibility to tell their story in full.

 

What I was taught to admire in human beings was the quality of perseverance we see in human beings who have to struggle to overcome adversity, what we find in and women who rise to the challenge of their circumstances, when the world is set against them and they triumph as the underdog, while demonstrating grace in victory, humility and love for their fellow human beings.

 

Our memorials and monuments should be dedicated to men and women who display those characteristics, and it is the poor, the marginalized, the disenfranchised who possess those qualities in seemingly infinite capacities.

 

Just look at our “essential workers” our minimum wage-earning heroes and heroines who are keeping the economy running, the hospital cleaning staff, just as much as the doctors and nurses, all risking their lives to fight the pandemic.

 

We do no need monuments dedicated to men who broke treaties, enslaved their fellow human beings, justified that slavery with ridiculous arguments that were only intended to cover up their otherwise naked greed.

 

We do not need memorials dedicated to traitors the traitors that took our country to civil war, in order to defend their “right” to buy and sell human beings as property.

 

We do not need men and women holding office who cannot understand this, they should step down, and not run again.

 

Let’s begin the transformation of America now.

 

 

 

 

Transform, Part V – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
06.13.2020

Transform, Part V

Let freedom ring.

Stop the over policing of America, stop the over policing of people of color.

The police cannot prey on the people, their primary functions are to protect and serve, to protect and serve the people, to uphold the rights of the people even against the particular interests of individual police or police departments.

Let us begin with this:

1. Legalize and or de-criminalize the drug markets, regulate and tax it.
a) Treat drug addiction for what it is, a crisis of physical and mental health
b) Allow people involved in this trade the same tools to protect their business and their market share as any other store keeper.

2. Legalize or de-criminalize and sex-workers industry, regulate and tax it.
c) Stop human trafficking and give the people working in this industry the standing to go to court when they are aggrieved, with recourse to the law.

3. If and until we are able to keep America at full employment, we must provide a Universal Basic Income, this will keep people from turning to crime when they are unemployed and unable to find work.
d) Reform the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps

4. Provide Universal Higher Education, whether this is at a public or private institution, whether it is at a four year college, a two year college, a graduate degree program or a trade school.
e) Invest in the American people, help them discover their purpose and the meaning for their lives.
f) Sign a national infrastructure bill that transforms the entire country: roads and bridges, ports and rail, national and local rebuild America for a green economy.

5. Enjoin ever citizen in a program of National Service, in the United States Military or National Guard, Peace Corps or its equivalent operating in the United Sates.

6. End the injustice of detaining citizens in jail, if they have been charged with a crime and are awaiting their trial, unless they have been charged with a violent crime.

7. Empty Prisons of non-violent offenders. Pardon and or commute the sentences, expunge the records of people who are serving time for their participation in markets that will become legalized and or decriminalized.

8. Provide Universal Health. Every American citizen should have access to health care, from birth to death and every step in between.

9. Provide basic housing to every citizen, get people off the streets, give them shelter, food clothing and the care they need.

We can do all of these things, we can transform America, and if we do we will eliminate the need for much of what passes for police work today. We will refine the scope of their mission in a way that allows for the community to properly support their police, and for the police to properly protect and serve the community.

Transform, Part IV – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
06.06.2020

Transform, Part IV
From all across the nation we are hearing stories of police corruption. The stories are coming from the victims of police brutality, the victims of wrongful prosecution, they are accompanied by live footage of police in our communities beating up protesters, and doing it with a smile, pushing an old man down on the concrete and not stopping to help while he bleeds from the head.

This has to stop.

We need to transform policing in America and we cannot do it soon enough.

America needs to examine its conscience, all of us members of the white majority need to do it in the worst way.

We need criminal justice reform, no incarceration for non-violent crimes, we need to bring an end to the war on drugs, which only promotes illegal markets, and extra judicial gang-warfare to protect those markets.

We need to stop putting our brothers and sisters in prison.

Every hospital in America must undergo inspection and review of its policies and procedures, its best practices, by an Inspector General style investigation conducted by the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAOH), every single police force and Sheriffs department must undergo the same thing.

Police cannot be immune to prosecution, in fact or in practice.

Police must fulfill their mandate, to protect and to serve, they cannot run around acting like the biggest gang in town, but all to often that is what they are, criminals in uniform preying on the communities they are supposed to serve.

Change cannot come soon enough.

We must transform the police, their mission, criminal justice and the courts. We transform them now!

Observation – June 5th, 2020, Friday

The city is green

It is summer and it is quiet—right now, at 4:00 pm

If I think about it

I can recall the sounds of gunfire

That woke me up in the middle of the night

The quiet lays on Minneapolis like a green veil

The city is restive

The demand for justice is simmering, now

Seven days ago, we were at a roiling-boil

I can smell the ashes lingering—still

The chemical scent of unnatural fire

Scratching in my throat

The Greatest of All Time – A Hero for the Ages

Muhammad Ali left us, and departed from the world four years ago, the greatest of all time is gone

Muhammad Ali held the world in his hands, the greatest of all time lives on.

I heard the news of his passing, waking in the middle of the night
I heard the news of his passing, I listened to the stories and cried

Ali, the greatest of all had died

Of all the heroes I ever fell for, he was the only one that was truly alive
The only one I ever prayed for, the only one I thought could make a difference in our time.

Ali spoke to the heart, he spoke for justice and freedom, he told the truth and he spoke of love.

He spoke to the world in the same way that he fought, he spoke to and fought for everyone.

He spoke in rhythms that dazzled and he spoke in words that hurt.

He floated past us
He struck us with his sting
As beautiful as the butterfly
As ominous as the bee

With the symbols of his fame he took on the powers of the world

Bumaye, Ali…Bumaye

He was a prophet in our time, he praised us as he scolded us, sharp tongued and pretty.

Ask him, he was the prettiest.

I remember the day in 1980 when I heard the news that he had lost the championship.

Muhammad Ali lost! They said Ali would never fight again!

All the kids on the school bus murmured, Ali was not the greatest after all, and the world stopped making sense.

Muhammad Ali gave my generation permission to be ourselves, be bold and to brag, to be good and do right.

Muhammad Ali taught us to question, to challenge authority, to shun war. Muhammed Ali was right.

He taught us to risk the things you desire most, to give up titles and money and fame

He let them go for the things that matter most to him, to serve the truth, seeking justice, to work on behalf of the poor and the outcast as he drew breath.

Ali handcuffed lightning and put the thunder in jail

His star rose like the sun.
Four years ago it set.

ali-1
Given First (as an essay) – 2016.06.04

Witness

Taken by my dreams
Transported to the heavens
Like the Apostle

Filled with promises
Chaos, blowing in the wind
All my work, refuse

We can have justice
We are entitled to it
We are called to it

Make it if you can
In the shadow of heaven
Parched prayers, hanging limp

Visions of flowers
Sterile seeds falling. withered
Promises, broken

The divine embrace
Amid the ashes, thirsting
Immanuel comes

The Race is On – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
04.11.2020

The Race is On

I donated five dollars to the Biden campaign yesterday, I was happy to do it.

I think the Democratic Party could have chosen a better nominee, but I also think Joe Biden can take us across the finish line.

A lot of my friends are unhappy that Bernie Sanders didn’t go the distance, and while my personal opinion is that Joe Biden fit the bill of electability, I share the gloomy outlook that the more progressive policies which I favor won’t have a Champion in the White House.

But here is the deal…

The legislation that we all want to see passed has to begin in Congress anyway.

We all need to keep our energy focused on the campaign ahead, not just for the sake of electing Joe Biden, but in order to elect more progressive members to the House and the Senate.

We need genuine progressives to win Gubernatorial races, and to win State Assemblies. We need everyone to stay engaged, we need the full court press.

We need to put an end to the pogrom the republicans have been running on the federal judiciary, we need to control redistricting, and we need congress to reassert its status as a coequal branch of government.

We need to pass legislation that limits the authority of the executive with penalties to enforce a strict enforcement, criminal penalties if necessary, if members of the executive branch do not comply with Congress right of oversight.

We need to pass a new Voting Rights Act, we need government reform from the top to the bottom.

The kind of malfeasance we have been living through these past three years has left without the ability to help ourselves in this time of crises.

We need to remove Donald Trump from office, tomorrow is not soon enough, but we need to do it decisively, and when he is gone the criminal investigations have to begin.

In the past, when Obama took office he opted to let the crimes of the Bush administration go: illegal surveillance, torture, lying to congress etc…we let it go in the name of national unity, and for the purpose of moving on.

That cannot happen when Donald Trump is walking out the door, he and his family and their fiends who have defrauded the American people must face the consequences for the things that have done, and for their criminal neglect as well.

Warning

The meadow stretches into green lawns before high walls, where children run
Jet engines roaring, fly, the chariots of War, bristling with missiles

Question everything, consider the children, forced to march in columns
War poisons the mind, justifies violence, and ruins the spirit

War robs the people of justice, turning its victims into heroes
Sip from the sour milk, throw stones at your oppressors, force arms on the poor

We stand and we fall, a society of pawns, ignorant and true
Trumpets blare, the faithful gather stones, to hurl them at the enemy

The ageless charade, sustenance from pain, succor from violence, shame
There can be no peace in a heart filled with vengeance, resentments linger

It will never end, all victories are hollow, the wheel keeps turning
The meadow stretches into green lawns before high walls, where children run

In a better world, playgrounds would not need fences, children would compete
In games as friends, they would not throw rocks at soldiers, in a better world

Our wealth should be used to educate, care for the elderly, not war
Missiles in space, to feed our fears, the hungry ghosts of nuclear war

We are one family orbiting this blue world beneath our yellow sun
Lies do not nourish, we must not cling to them, the enemy is us

Peace comes from peace, not war, and goodwill from goodwill, we must aim for these
Set aside our greed, fear and hatred, love one another, you and me

We are one big family

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