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

Labor Day

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

This day is meant to honor laborers, it is a day to honor work. It is meant to be a day of rest, repose and respite.

I am not working and that is unusual, though it is the third year in a row, so it may be that this is becoming a norm.

Prior to this time in my life, there were perhaps three or four Labor Days in the last twenty-five years, came and went where I has the day off. I cannot recall when, or what I did.

I spent most of my life working in the hospitality sector. There are many restaurants that close, giving their staff the day off, but there are many others who see this as an opportunity to “make hay,” as they say, never mind the lives of the staff whose labor the business depends on.

Forget about them, do not honor them, squeeze out a little more profit if you can.

The last restaurant I worked in, they were open on Labor Day, they are open today. It will see ten maybe twelve thousand dollars in revenue, double the haul for an ordinary Monday. It will busy, all hands on deck, there will be forty staff members toiling away; cooking, serving, cleaning.

The owners will promote the experience to the staff as an opportunity for binding, and team cohesion, I only see bondage in it.

Like most restaurants, that establishment sees ten percent profit or less on average, and the owners will not flinch at the prospect of ruining the holiday for forty people, to put about a thousand dollars in the bank.

They will pretend that the staff should be happy to work, on such a busy day, happy…to earn a little extra money…never mind having the opportunity to relax and reflect with family and friends

This is Labor Day in America, and many people are working, far too many people. Though, it is virtually guaranteed that the bankers, the office managers, and the whole white collar world have taken this day for themselves, while paying themselves too.

Well paid, well rested managers, and owners…I guess the world needs more of those, and while they are relaxing someone needs to be on task to pour their coffee, to serve their brunch to fuel their frolicking.

Happy Labor Day, you laborers!

Strike and Unite!
2019.09.02
Given 1st – 2016.09.05

Plans and Policies, Policies and Plans – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
07.06.2019

Plans and Policies, Policies and Plans

I do not have any problem calling myself a Democrat.

I believe in party politics because we are weaker when we are separated from one another, united we stand…or so the story goes, as house divided against itself cannot stand.

My people on the liberal and progressive side of the political divide are about to start choosing sides, and in so doing they will put all of their hopes for social justice, a new economy, dignity in the workplace, they will put it all on the table for a gaggle of robber-barons to steal from them.

We are about to start demanding policies and plans, we are going to scrutinize each candidates record, and try to make some determination of whether or not they are worthy of our vote.

Maybe a candidate will emerge who is sensitive enough to our social concerns, and if they have a blemished record, maybe they will be cogent enough to apologize, make amends, declare the wrongness of their former positions, and bright enough to move forward.

Maybe we, the voters, will be patient enough to let them.

Maybe not.

We the voters, seem to be in more of a mood to separate the wheat from chaff, set the latter on fore, at the risk of burning the party down.

Some of my friends would never condescend to even think of themselves as democrats, they lie to themselves and anyone who will listen, pretending that there is no difference between the Republicans and Democrats. They base this on the right observation that all politicians are corrupt, all politicians lie and all politicians compromise.

Because of their astute observations they tear at the base of progressivism and liberalism, by refusing to participate and encouraging other to do the same. They are small minded and they should be shamed.

Many many more of us are going to begin to take sides and choose candidates that they believe best articulate plans and policies for the way forward.

Policies and plans will not win us this election, they never have and they never will win anything. Even if the candidate with the best plans wins, those policies will not survive to become law, not in the way they were promised, not in the way they were conceived.

As Democrats, as progressives, as liberal thinkers know this, we have to stop demanding that people apologize for the past, and we have to stop pretending that a good policy initiative will win the day.

We have to put the best speaker, the most charismatic leader into the driver’s seat, and that person does not need to do much more than promise to beat trump, to unseat Mc Connel, to send Lindsay Graham home, to keep the house of representatives, to win back the senate and to control the redistricting process coming out of the next census.

We need a leader, people believe in leaders. Nothing less than a leader will win us the election, promises of health care reform will not win us the election, promises of student loan reform will not win us the election, promises of immigration reform will not win us the election, promises of criminal justice reform will not win us the election.

People want those things, I want those things, but we vote for people, not plans and policies.

Let’ put our energy behind the strongest person, and not tear the others down. Let’s keep the whole team in the game, and move the party forward to an electoral victory.

Anything short of that will be a disaster.

Independence Day

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 throwing 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.

A part of me still does.

As I grew older and I 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; 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 se we are told. 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.

This 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.

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.

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.

It did 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,” and 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, and we are still failing to do that 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, without exception, war is 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.

Today Donald Trump is breaking with all tradition to hold a political rally in the capitol, to put the military on parade at a cost of millions of dollars; to stroke his ego to cover up the blemish of his cowardice and erase the record as a draft dodger.

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, and the revolutionary; 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 for.

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

Given – 2019.07.04
Given 1st – 2016.07.04

The End of the Dream – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
06.15.2019

The End of the Dream

When I was growing up, when I was still a child and had that child’s mind, when I still believed in magic, and the force, I also believed that America stood for truth and justice.

I knew the broad strokes of our history, I knew that we had once been a slave holding nation, but we fought a war over that issue, we ended slavery, and the good guys won, or so I believed, when I was a child and I still thought that magic was real.

I came from a racial blended family. I knew that African Americans continued to experience injustice in the world. I knew that in the decade prior to my birth America had been engaged in the struggle for civil rights, and the good guys won, or so I believed, when I was a child and I still thought I might discover the force.

I believed that Adolph Hitler was evil, and the Klu Klux Klan, and white supremacists everywhere, and I was not wrong.

I believed that America led the world in its commitment to freedom; freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to assembly, equal treatment under the law and fundamental fairness above all else.

I believed it, and long after I came to realize that these values were not held by everyone, I wanted to believe that they were held by most of us.

I wanted to believe that even my fellow Americans, those who I disagreed with on matters of public policy, nevertheless held principled position, even though I thought they were wrong.

I came to understand that truth and justice were not really characteristic of the American way, but they could be, if the people demanded that our elected leaders make it so.

The American way was an aspiration, it would take inspiration to bring it to fruition.

I have come to understand how naive I was.

We were never the honest brokers of the world, in the era of President Trump America has stopped pretending that it even mattered.

Many of our politicians stopped pretending to care about these things long ago; letting lies go forward to protect the tobacco industry, the oil industry, to confuse the public on global warming and climate change, to suppress the vote, to poison our water, to enrich themselves off the public trust.

What marks the Trumpian era as different from that, is the willingness of the people to accept the lie. Some people actually believe the lie, but many more simply do not care that they are being lied to, and they know it full well.

This is where the American Dream goes to die.

The Wrong Way – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
06.08.2019

The Wrong Way
Nancy Pelosi let her frustration with Donald Trump, on the one hand, and her caucus on the other hand, get away from her.

It was shameful. It is the wrong way, that is the Trump way.

In a private meeting the Speaker of the House said that she does not want to see Donald Trump impeached, she wants to see him in prison.

Take no comfort in that.

Donald Trump is a criminal. His administration is illegitimate, but he must be removed from office before we can put him on trial for his crimes.

Apologists for the speaker are saying that there is no harm in her words, she is playing the same card e plays when Donald Trump calls for the prosecution and imprisonment of his political opponents.

That is not how America is supposed to work. We cannot let our leaders speak that way about their rivals, that road leads to the undoing of our representative democracy, and the dissolution of the republic.

We cannot leave a criminal in office. He must be impeached.

Open the inquiry now. Hold each member of congress accountable for their vote.

Put Donald Trump on trial in the Senate, hold each senator accountable for their vote.

Expose the fake president for the criminal that he is.

Do it now; duty demands it.

Let it play out as it will.

Show courage, this is not the ginned up impeachment of Bill Clinton, this is something else.

This is what your oath of office demands.

The Greatest of All Time

Muhammad Ali left the world three 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, I woke 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 one has died

Of all the heroes I ever fell for, he was the 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, he spoke of love

He spoke to the world the same as he fought, he fought for everyone

He spoke in rhythms that dazzled, in words that hurt

He floated
He stung
Like the butterfly
Like the bee

With the symbols of his fame he struck the powers of the world

Bumaye

He was a prophet in our time, he praised and he scolded, sharp tongued in his youth

He remained a silent witness in his old age, after his voice was taken from him

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

Muhammad Ali lost! Ali would never fight again!

All the kids on the school bus murmured, Ali was not the greatest of all

The world stopped making sense.

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

Muhammad Ali taught us to question, to challenge authority, to shun war

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

Muhammad Ali let them go for things that matter most to him

Ali taught us to serve the truth, seek justice, do good as long as we draw breath
He was the greatest of all time

Ali handcuffed lightning and put the thunder in jail

His star rose like the sun
Three years ago it set

Muhammad Ali will never be forgotten, for as long as the world shall spin

Given First (as an essay) – 2016.06.04

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

Off the Rails – Editorial, The Week in Review

Analysis, Commentary, Opinion
05.11.2019

Off the Rails
Donald Trump is openly talking about using the Justice Department to investigate his political opponents, namely Joe Biden, and there appears to be no resistance coming from his Attorney General, William Barr.

Rudy Giuliai was preparing to travel to Ukraine to place pressure on that government to reveal the details of a closed investigation into Joe Biden’s son. He said that he wanted to know what role Joe Biden played as Vice President of the United States, in quashing an investigating and removing a corrupt prosecutor from a case involving a Ukrainian oil firm which Biden’s son had a connection to. Never mind the fact that Great Britain, Canada, and multiple other countries were all working in tandem with the United States to oust the Ukrainian prosecutor on grounds of corruption. Never mind the fact that a multi-national effort to remove that prosecutor and close that investigation succeeded on the merits.

Donald Trump and his administration are in open defiance of the law, refusing to submit to congressional oversight, refusing to respond to congressional subpoenas. They are operating a criminal regime, and they must be stopped.

It was revealed this week exactly how terrible of a businessman Donald Trump is. A look at his losses over a ten year period revealed that he lost more money than any person in the history of the United States. It is absolute madness that anyone takes him seriously.

This government is off the rails.

If Donald Trump and his croonies get their way the Republic will be finished. There will be no checks and balances in government, we will be ruled by an autocrat and our democracy will be in a shambles.

He laughed at a rally this week when one of his supporters suggested that we should just shoot undocumented immigrants on sight…no hearings, no due process.

The most failing entrepreneur in the history of the world is holding the reigns of executive power, and he is driving us over a cliff.

Stay united people, get rid of him.