Breath of Life or Death?

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Three years ago, I preached on Pentecost Sunday at my church.

In the week preceding that Sunday, a terrorist attack in London wounded or killed some 35 people; at least 90 women and children died in a terrorist attack in Kabul and several more killed at a funeral; two men were stabbed to death by a white supremacist in Oregon for defending young Muslim women, and African-American college student Richard Collins III was fatally stabbed by a white supremacist on his college campus.

And once again, in the week before Pentecost, George Floyd’s breath was quite literally taken from him in a brazen murder committed by police.

Many commentators have noted the tragic relationship between those who are dying of COVID-19 who cannot breathe and Mr. Floyd’s death by asphyxiation. The vast majority of the nearly 110,000 citizens who have died would not have died if not for the criminally inept non-action of the so-called president. Mr. Floyd need not have died either, but for the criminally inept policing of the Minneapolis police.

For many priests and pastors, the other tragic irony is that Pentecost is a celebration of the giving of holy breath to the disciples, which turned them into apostles.

And even more ironic, tongues of flame appeared above their heads in the room in which they had been hiding. This emboldened Peter to address the crowd who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Shavuot, and as he did, everyone in the crowd, no matter what language they spoke, could HEAR and UNDERSTAND each other.

In the Greek, the Holy Spirit is called “pneuma,” which literally means breath. It came in the form of a great wind, which rushed through the dwelling, clearing away the disciples’ fear and anxiety about when the advocate that Jesus had promised was going to come.

In our 2020 case, wind created by military helicopters hovering over protestors brought down branches that hit some of them and drowned out their pleas for understanding that black lives matter.

It also deafened the cowardly General Mark Milley, who strutted around Washington, DC, in his fatigues checking on his “soldiers” when, in effect, martial law was imposed on the city this week. Of all people, he should have known best about Posse Comitatis Law, which forbids the US Army and Air Force from acts of war on US soil.

And here is yet another tragic irony in this most devastating week. The Law of Posse Comitatis was signed by President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878, supposedly at the “end of Reconstruction.” In fact, Reconstruction was nipped in the bud because the law gave an easy out to secessionist states from having to be held accountable for slavery and the post-Civil War uprising of vigilante groups not just limited to the Ku Klux Klan. President US Grant had allowed a military presence in the South and had virtually destroyed the Klan and its ilk. Hayes was elected as Southerners who had signed the oath of allegiance to the Union were regaining political offices and influence.

So a law that helped to re-create the Ku Klux Klan and other “night riders” and ushered in the Jim Crow era, which still has not ended, is now being breached to quell the descendants of those newly freed people who were in effect re-enslaved when Reconstruction failed.

For Christians, Pentecost symbolizes a holding to account of those in the Jesus Movement to follow  Jesus’s words and actions to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth by raising up the most marginalized and the most vulnerable, binding the wounds of the soul-sick and the physically sick, and living in communion with one another by acknowledging all of us as brothers and sisters.

But on the day after Pentecost, the wannabe dictator in the White House declared war on all of us and then defaced a church by going into, taking a Bible and using it for a photo opportunity.

Be Like A Tree

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See how the trees
Reach up and outward
As if their entire existence
Were an elegant gesture of prayer.
See how they become the breath of spirit,
In all its visible and invisible forms.
See how the roots reach down and outward
Embracing the physical, the body and bones
Of its own soul of earth and stone,
Allowing half its life to be sheltered
In the most quiet and secret places.
From “To Be Like a Tree” by Carrie Newcomer

Trees are the lungs of the earth, I read recently. This is why deforestation is so deadly to the health of our planet.

Richard Ford’s novel The Overstory is about eco-activists who attempt to disrupt tree cutting. It’s a very long book, and a lot of it is devoted to the science of trees. I found that more interesting than the actual plot, to be honest. I had not known that trees communicate with each other, warning of disruptions in the eco-system. As the messages are passed on, trees are actually able to protect themselves from disease.

This is in a forest environment, to be sure. Urban trees that are cut off from the eco-system are more easily prey to blight and pest damage because they are unable to get the message.

All of which brings me to the poem by Carrie Newcomer and the spiritual significance of trees.

I just learned of this poem this morning in a contemplative prayer group. My first thought was that not only are the trees reaching out as if in prayer, but also reaching out to other trees. However, they can’t do that if they are not rooted “in secret places.”

And so I thought of human beings like myself, being rooted in the Divine in order to be able to reach up and out to other humans on Earth, our island home.

Because everything I experience seems to be connected, this brought me to an experience I had on Monday in Boston.

I had driven a friend to Mass Eye and Ear for an appointment that ended up lasting three long hours. That meant I was in and out of the hospital a few times so I could have a cigarette. (Okay, I know some people think smoking is a moral issue as well, but it’s not one I’m going to address now.) Of course, one has to make oneself as small and insignificant and hidden as possible when one smokes. I was doing that and just about to light one up when a man came around the corner to my hiding place and lit a cigarette. He said hello to me and leaned over with his lighter to light mine. After, he reached out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Michael.” I shook his head and said, “Hi, I’m Cynthia.”

He then shared with me that he was waiting for a ride home to place that sounded as if it might have been a long-term shelter or halfway house. He asked me if I knew of it. No, I admitted, I’m not from around here. I’m from Western Massachusetts,” I said. “Ah, Worcester?” he asked. I laughed because most people in Boston have no idea how far west Massachusetts goes. “Nope, farther.” “Springfield?” “Keep going,” I said. “Orange?” I relented and told him that I was from as far west as you can go, on the border of New York. He was impressed.

“Wow, you came a long way! And now you’ve gotta go all that way back!” We chatted some more and then he said, “Well, I gotta go see if my ride is here. You take care and drive carefully.”

I thanked him and finished my cigarette. Then I walked around the corner to go back in the hospital.

“Hey, Cynthia!” a man’s voice called. It was Michael. It had only been five minutes or so since we’d parted, but he sounded as if he were greeting an old friend he hadn’t seen in years. “Hey!” I said. And then his van pulled up. He told me again to be safe driving home and we waved even as his ride was pulling out.

Such encounters have been happening to me since I was in college and out in the world, chance meetings with strangers that have made me feel as if I might have met an angel unaware. They’ve happened in other countries and in places where I’ve been warned not to go such as Harlem. They’ve happened in women’s bathrooms in bars, on buses and subways and in the grocery store and the laundromat.

What does this have to do with trees? Well, it is my firm belief that we can only solve the problems of our world if we feel we have a bond with other human beings. Like the trees, we need to be rooted in our hearts in something greater than ourselves that encourages us to reach up and out. Each time I have such an encounter, I feel blessed to be making such a bond, even if one so brief. And I feel that these encounters give each of us the ability to reach out again and again.

It is also interesting to me that the majority of these encounters have been with people one might call marginalized. I used to ponder what they could see in me that was marginalized also. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a sort of loneliness and homesickness for a place I’ve never been, perhaps a place where everyone is welcomed and embraced and loved. The place where all tears are wiped away and all the storms and pains of human existence matter no longer. I call it the Kingdom.

Above all, I believe it’s all part of the plan. I am blessed.

He Was Blinded, But Justice Was Not Blind

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If you read the New York Times’ 1619 Project, you would have seen an old photograph of Sergeant Isaac Woodard and his mother taken in 1946.

The sunglasses Sergeant Woodard is wearing will lead you to believe that he is blind, even before you read the caption.

Within five hours of returning stateside from WWII, Sergeant Woodard was beaten by Police Chief Lynnwood Shull of Batesburg, SC, and then blinded by the chief’s forcing his blackjack into each of the sergeant’s eyes.

His crime? He asked the bus driver if he could get off at the next stop to use the bathroom. The bus driver cursed him and he cursed the driver back.

Sergeant Woodard never did receive judicial justice for the beating despite three trials over several years. He was, however, the match that lit the flame that would lead in a direct line to the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.

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Judge Waring

Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring focuses mainly on Judge Waring’s evolution from fair, decent federal judge in South Carolina to fiery civil rights proponent.

However, had Sergeant Woodard not told a bus driver on a fateful night in 1946, “I am a man, just like you!”, that evolution might never have happened.

Walter White, executive director of the NAACP at the time, heard about Sergeant Waring’s beating and was determined to bring it to the widest public attention possible. He enlisted the aid of Orson Welles, who did a radio show about it that drew widespread outrage in the North. Woody Guthrie wrote a song called “The Blinding of Isaac Woodard.” It was one of the few cases where a lynching victim (remember, lynching did not require ropes, but was any act of violence toward an African-American) actually survived.

A show trial had been held locally that of course exonerated Shull. President Truman learned about the beating and was concerned, but until White personally described it to the President, Truman had no idea of the outrages that were being committed in the South. He pressed his Justice Department to hold a federal trial.

Though the FBI had investigated the beating, it was J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and the local agents could have cared less. The federal prosecutors also did not want to be involved and the prosecutor in charge of the trial was half-hearted at best and negligent at worst. Politicians and elected officials in South Carolina were outraged that the federal government was getting involved and did their best to stop it.

They didn’t stop it, but with an all-white jury and a lackluster prosecution, Shull was found not guilty.

Judge Waring presided over the trial and was dismayed by its outcome. Around the same time, he divorced his wife and remarried. His second wife was a Northerner. Waring had been at best a gradualist, believing that fairer treatment of African-Americans was something to work toward in the future. By the time more cases of racial inequality came to his court, he and his wife began seriously studying the whole history and present state of civil rights, and he was soon considered an activist judge.

Among cases that came before him and brought him the wrath of his fellow South Carolinians was one that involved the state’s Democratic Party disallowing African-Americans to vote in primaries without signing a pledge that they would not thereby consider themselves equal to whites.

The country at that time was still using the SCOTUS precedent of Plessy vs. Ferguson in civil rights cases. This was the argument that schools, public accommodations, etc. were to be “separate but equal” for African-Americans. We know that in fact, everything was separate AND UNEQUAL.

Judge Waring began seeking out civil rights cases to advance on his docket that would challenge using Plessy v. Ferguson and move on to segregation itself being unequal.  His first attempt was in a case regarding the unequal pay of teachers in African-American schools compared with white schools. His second attempt was in a case regarding the poor conditions of the African-American schools. The prosecution was blindsided, however, by the school district’s raising a bond to update the African-American schools rather than integrate the students in the white schools.

It was Briggs v. Elliott that was the landmark case connected directly to Brown and was consolidated in Brown. Thurgood Marshall prosecuted the case for the NAACP before a three-judge panel that included Judge Waring. Though the case was lost, Judge Waring’s dissenting opinion established the “Per Se” argument, that segregation in and of itself was per se unequal. The case was eventually consolidated into Brown v. Board of Education.

Briggs v. Elliott also was the first time that sociologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s research was introduced for the prosecution. That research showed that African-American children’s developmental status was harmed by segregation. They used black and white dolls and asked children which doll was “good” and which doll was “bad.” The majority of black children chose the white doll as “good,”  indicating that they had internalized the oppression of segregation and racism.

All of the plaintiffs in Waring’s civil right cases faced the backlash of losing jobs, being threatened, and other reprisals. After a cross was burned on their lawn, rocks thrown through their windows, and innumerable threats, the Warings themselves left South Carolina and moved to New York City. The Warings had become social pariahs in Charleston because of their friendships with the NAACP’s  Walter White and Thurgood Marshall; in New York, they met and earned the admiration of many other civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The judge retired but edited opinions and arguments for civil rights trials.

Author Richard Gergel is also a judge and also known for his civil rights activism in South Carolina. He is best known for being the presiding judge in Dylann Roof’s trial for the murder of nine blessed souls at Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston. His book is compelling and dense with facts of the state of civil rights during this period.

What happened to Sergeant Woodard? In the immediate time after he was blinded, he received no training in how to navigate life. His Army pension did not include disability payments because  he had already been demobbed. His wife left him and he was forced to move to the Bronx to live with his parents.

The NAACP did much to help him, raising funds by taking him on a speaking tour.  He received half of the proceeds. Some of that money was invested in an annuity for him and some was used, unwisely, to buy a multi-family rental property where he and his family could live and also receive an income. That property was taken by the state of New York by eminent domain in the 1950s to build new housing.

Sergeant Woodard fought for and was finally granted full disability payments from the Army. He was finally able to buy a home for his aging parents, the cousin who was his caregiver, and two sons from a relationship. He owned a business and professed in his later years that he was a happy, contented man. He died in 1992.

Let there be no mistake: This is not a story about “white saviors.” If any savior is to be found, it is Sergeant Woodard for standing up for himself, enduring grueling trials in a debilitated physical state, and being the source of Judge Waring’s and President Truman’s epiphanies that racial justice was not something that should wait for an undetermined time in the future; the time had come. Indeed, it was long overdue.

The sad realization at the end of the book is that racial justice is still overdue, and I’ve no doubt that underscoring this tragic fact was part of Judge Gergel’s motivation in writing Unexampled Courage.

Racism is a white problem, and only by white people educating themselves and putting themselves in positions where such epiphanies as Judge Waring had can be experienced will racism be overcome.

May it be so.

 

Poverty Needs to be Considered in Recession Talk

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I believe that when Jesus told his disciples, “The poor will always be with us,” he wasn’t giving a mandate, but was prophesying.

He knew that if they couldn’t understand what he had told them about his impending death, they would not have heard his constant exhortations to feed his sheep, to clothe the poor, to take care of the widows and orphans, to visit the imprisoned.

If they couldn’t spare the time to sit at his feet for the short time he had left on earth and learn from Him up until the moment of his death, how would they (read “we”) ever be able to do the more difficult things he bade them to do?

It is driving me crazy to hear talking heads prattle on about their opinion that we’re due for a recession. When they say, “That’s the way it flows,” they really mean that that is the way the stock market flows.

They don’t, however, mention that in times of either depressions or recessions, the poor are always hardest hit.

Not because they’re lazy. Not because they’re shiftless. Not because they’re stupid. Only because they live in a world whose well-being is dictated by an artificial construct called the stock market.

I’m not an economist, and I’ve never invested a cent. I think I might correctly say, however, that the stock market construct was invented by wealthy people in order to make money off of their wealth and allow them to become even wealthier. In many cases, that wealth was either unearned or created by enslaving people to do the actual work for them and by exploiting others who were paid very little to break their backs working for the wealthy.

One way or another, it is those living in poverty or low wealth who will find it even harder to pay for the very necessities of life than anyone else. So why are they not mentioned in discussions about a recession?

The talking heads also spout on about the great economy were “enjoying.” Great for whom? Certainly not for the 140 million people who live in poverty and low wealth in this country, let alone the millions more around the world who die of starvation every year. Their tone-deafness is appalling.

Since January 1917, I have noticed that prices in the grocery store have risen continually, sometimes even weekly. I do not have a fancy diet. I eat very little meat. Before 2017, my weekly budget for food, entertainment, and incidentals was about $100 a week.  It didn’t need to be, but I didn’t see any reason for it not to be. Now that I’m retired, entertainment and incidentals have gone by the wayside; food alone could cost more than $100 a week if I weren’t paring back and rationing what I buy.

If that is my situation, I can’t imagine the situations of people living in systemic poverty, and especially families. And yet, they are not mentioned in discussions about the great economy and a possible recession.

Why not? If not now, when? All the systems of our government and our economy are stacked against the poor. Yes, the poor will always be with us if we don’t start giving a damn. Jesus prophesied and greedy humankind turned it into a self-fulfilling prophecy by turning deaf ears and blind eyes to what he really meant.

@poorpeoplescampaign

I’m talking to you, @allinwithchris @chrislhayes @maddow @AriMelber @TheBeatWithAri @Lawrence

Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat?

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There are situations in the world one wishes one could un-know and pictures one wishes one could un-see.

But once known and once seen, a person becomes, in a sense, morally responsible for the situation depicted and described.

While red states rush to pass “heartbeat” bills and draconian abortion bans, there are children all over the world whose heartbeats are becoming fainter and fainter.

The child in this featured image is most likely already dead. There comes a point in the starvation process when it cannot be reversed. The Telegraph, which printed this picture, reports that more than 5,000,000,000 children in Yemen are at risk for the same fate.

Yet Republican politicians don’t seem to have any interest in holding those responsible for causing these deaths, neither the president who sells weapons to Mohammad Bin Salman  to continue making war on that benighted country nor on MbS himself, who we already know is  murdered a US journalist, one who had a heartbeat. Shrapnel raining down on schoolchildren has been directly linked to bombs made in the US.

Neither do they seem to care about the heartbeats of black and brown babies once they’re born or white babies who are born into poverty.

Or the heartbeats of rape victims who are forced to carry their rapist’s child.

Or the heartbeats of children born in any of the so-called shithole countries.

Or the heartbeats of women who could die if they go through a full-term pregnancy.

Or the heartbeats of men, women, and children fleeing violence such as we can’t imagine and seeking asylum in the US.

Or the heartbeats of the likes of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, and so, so many more.

I sometimes wish I believed in hell so I could imagine on which rung of the inferno these morally bankrupt, mostly white, men and women would receive their comeuppance.

I see and I know. Time to get to work. Pictures of this child will come to Washington, DC, with me in a couple of weeks and will be, if all goes according to plan, brought into a Congressional hearing, where they will be held up. Others will be, with luck, taped to the White House fence. Others will be distributed on the Capitol steps. I invite you to download and print out the picture and also make use of it to confront your state’s politicians with what they are ignoring, especially if you live in a state that has recently passed a so-called-heartbeat bill.

Season of Restoration and Renewal

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I take things to heart. I always have. So when in early childhood I was told in catechism classes that Jesus died for my sins, and that every sin I committed actually enforced the strength of the hammers nailing him to the cross, I took it to heart.

I grew up feeling guilty and shameful and dirty. I learned to beg God for forgiveness rather than to pray. I learned to be afraid of sudden lightning bolts striking me down for some blasphemy. I learned to feel responsible for every bad thing that had ever happened in the world. I could not watch “Jesus” movies (Barabbas, The Greatest Story Ever Told, King of Kings) without feeling that I was one of the crowd calling for His death.

I became very neurotic.

Thank God for mentors and spiritual authors and therapists who helped me start to emerge from that sick state. Thank God for the mentors (Sue, Dick, Phyllis, Gus, Charlie, Rick) who gave me the gift of reading Paul’s epistles without feminist anger. Thank God for Allan and John who introduced me to Martin Luther. Thank God for Rabbi Elias, who showed me the face of righteousness.

Thank God for Julian of Norwich and Bishop NT Wright and Hildegard of Bingen and Henry Nouwen and Howard Thurman and Richard Rohr who taught me to dare to think of Jesus the Christ and God outside of the box.

Thank God for Monroe Crossing and Voces and John Rutter and Francois Poulenc and Morton Lauridsen and Vaughan Williams and Marty Hagen and John Donne and George Herbert who gave me a way to sing my prayers of praise.

Thank God for Wynken and Blynken and Greta and Pym and Reepicheep and Columbine and Onyx and Maggie May and all the other pets who taught me how to love and be loved unconditionally.

Thank God for Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr. and Fred Shuttleworth and Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin and Fannie Lou Hamer and Septima Clark and John Cone and John Lewis and Bryan Stevenson and William Barber and all the other freedom fighters who taught me how to armor myself with faith to resist darkness in the world.

I’m still a bit neurotic. That kind of imprinting at such a young age doesn’t ever wholly leave. But now that I know that the world, and me with it, is restored every day, I can let go of teachings that kept me imprisoned rather than liberated, which is what I believe faith is meant to do.

I went to a Shabbat service a couple of weeks ago at a reformed Judaism congregation. The following prayer was read; it touched me so deeply that I was moved to tears of thanksgiving. I know that there could not have been Easter Sunday without Good Friday, but I resist being stuck in Good Friday mode of mourning and keening forever. It is the resurrection and the restoration of Jesus to Christ that I want to keep in my heart always, for it means that I too can be resurrected and restored.

That We Be Reborn

Source of all that exists, You create your world anew every moment.
Would You but for a moment withhold your creative force,
The whole universe would come to an end.

You pour out your blessings on your creatures every instant,
And again the stars renew their song of love to You.

And again the angels chant over their song of holiness to You.
And again the souls of mortals repeat their yearning for You;
And again the birds keep chirping their hymns of joy to You.

And again the trees wrap themselves in their tallit of leaves
And offer their worship to You.
And again the fountains in whispers murmur their prayers to you.

O God, turn on me but one ray of Your light and I rise restored;
But one wave of your life eternal and I am drenched in the dew of youth.

Do You not continually renew your creation, O Source of all life?
Take me your child and renew me.
Breathe Your spirit into me that I may live, that I may start life
Afresh with childhood’s unbounded promise.

We thank You for both day and night, for continually renewing your creation.

Hillel Zeitlin

Whatever you are celebrating this weekend, may you also find restoration and renewal.

 

 

 

Novelists Explore Internalized Racism

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I recently read two books in a row by African-American authors that address the state of internalized racism in America through deep satire.

Paul Beatty’s book, The Sellout, was written in 2015; Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s book came out earlier this year.

We often think of satire as having a humorous element, but in both of these books, I found that every time I was tempted to laugh, something pulled me back as I reflected on the reality behind the author’s words.

The Sellout is about an unnamed California man who owns a farm in a small town called Dickens on the outskirts of Los Angeles. He was home-schooled by his radical sociologist father, but it’s not your average home schooling. Hearing gun shots while having tokens of white supremacy put in your bassinet is traumatic, but certainly teaches a lesson.

Paul Beatty

Paul Beatty

Yet, as an adult, the narrator agrees to take on Hominy, Buckwheat’s understudy in The Little Rascals, as a slave. Yup, Hominy – after a youth spent being filmed portraying all the worst stereotypes of white audiences – insists on being enslaved, and the narrator obliges. He goes further and, with a little help from his friends, decides to re-create segregation in order to attract white people with money back to his hometown, which has been taken off the maps.

He winds up being arrested for violating every civil rights amendment and law and his case goes to the Supreme Court.

In his 2015 New York Times review, Dwight Garner calls the first 100 pages of the book “caustic and . . . badass.”

“What I mean,” he writes, “is that the first third of The Sellout reads like the most concussive monologues and interviews of Chris Rock, Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle wrapped in a satirical yet surprisingly delicate literary and historical sensibility.”

We Cast a Shadow, Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s satire, is more on the order of Key and Peele at their best and also more poignant to me. Again, we meet an unnamed man in a not-too-distant New Orleans who has married a white woman. Their son is very light-skinned and could pass for white except for patches of dark skin on various parts of his body. The father is obsessed with his son having all the advantages of being white to the point of subjecting him to various “demelanization” treatments, which the boy does not want and finds painful.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin

Maurice Carlos Ruffin

The narrator himself could be called a sellout. He has separated himself from his roots to the extent that he dresses “white” and does everything he can to align himself with the white higher-ups in his law firm in order to win a promotion and the bonus that will help him pay for his son’s whitening treatments.

How much of what he does is for love of his son or hatred of himself? He has father issues himself, as his father is serving a life sentence for assaulting a police officer who assaulted the narrator’s mother. He blames his father for resisting, even though they live in a project that is being more ghettoized every day and eventually is cordoned off from the rest of the city. In the next state over, presumably Mississippi, African-Americans have to wear tracking devices, so the narrator’s fears are very real.

All of it, however, comes down to white supremacy and the expectation by even liberal whites that black people just need to “get over” slavery. Just “get over” the fact that they’re only barely American citizens now because of what their ancestors endured in the Middle Passage and on the farms and plantations and building sites of the territory that eventually became the United States of America.

I noted above that every time I was tempted to laugh while reading either of the books, something held me back. More to the point, I had to wonder whether I, as a bleeding-heart liberal white woman, had a right to laugh. In Ruffin’s book, in particular, there were more moments where I was tempted to cry.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah ends his NYT review of Ruffin’s book this way:

“How does racism shape our ability to love?

We Cast a Shadow churns fresh beauty from old ugliness. What injustices have we as a culture come to accept as normal? What are the pitfalls of our complacency? And how can anyone survive this? These questions are essential to America’s growth, but rarely do we see them posed so sharply. Read this book, and ask yourself: Is this the world you want?”

American Imprisonment

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American journalists Shane M. Bauer and Joshua F. Fattal left a notorious Iranian prison in 2011 after two years in captivity. A third journalist, Sarah Shourd, had already been released in 2010 after the three, who were reporting from Iraq, took a suggested hike and found themselves being accused of having crossed into Iran as spies.

Bauer, who is now married to Shourd, gives a brief account of the ordeal in his book, American Prison, an account of his real undercover exploit as a guard in a for-profit prison in Louisiana.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPossibly Bauer, who works for Mother Jones Magazine, is the only person who could truly sum up the brutality of a private prison because he already knew what prison brutality could be like.

And in fact, there were factors in the American prison that he called worse than what he experienced in the Iranian prison.

American Prison,  A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment, released this fall, was named in The New York Times Book Review as one of the 10 best books of 2018.

Just when it seemed that there was hope for prison reform under President Obama, the country fell into the abyss of the Trump regime and the Sessions Justice Department. While Bauer’s experience happened in 2014, there was hope that the tide against mass incarceration and imprisonment for profit might turn.

Instead we have more imprisonment for profit, called detaining young immigrants, and rollback of sentencing laws.

Bauer’s book about one of the prisons operated by Corrections Corporation of America (since renamed CoreCivic) is a painful but, in my opinion, necessary read. One will not be surprised that many of the worst abuses are against African-American prisoners. There are no legitimate efforts made to rehabilitate prisoners, and medical attention is applied sparingly because it cuts the profits. Prisoners have died from neglect.

Perhaps the worst is the utter hopelessness that is reflected in Bauer’s voice at the situation prisoners find themselves in. He describes an inmate nicknamed Corner Store who spends a year beyond his sentence in Winn, Louisiana, because his mother lives out of state and the prison provides him with no help in finding a situation in Louisiana that he can be released to.

If possible, even more frightening is Bauer’s own reactions to being a guard. He starts out trying to be empathetic but finds himself becoming hardened as time goes on to a point where he is writing up prisoners for trivial abuses of the Draconian regulations and beginning to not care a damn about the human beings he is hurting.

Bauer underwent this transformation in only four months, before his photographer was discovered on the jail’s property and Bauer and Shroud skedaddled. The photographer was locked up in Winn; Mother Jones’s lawyer was able to get him released.

For-profit prisons operate on a state level, contracting with the state for prisoners. But we can guess that both state and federal prisons are badly in need of reform, as are mandatory sentencing and over-sentencing. Michelle Alexander began the discussion with The New Jim Crow; Bryan Stevenson continued it with Just Mercy. Paul Butler advocates for prison reform in Chokehold, and I’m sure there are other books out there that I not read that advocate the same.

The point is, these books will continue to need to be written until the United States looks at incarceration and sentencing from a true point of justice and not from a point of vengeance.

Father of the Underground Railroad

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You don’t have to read far into William Still’s The Underground Railroad to see exploded the myth that white folks freed the slaves.

Yes, white abolitionists helped the cause enormously after escaped slaves had made the first harrowing step toward freedom. And who else but white abolitionists could have gotten the Empancipation passed.

BUT – and this is a very large BUT – Still’s meticulous narratives that he recorded as escaped slaves passed through his Philadelphia office are a testament to the urgency and agency of enslaved people themselves to gain their freedom and the risks they took to do so.

This man, this William Still, who coined the term Underground Railroad, started as a janitor for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia and eventually became its chief clerk and also chairman of the Vigilant Committee of the Pennsylvania Underground Railroad.

I had no idea that The Underground Railroad Records ran to more than 1,000 pages, but it makes sense as 1,000 narratives and letters are represented in its pages. It can be difficult to read because so many of those escaped had to leave children, spouses, parents, and siblings behind.

William Still’s own birth family is a case in point. His parents were enslaved on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, out of which came also the sainted Harriet Tubman. His father, Levin Steel, was able to buy his freedom and make his way to New Jersey. His mother, Sidney, escaped with the four oldest children, but they were caught and returned to enslavement. She tried again, this time just bring two daughters and leaving her sons behind. Those sons were sold down to Mississippi and eventually to Alabama, where the younger son died in bondage.

William was born free in New Jersey when his father changed their surname to Still. Sidney changed her name to Charity. Years later, when William was working for the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia, he interviewed an escaped slave named Peter. Peter was his oldest brother. It took numerous hazardous attempts to escape; he was caught and returned to slavery several times. Even after a successful escape, he returned to Alabama to try to free his wife. That too took several attempts and cost the life of a white man named Seth Concklin who had actually gotten Peter’s wife and children as far as Vincennes, Indiana, before they were all caught. Concklin’s body was found in a river chained and beaten.

The ways in which enslaved people managed to free themselves are as diverse and canny as the people themselves. Many were able to buy passage on a steamboat but were forced to hide in the engine area for days on end. People found themselves wedged into a small, hot, fetid, noisy area and just when they thought they couldn’t endure more, learned that a storm had caused the boat to go off-course and it would take longer than expected.

One of the most famous escapes, about which children’s books have been written, is that of Henry “Box” Brown, who mailed himself to Philadelphia. With the aid of a friend he was packed up in a crate and off he went. He didn’t think he’d survive it, but he did.

And of course there is that woman named Harriet, who returned to Maryland over and over again and brought 60 people out of their captivity. Anyone who went with her had to be unimaginably brave because she made it clear that if someone didn’t want to continue, they would die by her own gun. She couldn’t afford to have anyone caught and tortured into revealing information about her network.

William Still left a remarkable legacy, not only in his narratives, but also through his children with his wife Letitia. Caroline Matilda Still was one of the African-American women doctors I the country. William Wilberforce Still became a prominent lawyer. Robert George Still was a journalist, and Frances Ellen Still was an educator.

William Still lobbied for eight years to successfully desegregate Philadelphia’s public transportation. He organized a YMCA for Black children, participated in the Freedmen’s Bureau, was a founding member of a church, and helped establish a mission school.

When he died in 1902 at the age of 81, The New York Times hailed him as the Father of the Underground Railroad.

Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran theologian who was hanged by the Nazis for his part in a plot to assassinate Hitler, has been much on my mind since we learned in 2018 of concentration camps for Immigrants.

In the last six months, I have often whispered his name when learning of new depredations by the administration that have cost more than 150,000 American lives. Since the end of May, of course, Bonhoeffer has been on my mind daily.

Last night, I embarked on a four-month study of Christian Ethics and Racism offered by Bexley Seabury Theological Seminary and using as a main text Reggie Williams’s book, Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus. Though written in 2014, it has much to teach us today.

Dr. Williams’s thesis is that Bonhoeffer would never have been hanged at Flossburg Prison in April 1945 if not for his meeting Black Jesus in the culture of Harlem and particularly at the Abyssinian Baptist Temple under the tutelage of the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Sr. Harlem is a short walk up the street from Union Theological Seminary, where Bonhoeffer was a Sloane scholar in 1930-31.

I’ve read some of Bonhoeffer’s books over the years and waded through a very long biography by Eric Metaxas. If not for Dr. Williams, though, I would not know that before Bonhoeffer’s experiences in Harlem, he himself had begun to take on the nationalist fervor of post-World War I Germany.

For example, writes Dr. Williams, ”Bonhoeffer’s third lecture [to ex-pat Germans in Spain] , entitled ‘Basic Questions of a Christian Ethic,’ emphasized German patriotic discipleship, with Bonhoeffer’s emphasis on loyalty to the superior German peoples, or Vὅlker:”

Then he quotes Bonhoeffer himself: “Should not a Volk experiencing God’s call on its own life in its own youth and in its own strength, should not such a people be allowed to follow that call, even if it disregards the lives of other people?” The emphasis is mine.

To say this was a shock to me is putting it mildly. How was it that years of book study groups and a 1,000+-page biography never mentioned this?

When I’d calmed down, I thought of the parallels of Germany in that era with the Confederate States post-Civil War. Germany was in a shambles after World War I. Instead of searching its national conscience to reflect on its own responsibility and what it had reaped from its own bellicosity, though, the country doubled down on its nationalism. Nationalism is based on looking out for number one and to hell with the “other.” With the rise of uber-nationalism in the form of Hitler and the Nazi Party, the majority of German citizens were easily persuaded that the others in their midst, the Jews, the Romas, the gays, the developmentally disabled, could be erased from the Fatherland.

Since the South had already decided that those they had enslaved were subhuman, it wasn’t difficult for people to be reconciled to the now freed slaves being lynched after the First Reconstruction failed. Even the “well-meaning whites” that Howard Thurman describes in The Luminous Darkness weren’t moved to go outside of the pattern of Jim Crow laws. Tragically, the Great Migration unveiled the hidden bigotry of the North and so up to this present day we see physical and cultural lynchings in all parts of the country.

bonhoefferLearning about Black Jesus transformed Bonhoeffer’s earlier theology from one that sees God as favoring certain groups of people to a God who, by the Cross and by the Incarnation, endows all people with the mystical body of the Christ. A suffering Black Jesus is the Cosmic Christ that calls out to suffering people of all faiths and traditions or no faith at all. The incarnational Jesus of the Gospels reaches out only to the oppressed and/or marginalized, really. He does not minister to the Pharisees or the other elites, but to the peasants held in thrall by Caesar’s yoke.

It was the Black Jesus that opened Bonhoeffer’s eyes to the pure evil of Hitler’s progression to the Final Solution. To say that what he had learned also brought him to a place where he would face the fires of Hell to rid the world of that pure evil may seem an anomaly, but we know that it did.

Harlem’s Black Jesus gave Bonhoeffer and his co-conspirators the strength to draw a line in the sand.

Hmmmm.

Note: The featured image is a painting by Harlem Renaissance painter William H. Johnson

My John Lewis

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Though I use the word “my,” this is not about me but about the extraordinary human being John Lewis was.

When I first went to the National Book Festival in Washington, DC, I was more than excited to see that Mr. Lewis would be one of the featured authors because March #1 came out that year.

My sister had been going for years when the Festival was held on the Mall. This was the first year it would be held in the Walter Washington Conference Center.

I posted on Facebook that I was determined to meet Mr. Lewis. Sally, my sister, laughed and said, “Do you know how many people there will be at this event? There’s no chance you’ll meet him.”

I didn’t exactly stalk him, but I made sure I would be scoping out the area around the ballroom where he would be speaking at least a half-hour before hand.

As I trotted up the final staircase, I just happened to look to my right and there was Mr. Lewis surrounded by young people from his district!

I joined them, trying to fit in despite my having at least 40 years on any of them and, in most cases, being much shorter than anyone else – except Mr. Lewis.

I finally made my move and threw my cellphone to one of the young people and asked them to take a picture of me and Mr. Lewis. By then I had no idea what to say to him, until I blurted out, “Mr. Lewis, I thank God for the day you were born!”

With a sort of sigh, he threw his arms around me and hugged me in the most beautiful embrace. I would say I had been touched by an angel, but in fact, according to Time Magazine, I was being hugged by a saint.

The magazine called Mr. Lewis a living saint in the 1960s. It was not a casual comment in an article, but a carefully thought-out homage to a very young man in his 20s. Can you imagine having to live up to that? And yet he did.

Recently, on my once-a-week return from the grocery store, I noticed a billboard with giant figures of meerkats. It was an advertisement for a pest control company. My very first reaction was to say aloud to myself, “They’re not the pests; we are.” How much destruction and violence and horror have we humans brought to this beautiful creation that the Bible says we are stewards of? Genocide, “ethnic cleansing,” hate crimes, out-of-control wars and human-caused famines, babies in cages, the crimes of humankind are so many.

And yet. And yet, there is John Lewis. There is Elijah Cummings. There is CT Vivian and MLK Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt and Ida B. Wells and Fannie Lou Hamer and Oskar Schindler and Elie Wiesel and Abraham Heschel and Howard Thurman and more who spent their lives, and risked their lives, to show us that yes, there are better angels of our natures out there.

I heard historian Jon Meacham, who wrote a biography of Mr. Lewis, say twice over the weekend that, though he could not agree with him, Mr. Lewis truly believed that God’s kingdom could come on earth as it is in heaven. Since Jesus told us this was so, many Christians still don’t believe it. It’s only in recent years that I began to understand the profundity of what Jesus said and to believe it with my whole heart.

Mr. Lewis’s extraordinary life was a living out of the desire to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. As people contemplate who will carry the torch farther, I say it is up to each and every one of us to fight the good fight every day to bring God’s commonwealth of peace and freedom to our fragile island home, this blue marble that spins around the sun.

To repeat Mr. Lewis’s words, “If not now, when?”

Lamentation for George Floyd

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White men and women have thought of black bodies for centuries as something they can do what they will with.

Neither the Emancipation Proclamation nor the 13th Amendment nor the Voting Rights Act nor the institution of a category of felonies called hate crimes has changed this.

Black bodies have only been good for making wealth off of or using as scapegoats for white rage.

How long, O Lord, how long?

The murder of George Floyd was committed in plain sight; the four cops knew exactly what they are were doing. They intended to kill him and they did, right out in public. How can we breathe when he couldn’t?

How long, O Lord, how long?

I fear the pandemic of white supremacy more, a great, great deal more, than I fear COVID-19, though for black bodies, both are methods of genocide.

How long, O Lord, how long?

I woke up today with such a weight of anger, grief, and despair that I could barely move. Prayer time didn’t help. All I wanted to do was post to white policeman, “Keep your fucking hands off black bodies.”

How long, O Lord, how long?

The list of names has gotten so long, we could fill a Vietnam Memorial with them. George, Amadou, Philando, Oscar, Jamal, John, Sandra, Ahmaud, Breona, Emmet, Jordan, Eric, Jimmie Lee, and hundreds of others whose names are recorded at the Equal Justice Initiative’s Lynching Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama.

This list doesn’t even include the thousands of black bodies who have been killed or neglected in prisons.

How long, O Lord, how long?

When Saul sent men to kill David, David wrote Psalm 59 in lament. When I read verses 1-7 now, I hear the voices of all the black bodies crying from their graves.

59 Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
protect me from those who rise up against me;

 deliver me from those who work evil,
and save me from bloodthirsty men.

 For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
fierce men stir up strife against me.
For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD, 

 for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.
Awake, come to meet me, and see!

 You,  LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel.
Rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
spare none of those who treacherously plot evil.

 Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city.

Not Triage, But Lasting Change Needed

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Americans love to think of themselves as charitable people. When disasters strike, news media carries many stories of neighbors helping neighbor and people going out of their way to provide help in times of crisis. It’s beautiful to see, and it brings tears to the eyes.

Yet when fundamental changes that could help make triage unnecessary, or “mutual aid” as it’s now being called, are proposed, society rejects them as unrealistic. Christian churches, even the progressive branches, are often among those who are the first to quote the so-often misinterpreted Scripture, “The poor will always be you.”

It sometimes seems to me that we worship our own good triage deeds more than the Christ who was embodied in Jesus of Nazareth, the God in human form who led a non-violent revolution to bring the Good News that we can bring Heaven to Earth.

We can have permanent, safe housing for everyone in this country at truly affordable rents or mortgages, not just rents and mortgages that are deemed affordable by market standards.

We can have guaranteed educational opportunities for every child that doesn’t just teach to tests or make education an apprenticeship for a future job, but also teaches children how to be members of a just and humane society.

We can have safe elections that ensure that every single person eligible can vote without obstacles thrown up in their path.

We can have universal health care that follows citizens from cradle to grave that includes modalities to take care of the whole body and not just its parts.

We can have clean water and air so that none of us has to worry that toxins in our drinking supplies and being spewed into the air will turn our planet into a poisonous dump, killing the incredible variety of life on it including homo sapiens.

We can have a country that builds instruments of peace rather than instruments of war.

We can have a country that values the lives of every single person on these shores regardless of race, ethnic background, creed, and national origin.

So why aren’t more people working for this?

We talk about these matters every Sunday at 6 PM at Freedom Church of the Poor on the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice’s Facebook page. We look at Scripture that gives us a blueprint for how to do it, from the ancient texts of the Torah and the Prophets to the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. We sing together, we pray together, we mourn together, and yes, we laugh and rejoice together.

We are a community that acts in the best interests of our marginalized brothers and sisters because we know that when they are lifted up, we are all lifted up. Some of us are living in poverty or low wealth and have experienced homelessness, and yet we share our experience, strength and hope to lift others up as well. And we call out those who would keep any of our brothers and sisters down.

For many, many years the director of the Kairos Center, the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, has lived with, organized with, inspired and ultimately helped change the narrative for marginalized people. She and the priests, pastors, rabbis, and imams associated with the Kairos Center are forming communities much like those formed by Moses and the apostles to share and to show other people how to model God’s dream for us. She is also co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, a National Call to Moral Revival.

The Divine doesn’t do triage. The Divine abides within us to guide us to permanent change in how we view ourselves and our brethren on Earth.

I’ve spent much of my life not wanting to be part of any group that would have me for a member. But I am proud, and also humbled, to be accepted into the community of the Freedom Church of the Poor and, by extension, the Poor People’s Campaign, A National Call to Moral Revival. I know I am right where I belong.

Maybe this is where you belong as well! Get a taste of Freedom Church of the Poor here: May 17, 2020

Kairos Center for Religions, RIghts and Social Justice

www.poorpeoplescampaign.org

www.june2020.org

Darkness for the People of the First Light

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I’d like to tell you about when I first heard of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.

I’d been on Cape Cod for about two months or so in the early 1980s, living aboard a schooner with a dysfunctional man, a German shepherd, and two cats. This will be relevant later.

Somehow, Malcolm had gotten to know a member of the finance board of Mashpee, and so we went to meet her and her husband for drinks one afternoon.

She kept referring to the “Monigs,” and I had no idea what she was talking about. I finally asked. She laughed; “Oh, that’s what we called the Wampanoags – More Nigger than Indian.”

Welcome to white Mashpee. And oh yes, the name Mashpee is derived from Algonquin meaning “great water.”

When I started working for The Enterprise newspaper in Falmouth, I got a lot more education about why so many white people ostensibly hated the Wampanoags, or People of the First Light. It went back to a land suit that the tribe had filed and it went on for years, tying up a lot of developers’ plans.

The next big story, which was the first of its kind I’d come across, involved the police shooting of a young Wampanoag man. The following is from a Maoist (!) website, the only place I could find to refresh my memory.

“On May 1, 1988, David H. Mace, a white police sergeant in the Cape Cod town of Mashpee, Massachusetts, shot and killed David C. Hendricks, a 27 year old Mashpee Wampanoag, following his pursuit of Hendricks’ car for a traffic violation. Sergeant Mace fired eleven shots from his semi-automatic 9-millimeter pistol. Seven struck David Hendricks. … The last five shots were fired at point-blank range through the driver’s side window after the car had stopped. … The Wampanoag and many of their supporters have suffered from police harassment and surveillance during memorial walks and demonstrations for justice concerning the Hendricks case.”

The longer I lived on the Upper Cape, the more familiar I became with members of the Mashpee Wampanoags. The term “tribe” is used loosely, because it was not until 2007 that the Mashpee group received this designation from the US government, despite the fact that they had lived as a tribe in the indigenous sense of the word from ancient days. One hundred fifty acres of the town that was surveyed and incorporated by white folks in 1847 were ancestral lands, yet the Wampanoags had no say or control over them.

Back to the boat, Chantey. Many people assumed Malcolm and I were wealthy because she was such a beautiful boat and kept up very well. She was built in the 1930s on Long Island using oak from a demolished brewery. Only two families had owned her before. The fact was, though, that I was spending almost every penny of my savings and my pay on her, and we did all the work on her ourselves. Every winter I helped schlepp hundreds of pounds worth of masts, gaffs, and spars on foot to a warehouse where they would be sanded down and varnished. I spent one summer just stripping caulk from the deck seams and heating up tar on a propane stove to replace it. I scraped barnacles from the hull and repainted it with red lead paint.

One day a very preppy looking young man stopped to admire Chantey and we got chatting. He invited us to his family’s compound, which was tucked away in Mashpee. I felt very ill at ease, but Malcolm came from a pedigreed family and could bullshit his way around anyone. However, it soon became apparent what our economic situation was, and the young man, actually called Buff day, soon lost interest in us.

Fast forward to the mid-1990s when a hotshot real estate developer, who had already bought up and developed prime seashore land in Mashpee, bought a mini-mall and decided to create a new Mashpee by building a huge complex called Mashpee Commons. His name was Buff. How many Buffs have I ever known? Just the one.

It seemed like a further slap in the face to the Wampanoags. Buff’s premise was that Mashpee didn’t have a center and therefore didn’t create community. “It will put Mashpee on the map,” he avowed, though the land suit and the killing of David Hendricks had already done that. Cape Cod Life Magazine called it the “heart” of Mashpee.

Capitalism as heart. Fancy stores that local people cannot afford to shop in. Condominiums that local people cannot afford. Never mind the heart of the Mashpee Wampanoags and their years-long fight for their lands and their status as a tribe. Never mind the hearts of the Hendricks family, who never received justice for David’s killing. The policeman was on full salary of $75,000 for five years while not working before he left the all-white force. All attempts to try David Mace for murder went for naught.

So when the Trump Administration’s Department of the Interior in February informed the tribe that it was disestablishing its lands when it was becoming increasingly clear that a world-wide pandemic was going to hit the US like a bludgeon, it got national attention and outrage. It represents yet another broken treaty, in essence, where treaties should not have had to be made in the first place. They are the legacy of “Manifest Destiny” and the white man’s push to own an entire continent rather than share it with the human beings who lived here already.

What I have not found through Googling stories about this situation are any expressions of sympathy from the white residents of Mashpee. Yes, I could have missed them, but my sense is that there would have been a lot of press if the town’s establishment had made its support unequivocal.

I do recommend a work that I found on line, MashpeeIndiansofCapeCod, the thesis of one Mark A. Nicholas presented in 2001 for his Master of History at Lehigh University.

 

A Vision of the Kingdom

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During my contemplation time this morning, I had a vision.

I was using two words from Prayers of the Cosmos by Neil Douglas-Klotz as a meditative touchstone.

Mr. Douglas-Klotz translated the words of the traditional Lord’s Prayer from the Aramaic words that Jesus would have used.

Aramaic is an imaginative and creative language. Words, even syllables, connote different images and meanings.

I used the phrase he translated for “Thy Kingdom Come”: Teytey malkuthakh.

Teytey means ‘come’ but includes the images of mutual desire, definition of a goal, and, in the old sense, a ‘nuptial chamber’ – a place where mutual desire is fulfilled and birthing begins.

Malkuthakh refers to a quality of rulership and ruling principles that guide our lives toward unity.”

As I repeated the Aramaic phrase a few times to clear my mind of distractions, I suddenly was looking out from a forest by a body of water. I knew that was where I was even though the profoundest darkness prevailed.

Then, from across the water, the sun began to rise. As it did so, I came out of the forest and walked toward the lapping edge of the lake. I was joined by a host of animals from all corners of the earth. They all walked to the water’s edge to drink as I let ripples wash over my feet. And again, quite suddenly, there were people with me as well of all sizes and ages, ethnicities, and abilities. I found myself standing next to a man with a MAGA hat on. Before I could become uncomfortable, he removed the hat and threw it into the water, where it disappeared beneath the surface. Reflecting now on the vision, I can see that it must have been quite heavy.

When the sun was fully risen, the humans noticed that some of us were old and frail or had mobility problems. We immediately started talking about clearing a path through the forest for them. But a voice inside each of our heads told us that nothing was to be destroyed and that a path would be made for us.

In another book I am reading, God is All in All by the late Trappist monk Thomas Keating, he discusses the place where science and faith meet and opines that in evolution God is inviting us to be co-creationists.

Perhaps evolution is really meant to bring all created beings into union with one another. Without such unity, none of us can continue to exist.

In another translation of the Lord’s Prayer, created by the Anglican Church in New Zealand, there are these two lines:

“Your will be done by all created beings;
“Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.”

We need hope so desperately right now. If hope is the thing with feathers that never stops singing in our souls, perhaps it is singing because it is welcoming the new creation that we are called to manifest.

CORVID-19 Treatment Must Be Free

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Part of the money allotted by Congress to address the CORVID-19 pandemic should be for free screening and treatment.

And someone should be appointed, though not by the White House, to monitor the areas of the country where screening kits are being sent and ensure that the poorest areas get them in a timely and equitable manner.

In addition, CDC specialists should be allowed into all border concentration camps to screen people there throughout the length of this latest crisis. I do not trust the CBP or ICE at all not to introduce the virus on purpose. I hate to think that way, but that’s the country we’ve become.

Because the Poor People’s Campaign is on my mind daily, my first thought in the past week was whether people who live in poverty or low wealth would present themselves for screening if they have no insurance to cover the costs that hospitalization and quarantine could rise to.

Even for the so-called elderly, Medicare has high co-pays and uncovered costs if you can’t afford a supplemental plan.

I’m not a scientist, obviously, but I will hazard an educated guess that people living with the stress of staring into the jaws of poverty have compromised immune systems, which would make them easy pickings for any new disease going around.

Since self-reporting when one has symptoms is good citizenship, because it can contain the virus, then free medical care just makes sense and will ensure that no one is left behind.

As for where screening kits are sent, because of the slow and ignorant response to the virus shown by the White House, there is a shortage of such kits. Again, I hate thinking it, but I wouldn’t be surprised (especially after reading Dark Towers by David Enrich about Deutsche Bank) if corruption in the form of bribery for kits is not tried to attain them by wealthy enclaves.

The kits need to be acquired in ample numbers and distributed as soon as possible to rural areas where there are no hospitals and inner-city clinics as well as to more affluent areas. States need to be monitored as well, again by an independent agency, to make sure the states are distributing the kits equitably.

What about the homeless? How will they be screened and/or treated if they are not living in shelters? Will the prejudice against them borne by the immoral narrative that they are responsible for the systemic poverty that affects them hold sway? Or will trained medical teams be dispatched to areas under bridges and other homeless encampments to bring what could be life-saving help?

It is difficult to read and hear news about CORVID-19 without getting panicky. Panic can lead to the most selfish acts human beings can perpetrate. At this point, containing the panic could be as important as containing the virus. I don’t mean that agencies should soft-sell the news and pretend it’s not a big deal, but straight, practical information is important.

I haven’t even mentioned yet my fear of the stupid stock market plunges and how they will be used to raise prices on many common items whether legitimate or not.

In the end, any crisis of this kind will have a worse impact on the poor. Do not let them be forgotten. And think about joining the Poor People’s Campaign and helping us get our demands met. www.poorpeoplescampaign.org

 

I Will Not Pray for Evil

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  1. Cynical use of Black people for political ends
  2. Sympathy for White Supremacists
  3. More lies in SOTU than can be counted
  4. Vindictive (and illegal) retaliation against people who testified in impeachment hearings
  5. Arrangement with DOJ to open investigation on Bidens.
  6. Arrangement with DOJ to have top prosecutor removed from Michael Flynn case and replace with hand-picked person who asked for indefinite delay of sentencing
  7. Proposed budget that continues to cut safety nets and increase even further the DOD budget.
  8. Plans to deport thousands of Hmong people from Wisconsin who settled here under a program that acknowledged that they cannot safely live in Laos.

These eight actions occurred between last Tuesday and today. I have not yet dared to look at today’s news.

We officially have a regime now, not an administration, which means we do not have a democracy.

We can no longer ensure that by November 3, elections will even exist in this country as we know them. We cannot have any faith that in January of 2021 the dictator in the White House will leave it, even if someone else is freely elected.

Watch out for people disappearing, because that is the next step in a dictatorship.

Nancy Pelosi, you are a better woman than I am.

I cannot, I will not, and I choose not to pray for the evil person who is at the heart of this.

I would not have prayed for Hitler, Stalin, Trujillo, Baby Doc Duvalier, Idi Amin, or any of the other evil dictators who have caused so much suffering on this earth, as I do not pray for Putin or Kim Jong Un or Bashar Al-Assad or Rodrigo Duterte or Mohammed Bin-Salman.

I can only pray for justice and the people who suffer from injustice under such regimes. I can only pray for the lifting up of leaders and the continued work of the prophets among us. I can only pray for an end to corruption and venality.

As much as anything that has scared me in the last week was the chilling speech given at the National Prayer Breakfast, which made a mockery of God and prayer, and the enthusiastic applause by many attendees. Trump Prayer Breakfast Speech

The voice even sounded satanic as it growled out its lies about its enemies. Its enemies are anyone who has any sense of compassion or justice or mercy. That is the voice of a person who believes he is above God. That is the voice of a person who has damned himself and wants to cause others to be damned along with him.

I will not pray for that voice or the person it belongs to or the people who enable it and support it through their own crimes.

I will not pray for Incarnate Evil. If that makes me any less in Jesus’s eyes, so be it. I accept that, but I will not budge.