What Might Have Been . . .

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“Dateline 5/23/2039 The New York Times

For the first time ever, six Nobel Prize winners are all Latin-Americans and all under the age of 40.

Five of the six, Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez (Medicine), Jakelin Caal Maquin (Peace), Felipe Gomez Alonzo (Physics), Juan de Leon Gutierrez (Mathematics), and an unnamed man who won for Environmental Science, emigrated to the United States as asylum seekers in 2018 and 2019 from Guatemala. The sixth winner, in Literature, is an unnamed woman who emigrated from El Salvador in 2018.

jakelin

Jakelin Caal Maquin

car;ps

Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez

Mr. Hernandez is credited with being the lead doctor to develop a cure for pancreatic cancer, which has rarely been treated successfully before now. Ms. Caal received her Nobel for bringing violent gangs and law enforcement together in her native country to hammer out a solution to lawlessness there. Mr. Alonzo’s Nobel was given for his research into slowing down the universe’s expansion, which has been an existential threat for decades. The Environmental Science prize was awarded for research that has successfully slowed climate change and ensured a sustainable future. The Nobel for Literature came on the heels of a ground-breaking book that exposed corruption at all levels of the Border Security apparatus from 2016 to 2020.”

No, this is not real. It is tragically unreal. All of these children died in the US and under control of ICE since September.

Since ICE is not required to provide this information to the public, there could be other children and adults who have died in US custody.

Who knows what talents, what dreams, what hopes, they may have brought with them and been allowed to fulfill had not a soulless, murderous regime helped put an end to their lives by basically throwing them away.

Since I’ve been alive, my country has been complicit in taking the lives of countless numbers of young people within the US and in every cranny of the world to which we have pursued war. Black lives, Asian lives, Middle Eastern lives, Latin American lives. All of them gone, a world of potentiality, just gone and the majority of them nameless and faceless. All of them within just a few years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki saw the unleashing of what was thought to be the greatest death weapon of all.

In sheer numbers, the US has killed many more people than died in the Holocaust, though we spread it out among more ethnic groups.

For all sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.

John Greenleaf Whittier

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The Interior Journey as Resistance

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In his heartbreaking remarks at a press conference the day after a domestic terrorist shot up his synagogue in Poway, CA, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein made one comment that I’ve been pondering since.

As a way of preventing such violence, he remarked that perhaps even a quiet time first thing in the morning in schools for children to reflect and meditate would be helpful.

While this does not need to be a religious matter, Rabbi Goldstein echoes great spiritual leaders such as the Rev. Thomas Merton and Rabindranath Tagore in his suggestion given in a moment of personal and communal grief. In all faiths and in humanist philosophy and other disciplines, interior reflection is considered a path to maturity and to peace.

I remember how gobsmacked I felt when I realized that one of Polonius’s (Hamlet) great lines is almost never quoted fully. Most people have heard “To thine own self be true.” They rarely absorb the rest of the quote, which is the most important part: “This above all: To thine own self be true and then it followest as the night to the day, that thou canst be false to no man.”

Shakespeare’s point was not just being true to oneself for one’s own sake, which might just be selfish; even criminals can be true to their own evil desires. But when one is true to oneself in order to reach some kind of enlightenment, it will naturally occur that one will be true to everyone else.

The interior journey is the best way of being true to oneself. You might also call it searching one’s soul or taking stock. How else to examine where one is in relation to where one wants to be?

How else to get down and dirty in looking at one’s own behavior and learning to be honest enough to admit when one has been wrong and then resolve to correct the behavior that has caused one to go astray?

It’s true that for many, this is a spiritual practice in attaining the closest possible relationship to the Divine. For all people it can be a way to ensure that one is not false to other people, which enhances a notion of being in community with other people rather than separate and exclusive. The fuller a feeling one has of being in community with all creation, the less one will want to do damage to that creation.

Some people suggest what is called a daily examen, in which one meditates on what one enjoyed most about the day and what one disliked most about the day. The answers can be clues to behavior that is good for one’s life (and others!) and behavior that is not. 

The interior journey is not always easy. Any member of a 12-Step group knows how difficult it is to complete the 4th step, an inventory of one’s behavior that may have been harmful to other people.

The interior journey can also be joyful, though, and energizing as one makes breakthroughs and has epiphanies about oneself and one’s strengths as well as one’s weaknesses.

It is too glaringly obvious that the violence and corruption in our country is caused by a wish to be set apart rather than brought together with one’s fellow human beings. I can’t even imagine the president or any other member of his cabinet being self-reflective and considering how his behavior affects others. Neither does it appear to me that white supremacists have ever searched their souls.

Nevertheless, the interior journey is one piece of a solution that could help restore morality to our country if only people are taught at a young enough age of its importance. So thank you, Rabbi Goldstein, for such generosity that, even in your grief, you offer us a way forward.

Thoughts on The Mueller Report

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We’ve all heard a lot about the Mueller Report by now. I don’t claim any expertise other than having watched hours and hours of legal experts talk about it and having read much, though not all, of it. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m a citizen who has been highly distressed, even despairing, about the last 4 years of our country’s life. I offer here my thoughts and opinions about what the report, even redacted, says about the current president.

Volume I specifically deals with whether or not there was Russian interference in our 2016 election and whether there was conspiracy on the part of the Trump campaign to enable interference. The report states uncategorically that there was Russian interference, and in fact it started in 2014 before the current president had announced candidacy for 2016.

I was surprised by how many redactions there were in Volume I, as I’d thought that Roger Stone’s case was the only outstanding one as to whether or not there was coordination with Russian operatives. There must be cases we’re not yet aware of and may never know about.

Russian operatives were sent to the United States in 2014 in order to begin to take the temperature of the country and infiltrate organizations that were disaffected by the Democratic President Obama. This says clearly to me that Russia wanted a Republican President elected, no matter whom, in 2016.

It also suggests to me that the fact that the President at the time was an African-American was seen as a path to sowing discord in the country by playing to White Supremacists and also that the Russian government who approved these special ops are White Supremacists themselves.

Here’s my takeaway from the beginning of Volume I:

  1. Page 9 While saying there was no evidence of a conspiracy on the part of the Trump campaign, Mueller does say that candidate Trump did see benefits in having Russia on his side.
  2. Page 12 Dates of when hacking of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and the DNC coordinates with when it became clear that Trump would be the GOP nominee.
  3. Page 13 If there truly was no conspiracy, then Trump is the luckiest bastard in the world. It beggars belief that someone who already had a reputation for corrupt business practices was relying on ‘luck” rather than certain knowledge of what the Russians were doing.
  4. Page 14 Why would Manafort share polling data with Constantin Kilimnik, which is undisputed, if not to knowingly influence the election?
  5. Page 15 The timing of the Wikileaks dumps of John Podesta’s e-mails and the Billy Bush videotape of Trump bragging about his sexual assaults of women seem fishy at this remove. It has always been assumed that the e-mail dump was to distract from the pussy-grabbing video. However, it’s been more than clear that Trump’s sexual proclivities do not bother his supporters, even the Christian right. At the same time, it was becoming clearer that US intelligence agencies were known to be investigating Trump, and the video may have been released as a distraction to that. What would be more damaging to him before the election?
  6. Page 40 Further to my speculation about motives of racism on the part of the Russians, when the social media campaign started, the operatives invented a “Black Matters” Facebook page in order to confuse people about the actual group Black Lives Matter. They also threatened family members of Black Lives Matters activists (names redacted).

Volume II begins on Page 341 with an analysis of the possibility of obstruction of justice committed by the president. The report over and over again views actions by Trump both public and private as having the “potential” to fall within the rubrics of obstruction of justice.

There follows a long discussion of the definition of obstruction of justice and challenges to it, in which the report appears to conclude that limitations that Trump’s lawyers claimed for the statute are not valid.

Specific to this discussion is whether Congress can legitimately prosecute obstruction of justice charges against the president. The ruling theme is that neither Congress nor the president can do anything that would assume one or the other’s separate duties. The report concludes that Congress would not be infringing on the president’s Article II duties if it prosecuted him for obstruction of justice.

Be it noted that the first duty of a President is “To take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” We know that that has not happened with this administration.

In discussing ways in which Trump publicly and privately tried to coerce Michael Cohen into cooperating with the investigation, and then turned on him and gave an interview to Jeanine Pirro about Cohen’s father-in-law, the report repeatedly uses the term “points to evidence” that the president had criminal intent in silencing Cohen.

The report also finds Trump’s responses to the Special Counsel’s questions inadequate or incomplete. Most are answered by “I have no recollection” or objections that the incidents occurred two years before and important incidents cannot be remembered. There is also a lot of blame put on other people as reason why Trump doesn’t remember something, eg he testifies that the Moscow Tower plan was Michael Cohen’s idea and that he was not very interested in building in Moscow and therefore he doesn’t remember anything about those plans and communications from the Russian state administration about the plans.

Here is part of the Mueller Report’s ending summary:

  1. CONCLUSION

Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President s conduct. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment. At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

In sum, contrary to the position taken by the President s counsel, we concluded that, in light of the Supreme Court precedent governing separation-of-powers issues, we had a valid basis for investigating the conduct at issue in this report. In our view, the application of the obstruction statutes would not impermissibly burden the President’s performance of his Article II function to supervise prosecutorial conduct or to remove inferior law-enforcement officers. And the protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person – including the President – accords with the fundamental principle of our government that “[n]o [person] in this country is so high that he is above the law.”

 Mueller Report footnote footnote: 1091 A possible remedy through impeachment for abuses of power would not substitute for potential criminal liability after a President leaves office. Impeachment would remove a President from office, but would not address the underlying culpability of the conduct or serve the usual purposes of the criminal law. Indeed, the Impeachment Judgment Clause recognizes that criminal law plays an independent role in addressing an officials conduct, distinct from the political remedy of impeachment. See U.S. CONST. ART.

l, § 3, cl. 7. Impeachment is also a drastic and rarely invoked remedy, and Congress is not restricted to relying only on impeachment, rather than making criminal law applicable to a former President, as OLC has recognized. A Sitting President’s Amenability to Indictm ent and Criminal Prosecution, 24 Op. O.L.C.

at 255 (“Recognizing an immunity from prosecution for a sitting President would not preclude such prosecution once the President ‘s term is over or he is otherwise removed from office by resignation or impeachment.“).

My interpretation: “Have at him, Congress. Investigate him fully and bring charges of impeachment, which I cannot do, and then arrest the son-of-a-bitch the second he leaves the White House.”

There are only two legislators so far whose opinions on impeachment I respect. The first is Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose statement was unambiguous. The second is the Honorable Elijah Cummings, who gave more nuanced views to Joy Ann Reid on All In with Chris Hayes Tuesday evening. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCor-a3YPz4insert) I reject those Democratic legislators who say we’ll take care of this at the ballot box. The Russians are still interfering and states are still suppressing votes and we still have an Electoral College. I for one don’t trust the ballot box.

In addition, the president is still obstructing justice in plain sight through tweets and actions. He and advisers and cabinet officials are openly defying the House of Representatives and tromping all over its separate powers. Further, he has contributed not only to the acts of White Supremacists but is responsible for the death of children at the southern border. How much more harm can he do in a year and a half?

A lot. A hell of a lot.

 

 

I Believe in a Wall

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I thought that might catch your attention.

I don’t usually post blogs so close together, but my daily Lenten reading from Howard Thurman could have been written today and resonated with what I wrote earlier this week in “Grieving Violence Near and Far.”

“The final thing that my faith teaches me is that God is love. Not only that He is; that he is near; but that he is love. Fully do I realize how difficult this is. There is so much anguish in life, so much misery unmerited, so much pain, so much downright reflected hell everywhere that it sometimes seems to me that it is an illusion to say that God is love. When one comes into close grips with the perversity of personalities, with studied evil – it might be forgiven one who cried aloud to the Power over Life – human life is stain – blot it out! I know all that. I know that this world is messed up and confused. I know that much of society stretches out like a gaping sore that refuses to be healed. I know that life is often heartless, hard as pig iron. And yet, in the midst of all this I affirm my faith that God is love – whatever else He might be.”

Thurman knew all too well of what he wrote. Closely aligned with the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and as an African-American who grew up in segregated Daytona, he knew about “unmerited misery,” about “downright reflected hell,” and about “perversity of personalities” personally. All of his books treat in one way or another in how the Divine can help people to overcome these situations. But I had not read a paragraph that was such a naked confession as the one above.

I read it this morning after a group meditation on the holiness of hospitality and “entertaining angels unaware.” Most Wednesday mornings, I am part of worldwide group of people who pray for the world over the telephone. We are led with a guided meditation and then 15 minutes of silence before we offer what the Divine Spirit has said to us during that time. It seemed particularly necessary to pray together today after the slaughter of Muslims in New Zealand.

So after that experience, and then immediately reading Thurman’s meditation, my first response was to think that the amount of hatred and violence in the world today makes it seem not only like an illusion, but almost a profanity to say that God is love.

My second response, however, was to see that love is the only cure for the hatred and violence.

I’m not talking about loving the people who perpetrate this hatred and violence. I’m talking about connecting with all the people who believe in the Divine unity of creation and all beings in it to come together to build a wall of love that will eventually make it impossible for hate to enter in.

That wall is invisible, and it is penetrable for all who see themselves as part of a great whole. This is not to say that there will not continue to be violence, but it will not fragment that wall of love.

May it be so.

My Neighbor IS Myself

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Mark 12:30-31 

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.”

Over the course of my 66 years, I’ve heard people say that they can’t love anyone else because they don’t love themselves.

While I’ve no doubt that many of them had serious attachment disorders, I’m equally convinced that many people are using it as an excuse not to love, or even recognize, their neighbor.

I think there is a fundamental misinterpretation of what Jesus was saying.

I’m not claiming that Jesus told me directly, but I do believe that God is still speaking and that God speaks to me in many ways. Here is the way in which this commandment is revealed to me:

Love your neighbor because you and your neighbor ARE one. Do for your neighbor what you would do for yourself because you and your neighbor ARE one. Give to your neighbor what you would give to yourself because you and your neighbor ARE one.

I was pretty much born believing this. I don’t know where the belief originated in me, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe this, even through a lot of rocky years of having a very fraught relationship with God. Fundamentally, everyone on this Earth is my neighbor and part of me.

Would I make war on myself?

Would I refuse to feed myself?

Would I not avail myself of medical care?

Do I not try to live with dignity?

Do I not want to live out my spiritual beliefs without hindrance?

Do I not want to have a voice in my community?

If my answers are no, then how could I possibly think that other people deserve to be victims of war, of famine, of lack of medical care, of religious persecution, of silencing?

In agreement with John Donne that “no man is an island, entire of itself,” part of me is diminished every day when I learn of a new, horrific result of the polices that are governing this country and this world.

It is inconceivable to me that the director of Homeland Security can sit stony-faced before Congress and the world and blame parents for the death of their children while in Border Patrol custody.

It beggars belief that a person of wealth can shut down the government and put federal workers on furlough, meaning they will never be repaid for the time the government was shut down.

I can’t conceive of a mindset that allows millions of children to die with the gift of US weapons to a murderous regime.

I thought I had been suffering outrage the past two years; it is not outrage, though, it is grief, pure and simple. Grief that sometimes stuns me into a state of numbness. How do I help my neighbor and therefore help myself? At this time in my life, all I feel capable of is writing about it and speaking out about it, and showing kindness to the neighbors I see in person every day, whether I know them or not.

I’m not sure that is enough. God help us all.

Crimes Against Humanity

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Do you believe the regime when it says that it has reunited all “eligible” children with their parents?

I don’t, but when I saw that volunteer civilians were involved in the work of reuniting families, I felt much better about it. Knowing that neither the ACLU, nor the judge overseeing the lawsuit against the regime, is letting go until every last child is with its parent(s) helps as well.

What bothers me more is the term “eligible.” What a useful term for the government to use. “Eligible,” as if each child had ticked off the right boxes or come up with the right number or fulfilled some other benign requirement.

What “eligible” really means is that the government can’t return hundreds of “ineligible” children because it deported the parents and doesn’t have the will or the care to find them.

Then there’s the children who’ve been sexually abused while in detention and the ICE agents who have told them things such as, “Your mother doesn’t want you anymore.” That’s because they deported Mom and made her sign a complicated form that says she would give up her child without telling her that she had a right to legal counsel to determine whether she would leave her child with relatives in the US and go back to face the horrors of her own country alone.

Of all the scenes of hell that our national nightmare has introduced us to in the past year and a half, surely this one is the most “eligible” to be called a crime against humanity. Since it involves more than one country, I say this crime should be prosecuted in the Hague. Stephen Miller, from whose Satanic mind it was birthed, and Kiersjten Nielsen, who oversaw the program, should be the first defendants.

The attorney general belongs in the dock for avowing that this was a “law” that needs to be upheld. No, it wasn’t a law; it was a policy change that never saw the light of day in Congress and never saw any repudiation by the GOP. So perhaps international lawyers should be questioning Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell as well.

And when they all cry “I was just following orders!”, time for the head of the regime to take his turn in the dock.

 

The GOP’s War on Christmas

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Yes, Virginia, there is a War on Christmas.

It’s just not being waged by those who the “president” and Bill O’Reilly have accused.

You see, Virginia, the “president” and the Congressional GOP mostly identify as Christians. Yet, less than a week before the celebration of the birth of Jesus, they have shown themselves to either blatantly disregard, or not believe in, any of Jesus’s teachings.

Rather than feed the hungry, clothe the poor, visit those in prison, or heal the sick, the “president” and the GOP want to enrich the already wealthy, steal from the poor, arrest the protesters. and let the sick get sicker even to the point of death.

Take care of widows and orphans? Oh no, they say with their actions, we need that money to pay for the billions of dollars we are giving our donors and ourselves.

Not only that, your children and your children’s children will have to deal with the mess of the trillion-dollar deficit and the ruined environment.

We don’t really know whether Jesus was born in a barn, but we have faith that this story reflects God’s message to human kind.

Wealth, earthly power, and political authority are not what God wants for God’s people. Sharing one’s heart and soul with all God’s children – and therefore our sisters and brothers – and caring for the most vulnerable in any society is what brings the kingdom of heaven to earth.

If we fight the GOP’s War on Christmas, we have righteousness on our side, Virginia. Never forget that loving the outcast, welcoming the stranger, and walking side by side with those who have met with discrimination are our weapons.

This is a war we can win if we believe in the sanctity of our cause. Christians, Jews, Muslims, and humanists can all agree and come together to form a great army that is on the side of justice.

Let it be so.