As The World Spins

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The US continued to spin out of control last week. To recap:

  1. #POTUS wants Congress to decertify the Iran Nuclear Deal, saying that Iran has not kept to its agreement (it has), that he consulted with all our allies on this step (couldn’t have; we don’t have any allies who would agree with this and who are all still solidly part of the deal), and that it will make us much safer (it won’t).
  2. #POTUS signed an executive order ending ACA subsidies, saying that will lower premiums (it won’t) and give Americans better health care (it won’t) and claiming that the subsidies went into the pockets of insurance companies (they won’t).
  3. #POTUS blamed Puerto Rico for Hurricane Irma’s devastation, then said he’ll always be with them (he won’t).
  4. #POTUS said he met with the president of the US Virgin Islands (he didn’t, mainly because for better or worse, he is the president of the US Virgin Islands).
  5. #POTUS told the white supremacist Values Voters Summit that “we will return to Judeo-Christian values,” obviously not understanding that Judeo refer to Jews and the Values Voters constituents hate Jews. Also, what values: homophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, sexual predation? But on the bright side, “We will say ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
  6. #POTUS and Sean Hannity laughed and talked while seated at a retreat ritual on a military for which everyone else stood in silence. But black athletes who kneel respectfully during the National Anthem are sons of bitches.
  7. I could go on, but I really wanted to talk about the strange bedfellows that resisting an unbalanced, moronic, corrupt government makes. Did I ever think I’d have anything in common with Eminem? Surely not! But he perfectly expressed the rage I and so many others are feeling in the video presented at the Hip Hop Awards. No, I wasn’t watching the Hip Hop Awards; wasn’t even aware of them. But the video went viral and more power to Eminem.
  8. Did Puerto Ricans ever think that their saviors would be heavily tattooed, back-country looking military veterans? Probably not, but Jason Maddy and his 11 comrades, acting as volunteers, are bringing water, food, and hope to the most isolated parts of the island. Why? “Because they’re fellow Americans, and if we were in that situation, we’d want someone to help us.”

    If I were ever to have the honor of meeting these gentlemen, I’d kiss their feet. I hope I never have the misfortune to meet Donald Trump because I would probably be arrested after the encounter.

  9. Meanwihle, while Twitter fuels my outrage because I see bad news so quickly, it has also been a source of some comic relief from unknown fellow tweetweetters who yet feel like good friends. Shoutout to @casey for best tweet of the week:
  10. And a special shoutout to England, who will not dignify a visit from POTUS as a state visit and will not allow him to meet the queen. I’ m sure officials are afraid he’d touch her inappropriately. On the other hand, if he did meet her and did touch her inappropriately, that would be lese majesty, off with his head.
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Cruz Bruises Trump Ego

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I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the GOP, and especially the current White House regime, hates women.

These privileged men especially hate women who stand up for themselves.

These white privileged men especially and truly hate women of color who stand up for themselves.

Enter Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz of San Juan, who not only stood up for herself but also for the entire American citizenry of Puerto Rico.

She went high when they went low, so low as to ignore for many days the disastrous aftermath of a hurricane on American soil.

I hope that FEMA director Brock Long has nightmares about her. He ought to; his agency has miserably failed Puerto Rico despite his official bio on the FEMA website that credits him with years of “robust” (I think that word needs to be retired; way overused in the past three years).

And oh, right, the FEMA website that took down anything to do with how FEMA continues to fail Puerto Rico.

They have retained a timeline of the supposed federal response to Puerto Rico beginning on September 17 that cannot possibly be true, according to reports from Mayor Cruz and other eyewitnesses including anyone who’s been watching video coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Somebody’s lying. I know who I think is telling the truth.

Mayor Cruz, 54, is one of those people who did not seek out greatness but has had greatness thrust upon her.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts Magna Cum Laude from Boston University in political science and a Master of Science from Carnegie Mellon University in public management. After working in the private sector in human resources on the mainland, she returned to Puerto Rico in 1992 and immediately began her career in public service, working as an advisor to various mayors.

Mayor Cruz was elected to the Puerto Rican House of Representatives on her second try, serving from 2009 to 2013, when she made the successful run for mayor of San Juan. She has been deeply involved in women’s issues as well as urban renewal of poor sections of the city. She has also forged an alliance with the city of Chicago with Illinois Representative (?) Luis Gutierrez, who has been outspoken about the shabby treatment of the devastated island by the Trump administration.

Mayor Cruz has become the face of all of Puerto Rico, not just San Juan, as she refused to stop crying out about the desperate situation there. She has refused to kowtow to the Disaster-in-Chief as the governor of Puerto Rico did, and she has called out Brock Long when he patronizingly told her to get with the program, when there was really not program to get with.

In so doing, she has joined Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Elizabeth Warren in the Nasty Women Club. She’s in great company. But such is the insane whirlwind of news that bombards us daily, it could be that many people forget her in the days to come. I hope that doesn’t happen. She’s got brains, she’s got compassion, and she’s got intelligence. The US needs her.

Lágrimas para Puerto Rico

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Revelation 12:7-12

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

I’ve been saying for a while now that the Trump reign seems Apocalyptic. When I read this morning’s assigned Scripture, I started in the shock of recognition, especially at verse 12.

We all know that POTUS goes into an irrational spasm the closer Robert Mueller’s team gets to him. One can be an atheist, an agnostic, a humanist and any other –ist and agree that Trump “knoweth that he hath but a short time.”

The shorter the better, and I pray that his non-response to the plight of Puerto Ricans also becomes the subject of an investigation one day. Such blisteringly cruel abandonment of US citizens is unimaginable. Except, of course, almost any cruelty is imaginable from this government, and that is the American tragedy.

When Dorothy Parker said, “What fresh hell is this?”, she was predicting the words of millions of Americans as they wake up every day to learn of some new outrage coming from the White House.

I’ve heard people saying in astonishment, “How could (Trump, Price, Pruitt, Jared, Ivanka, Pence, Zinke <fill in a name>) not be aware that what they were doing was wrong?”

I don’t believe for a second that any of these people were not aware that what they were doing was wrong, but that they didn’t care and thought they would get away with it. Their white hyper-privilege just makes them think they deserve to do whatever they want. This is the definition of “white-collar crime.”

In the case of these spawn of Satan, however, their crimes are causing death and destruction of innocent people who have done nothing to deserve what they’re getting.

It was known for days that Hurricane Maria was going to hit Puerto Rico head-on. From 8 pm on Tuesday, September 19, to early morning on Thursday, September 21, it ravaged every bit of the island. And yet, no plans for federal help were in place.

Thousands of shipping containers with desperately needed food, medicine, and survival supplies were allowed to sit at a harbor in the days since because there were no troops to unload and distribute them until the last several hours, eight days after Maria hit.

FEMA officials took over the San Juan Convention Center and then told mayors, even of the farthest and most rural districts, that they had to come to San Juan and ASK FOR HELP.

That says it all.

The President We Deserve?

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Hubris: exaggerated sense of self often ending in retribution

Hubris has been the distinguishing factor of the Trump Presidency (and how I hate having to use those two words together) since the ridiculous scene of the man and his wife descending a golden escalator to denounce Mexicans as rapists and murderers.

In Greek tragedies, the hubristic protagonist is always brought down by the gods for trying to be a god.

Hubris may well bring down this administration.

But hubris has also been a defining characteristic of this country.

The brilliant Ta-Nehisi Coates said on “All In with Chris Hayes” Friday night that white supremacy raises its ugly head when people feel sorrow for tragedies that happen to white people, as if their whiteness should make them immune from tragedy.

In the same way, since 9/11/2001, the US has acted as if terrorism shouldn’t happen here, and the analog is that it’s okay for other countries to suffer daily from terror attacks.

I was born in 1952. In my lifetime there have been genocides in Africa, Asia, and the Balkans. There have been wholesale killings of innocent people in large swaths of Latin and South America. There have been assassinations of political figures in multiple countries around the world, some orchestrated by the CIA. There’s been apartheid in South Africa, famines again and again in the horn of Africa. Soviet and Russian takeovers of sovereign countries. Ongoing effects of nuclear bombs in Japan. Daily killings in Israel and Palestine. Daily suicide bombers pretty much everywhere outside of North America.

And over all, here at home, the ongoing effects of genocide of Native Americans, slavery and failed reconstruction, Jim Crow, lynchings, unequal rights, murders of black men and women by police, murders of those protesting white supremacy, domestic terrorism, and the list goes on.

Yet still we feel that 9/11 shouldn’t have happened to us. We’re the US. We’re exceptional.

In many ways, the hubris of the present administration reflects the hubris of white America since the 1600s.

In 16 years, I’ve never heard an American public figure reflect that perhaps there was cause and effect in what happened in New York and Washington that day. And I’ve been afraid even to broach the subject for 16 years.

But I can’t help thinking now that perhaps we deserve Donald Trump. White America laid the groundwork for him. Hubris elected him; hubris will probably bring him down, but how much of the US will it bring down as well?

Haroon Moghul: How to be a Muslim

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I heard Haroon Moghul speak about his new book, How to be a Muslim, on “Fresh Air” and was moved to read it.

Little did I know how much his story would teach me about myself.

Mr. Moghul is a Fellow in Jewish-Muslim Relations at Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, a contributor at the Center for Global Policy, and an academic and speaker on Islam. He grew up in a traditional Muslim-American family in Western Massachusetts. That traditional upbringing caused a great deal of inner turmoil in his youth as he navigated adolescence and all the usual hormonal conflicts that arise.

Being eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder did not help. His guilt about questioning his faith, questioning Allah, questioning relationships with non-Muslim girls, and having a neuro-biological disease brought him to the brink of suicide.

How he pushed through it all, and despite (or because) of it all being a successful organizer of Islamic centers for students and speaker on Islam, is important reading for understanding not only Islam, but also for understanding any faith journey.

Perhaps Mr. Moghul didn’t plan his book so, but that is what it brought to this reader.

Even as I listened to his interview with Terry Gross, I couldn’t help but think about being raised Catholic in the 1950s and ‘60s and the tremendous burden of guilt weekly sermons told me I must shoulder. The guilt was enhanced, I have since learned, by the disease of depression from which I have suffered since a small child.

It was when an elderly priest yanked me from a praying position and slapped me for not wearing a hat in church, not long before Vatican II decreed that women didn’t need to wear hats in church, that I vowed to brush Catholicism off my feet and move on.

The trouble was, I confused Christianity with Catholicism. And even as I trumpeted my unbelief, I realized that I wouldn’t be yelling at God if I didn’t fundamentally believe in God. And through it all, I still knew in my heart and soul that Jesus the Christ was my shepherd.

At one point in Mr. Moghul’s seeking for health and wholeness, a therapist told him to try spending just five minutes a day with Allah. As I was reading the book, and believing myself happily faithful now in my Episcopal/Lutheran church, I realized that my anger about American politics and racism and white supremacy was undermining my faith. I had lulled myself into thinking that the prayers I say each morning were holding me in a good place. But many days the prayers were said automatically and without intention.

So I took a cue from Mr. Moghul and started reading Morning Prayer from the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer again. I started talking to Jesus about my anger and my anguish at the state of the nation. Oh, what a blessed difference it made! I’m still angry and my Twitter account shows it, but beginning the day with an organized routine of prayer has allowed light in that helps me channel the anger and keep depression from overwhelming me. I can push back against the darkness; as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Of course, Mr. Moghul’s book is not about me, and the world’s problems are not about me. Yet it is impossible to resist the darkness when everything around seems dark, whether that darkness comes from neuro-biological illnesses or the state of the world. I do think that is what Mr. Moghul writes about, and it is what he helped me see.

So I thank Mr. Moghul and I thank Him/Her, the Eternal Spirit, the Father and Mother of us all who draws us from darkness into light.

Who We Are, Who We Want to Be

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In the aftermath of the Charlottesville tragedy, amid the outrage and grief and disbelief, I had to re-learn a painful lesson for a white American.

Most of the people I follow on Twitter are African-American journalists, politicians and activitists: Charles Blow, Bree Newsome, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Vann R. Newkirk II, Jamelle Bouie.

Ms. Newsome, the woman who climbed the flagpole in front of the South Carolina statehouse and took down the flag, put what the others were saying in one form or another most succinctly.

As white Americans cried, “This is not who we are!”, in fact, this is exactly who you are and have been and all black people know it, she said.

I know it too; I’ve been writing about it for some time now, but it hasn’t stayed at the forefront of my attention. White America is a racist society and has been since the first white European stepped foot on this continent and had the arrogance to claim it as a white man’s (and I do mean man’s, not human’s) paradise.

To make that paradise, however, meant neutralizing one way or another the indigenous peoples. Usually by slaughter, often by treaties that were never meant to be kept and to this day are not honored.

Then came the importation of Africans to actually do the work of building an economy. Next came the battles to seize land from the indigenous Mexicans, Polynesians and Inuits and Aleuts.

In every era, white “Americans” have taken something away from someone else, right up to the present time. Now, it’s not only enough to take something away, but white American society wants to bar others from coming in, based solely on religion. And even the liberal arguments in favor of immigrants more often than not points out their economic worth rather than their worth as human beings.

What happened in Charlottesville is not new to its black citizenry; Mr. Newkirk’s most recent article in The Atlantic spells it out briefly and powerfully.

We cannot say, “This is not who we are!” We can, and must, say, “This is not who we want to be,” but only if we’re willing to follow up words with action. Mr. Newkirk quotes Charlottesville-Albemarle NAACP President Emeritus M. Rick Turner: “People want to have a conversation . . . But see we’ve had conservations, ever since the Civil War, every time something happens. That’s why nothing ever gets done beyond that, because the courage stops right there.”

I could say that the counter-protestors in Boston and other cities this weekend prove this thesis wrong. But we have not heard the last from the white supremacists. Do we, who consider ourselves non-racist, have the courage to go beyond the conversations?

Heather Heyer did.

Pray for Guam

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Of all the reasons to find Donald Trump despicable this week, his dismissal of Guam as a possible target for North Korea is the highest on my list.

Every time he opened his bellicose mouth, he implied that Guam and its 160,000 people are expendable.

As if there aren’t young children who may be being taught to duck and cover right now.

As if there aren’t teen-agers dreaming about their futures now.

As if there aren’t adults with a long bucket list.

As if there aren’t elders hoping for security and comfort in their old age.

But Guam has always been expendable to imperial powers, including the Church of Rome, Spain, Japan, and the US.

Despite the fact that the Chamorros settled there at least 4,000 years ago, Tana l’ManChamorro (Land of the Chamorros) has never been self-governing in the modern era. It has been used and abused for what it can offer foreign military strategists and economic strategists.

We can thank good old Teddy Roosevelt, the founder of American Imperialism, for the US takeover of Guam in 1898 after the Spanish-American War, about which he was so “bully”-ish. Fast forward to Pearl Harbor and the taking of Guam by Japan and Tana l’ManChamorro became a very hot zone until the US reclaimed it in 1944.

Despite Governor Eddie Baza Calvo’s public remarks that the colony is not worried about nuclear threats, there are real people on the island who are and who wonder why no one is considering what could happen to them.

The Washington Post wrote about some of them the other day: “ ‘If anything happens, we all got to be ready, be prepared, and pray to God that it doesn’t happen,’ Daisy Mendiola, 56, said after finishing lunch with her family at a restaurant near Hagatna. ‘Everyone’s afraid, because we’re dealing with powers that’s beyond us.’

“Other residents are worried about the political atmosphere and the government’s ability to find a peaceful solution.

“Todd Thompson, a lawyer who lives on Guam, said he laughed off past threats because he ‘figured cooler heads in Washington would prevail, and it was just an idle threat.’ “

But now we know there are not cooler heads in Washington or in New Jersey.

I am a child of the Cold War. I heard a lot of talk about building bomb shelters, though my family did not have one. I laid awake nights putting myself into utter terror thinking of what might happen during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I wouldn’t let myself go to sleep for fear that I wouldn’t wake up.

No child should ever feel that way. No parent should have to comfort a sleepless child when the parent herself doesn’t know what might happen.

More important, no US president should ever be spouting off threats of nuclear destruction when he has zero knowledge of the true state of the world.

Guam is a little Garden of Eden, by all descriptions. Sandy beaches, temperate weather, friendly people. To misquote Joni Mitchell, please don’t bomb paradise and put up a radioactive parking lot.