Everyone Belongs in the Kingdom

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My little garden in a little town in a little state is my refuge, my haven, my glimpse of the Kingdom.

It is in shade, yet there are flowering plants and lots of green foliage. I did a little work and nature did the rest. In the near distance are trees dappled in sunlight in the late afternoon and a glimpse of the churchyard next door.

Robins and catbirds and sparrows and swifts sit on the fence and call to the universe or fly and dart about. Honeybees cover the cimicifuga and they are more than welcome. Fat bumblebees fly up into the heart of the hosta blossoms. I sit with my coffee and my book and my mature, overweight cat lazes nearby.

A chipmunk runs across the paving stones from one clump of vegetation to another. A poodle pup named Rory charges up the path from next door, tail wagging, to greet me. Onyx flips her tail and eyes him warily. I give him a good patting and send him back to his owner.

Yes, the Kingdom, the harmony, the peace despite a busy major route just yards away. For 45 minutes a day most days I can come to my retreat and, ideally, shed the tensions of the work day.

It is more difficult to shed the tensions of the world. Even more difficult is that I am ever mindful of the fact that there is no haven, no blessed retreat, no Kingdom for so many people on this Earth, our island home spinning through a universe of wonders and horrors.

Is it neurosis or social conscience that never lets me forget how privileged my life has been? I have known loss and grief. My mother died when she was the age I’ll be in September, a short, violent battle with liver cancer that took her before we could even get our minds around what was happening to her. My beloved brother died when he was the age I am now, a long, drawn-out battle with pancreatic cancer that left him a bag of bones loosely covered in flesh, and it was almost impossible to recognize the athletic, handsome, dignified youth and man he had been.

People, pets, jobs, relationships, the losses that are the normal stuff of most lives.

But no one I love has ever been executed because of the color of his skin. No one I love has so far been in the path of a terrorist. No child of mine has ever lived in a war zone or had to risk drowning to reach a shore of safety.

In the late 1980s, the African National Congress toured the world with a documentary called “Every Child is My Child.” Along with all the political and economic and humanitarian efforts to end the evil called apartheid, it galvanized people to look at the struggle in a new way.

For me, it reinforced the feeling that I have known as long as I can remember, that every person is my child, my sister, my brother, my mother, my father, and the Kingdom is not mine alone to enjoy. It won’t be the Kingdom until everyone can live without fear, in safety and peace, in the sure knowledge that when they wake up to a new day, they are not risking their lives by stepping outside their doors.

 

Let Them Rest in Peace, But We Must Not

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I am sick, sick, sick of having to pray for the families of black victims of police What are we white people going to do about it? How the hell can we feel patriotic about a country that values life so little?

I would like to suggest that all white policemen in the United States be pulled from duty immediately and given this test, Project Implicit, as well as a psychiatric evaluation before being allowed back on duty or yanked off the force.

You can’t fudge this Harvard-based test for prejudices. It’s not intuitive, and even if you think you’re giving the “correct” answers, it doesn’t work that way. I took it a few years ago, and I’m pretty good at spotting how to “play” a test.

Both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were said to be carrying guns. So? Both of the states they died in allow anyone to carry a gun. Louisiana probably allows 3 year olds to carry guns. They were not using the guns, they were not aiming the guns, they were doing nothing that could ever justify the kangaroo court of idiotic, racist policemen who took their lives.

I hope that no white person ever says in front of me that they couldn’t bear to watch the videos of their murders. We MUST watch them; we MUST bear witness to what white policemen are doing – and probably think they’re doing in our names.

On Saturday, I attended a symposium on the subject of “Driving While Black.” Two black men narrated their experiences of being stopped and the heavy-handedness of the police involved. Thank God Jerome and Jermaine are alive. It broke my heart to listen to them talk about the steps they have to take to try NOT to be killed by a policeman. They talked about their mothers’ fears whenever they left the house. Now they have children, and they talked about their fear for them.

What century is this again? As my friend and activist Maximo Anguiano posted today, don’t forget to set your clocks back 300 years tonight. And tomorrow you’d damn well better start speaking out or you are as complicit as the police in these murders.

 

 

Brexit + Trump = Bad News

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In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, we are hearing a lot of apologias for the vote to leave the European Union and are told that we must try to understand why people voted this way.

Many similarities have been seen between those Brexit voters in England and the followers of Donald Trump, so therefore we must also try to understand the Trump followers and find out what they want. Presumably we are also supposed to try to give them what they want without actually making Donald Trump the President.

This is a populist movement, we’re told, by the working class who want a better life, better jobs, better everything, and don’t believe they will get it from the elite ruling establishment. It is not about racism, it is not about immigration and open borders, we’re told. It is simply about wanting a better life and self-determination.

My response? BALLS! It is about self-interest, pure and simple; it is about wanting only what is good for oneself; it is about ignoring the interests of one’s country as a whole; it is about retaliation; above all, in my opinion, it is about the longing of white men to be king of the hill again.

The rise of Donald Trump and the rise of the agitation to leave the EU have one really big thing in common: immigration in the US and the refugee crisis in Europe.

The leaders of the agitation are not working class, are not poor, and most assuredly do not have the interests of the “common man” in their hearts. What they do have is the ability to exploit and manipulate fears of the “other” among their followers, to an almost maniacal degree.

Who suffers most from closed borders? Black and brown people and non-Christians. It’s that simple, friends. And it’s that evil.

Whether it’s a virtual wall or a physical wall, these two phenomena want to keep out the other and keep all the goodies for themselves. But making that wall means getting rid of the other who crossed the border when it was open. What does that lead to?

Thomas Mair, who allegedly murdered British parliamentarian Jo Cox in the cause of Brexit, had well-established ties to Neo-Nazi organizations. Neo-Nazi activists flocked to Donald Trump’s rally in Sacramento. Like Isis, they want to establish their own “caliphate” and return to the “good old days” of white men ruling the world. Don’t believe me? Read what the Southern Poverty Law Center has to say about the right(white)-wing activists who flocked to Sacramento: White Nationalism

But it won’t be the working class white men who benefit from Brexit or a Trump presidency; it will be the wealthy white elite, and they won’t (read don’t) give a rat’s ass about what’s good for the underclass.

I propose that instead of rounding up the black and brown and non-Christian immigrants/refugees, we round up the Trump followers and the England First followers into detention camps. Just for fun, let’s throw in the billionaire Libertarian agitators too. There they could receive the benefit of deep therapy to learn why they’re really so angry and be helped to recover from whatever real or imaginary wounds they have.

Meanwhile, I’ll be praying for all the people for whom Brexit and a possible Trump presidency hold dire, even life-threatening consequences.

AN OPEN LETTER TO DONALD TRUMP

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Candidate Trump,

I guess your mother never played Connect-the-Dots games with you. Do you not understand that the number of hate crimes in the United States has increased since you began spewing your vile racist rhetoric?

Do you not understand that there is a direct link to increased numbers of innocent people being killed and the do-nothing Republican Congress that has somehow been mesmerized into supporting you?

Do you not get that semiautomatic rifles are not used for self-defense, but for offense? For offense against human beings who have mothers and fathers and children and sisters and brothers and who have never done anything to deserve being shot to death?

Do you not get that the majority of these acts are perpetrated by AMERICAN CITIZENS with LEGALLY PURCHASED RIFLES?

Do you not get that there are murderers out there who cannot board an airplane because they’re on the no-fly list but who can purchase a rifle whenever and wherever they want?

Do you not understand that, despite the fringe element that votes for you, this country does not need you and does not want you?

Are you completely lacking in the human qualities of empathy and compassion? Are you completely lacking in the ability to learn from experience? Are you completely lacking in the knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil?

You must be. How else could you continue to say the things you say? To disgorge your idiotic rationalizations.

You are destroying this country, perhaps irreparably. How will we clean up the mess you make day after day?

To misquote the beautiful Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is a much better person than I am, “SHUT UP IS SHUT UP IS SHUT UP IS SHUT UP!”

Honor the War Dead by Working for Peace

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The other day I watched an ant towing a dead comrade back to the nest for several minutes. He strove mightily over a pebbled driveway. It reminded me of what I’ve been wanting to write about Memorial Day; I hope it’s not too soon.

I have long wondered why a day to honor those US military people who died in war has not also been a day to advocate for an end to war.

So there will be no more people dying in wars.

Where I live, the Memorial Day parade has a lot of people in uniforms and ends with the firing of rifles.

Which makes me think of war, not the end of war. And which scares the young children and dogs that are always brought along.

I prefer Hawaii’s tradition: setting lamps afloat on the ocean on Memorial Day.

Keith Kamisugi describes the tradition, started in 1999, in his blog, #Hawaii:

“The special gathering allows people a personal moment to remember, reflect and offer gratitude to those who have gone before us. It is also a collective experience where families, friends and even strangers reach out with love and understanding to support one another.

“Lantern Floating Hawaii helps to open hearts in an experience that transcends the human boundaries that usually divide us.”

You can see the 2016 commemoration here: Lantern Floating Hawaii The practice comes from Japan and is centuries old. Lanterns are set floating every year at Hiroshima’s Peace Park and in Nagasaki. There are also places in the US at which organizations such as the Fellowship for Reconciliation follow the practice on August 6.

What do you think? I, for one, would rather be remembered with floating lanterns than with rifle shots.

Yuri and Malcolm

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Truth really is stranger than fiction. Take the case of a Japanese-American woman and an African-American man.

May 19 was the birthdate of two people whose improbable lives crossed paths in the battle for civil rights.

Yuri Kochiyama was four years older than Malcolm X and lived 53 more years.

Born in California in 1921 and thus an American citizen, Mary Yuriko Nakahara and her family were imprisoned in Arkansas (“interned,”?? I think not) with the tens of thousands of other Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor.

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Yuri speaks at an anti-war demonstration in NYC

After marrying Bill Kochiyama after World War II, she moved to New York City where she shared the experiences of her black and Puerto Rican neighbors in housing projects. There aren’t too many more dots to connect to her civil rights activism. Her home became a gathering place for activists where it “felt like it was the movement 24/7,” her eldest daughter, Audee Kochiyama-Holman, is quoted as saying in Yuri’s obituary.

 

She met Malcolm X, former small-time hoodlum and jailhouse convert to Islam, in 1963. She learned a radical activism from him and began focusing on black nationalism. The brief relationship ended with his assassination, at which she cradled his head while others tried to revive him with artificial respiration.

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Yuri, in glasses, holds the dying Malcolm X’s head

Yuri’s activism did not end with Malcolm X’s death. Shutting down the war in Vietnam, reparations for Japanese-Americans who were imprisoned and more inspired a new generation of activists and even a rap song by Blue Scholars. It can be found at this link: Blue Scholars sing “Yuri” live

Malcolm X was 39 when he was murdered; Yuri lived to be 93. Both used their life experiences, alone and together,  to try to set right the wrongs in a troubled country. Both were born on the same day. You just can’t make this stuff up.

 

 

“History” as Propaganda

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James Madison doesn’t need Lynne Cheney to stand up for him.

In the arc of the moral universe, is there a spot where writing history is supposed to deal with facts rather than boost a present-day agenda?

Or is there a spot where one is supposed to write about a historical figure without tearing down other historical figures?

I wasn’t predisposed to read any books by Lynne Cheney, wife of Lord Voldemort. Then, because I had recently listened to Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, I decided to be open and listen to Ms. Cheney’s book about James Madison. After all, the two worked together closely and were certainly among the Founding Brothers.

It didn’t take long of listening to James Madison: A Life Reconsidered to wonder: A. Did Ms. Cheney write it because she was jealous of the attention Hamilton was getting with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical? B. Is Ms. Cheney in love with James Madison? She seems utterly unable to write about Madison without tearing down Hamilton (who was, in fact, an abolitionist) and gushing, gushing, gushing.

To be honest, it is only recently that my autodidactic history journey has taken me to the Founding Fathers. While the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution are brilliant documents, I can never forget the hypocrisy they contain as those white Europeans who settled this country stole land and lives from the First Peoples and then imported Africans to work it for them.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” if you are a white person. “A more perfect union” for white people. But okay, facts are facts and I can’t change them. So who were these men and was there anything so noble about them? I try to put myself there and yes, were I an early American, I would have revolted against the British crown as well. But to do so without having any glimmer that the oppression of the monarchy was no worse than the oppression of the slave-holder and the oppression practiced on Native Americans comes nowhere near the virtue of nobility.

Ms. Cheney immediately makes the statement that Madison and his close friend Thomas Jefferson were abolitionists. This is so far from the truth that it’s laughable. That’s like saying that vivisectionists are animal lovers. The Virginians among the Founding Fathers were Republicans and pushed stronger rights for states, as opposed to Hamilton’s Federalist stance, which preferred a strong central government. And this is exactly the fault line along which slavery rested, with states wanting the right to determine for themselves whether to continue the abhorrent practice.

Among the greatest irony of Ms. Cheney’s book is that all the things she lauds Madison for are things against which her husband worked. The secret government of the Bush puppet regime was his triumph and a way to suppress facts and freedom of information for which Madison worked so hard. Is Ms. Cheney that cynical or that stupid not to realize it?

This is not a biography; I do not come away with any real feeling for James Madison. I’ve consulted other books and scholars do agree that he was brilliant and certainly he did do a great job on the Constitution, if only people like Lord Voldemort and the Supreme Court’s right wing would actually pay attention to it.

And now Lord Voldemort has endorsed another He Who Must Not Be Named. Will Ms. Cheney write a glowing, loving biography of Him some day?