What Then Must We Do?

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That was the heart-breaking cry of the character Billy Kwan when he realized that Sukarno has betrayed the Indonesian people in “The Year of Living Dangerously.”

I haven’t written for a long time. I chose not to add my anger, my despair, my disbelief of the election results after seeing so much of the same thing on Facebook. I shut down. I’m still a bit shut down, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to shut down this blog.

It’s not that I don’t believe in a moral universe that bends toward justice anymore. It’s that I’m not sure I’m the right person to claim it anymore, for many reasons.

I’m confused about so many things.

Let me say outright that I do not support the President-Elect or, so far, any of his cabinet picks.  They appall me. The thought of white supremacy not just creeping, but being invited into the Oval Office is a nightmare. The thought of people who know nothing about foreign policy, about the plight of the poor, about compassion, about diversity, about public education, about the Constitution itself running this government seems to me like a harbinger of the end of times and the end of civilization as we know it.

And I’m cynical enough that I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that the elections were indeed rigged, but not in the favor of the Democratic candidate.

Equally confusing to me as how this was allowed to happen is the growing backlash from younger civil rights activists. I have been witnessing not only a turning away, but an actual uprising against the people such as John Lewis who sacrificed so much for the cause of equal rights.

I am personally witnessing it, and I don’t know how to respond.

I am beginning to relive, and again in a personal way, what I lived through in college as the Black Power movement rose. At that time, black women in my Washington, DC, college dormitory told me outright that they could not be friends with me because I was white.

It didn’t matter what my beliefs were, where my heart was, what my background was. I was white, and that was all that mattered.

For reasons I have no understanding of, I was born believing that I was one human being sharing this planet with billions of other human beings whose lives mattered as much as mine. I grew up during the MLK years with a burden of guilt about my white skin and tending to identify more with people of color than with white people.

Then I was told that my white skin was not welcome in the struggle.

And the worst thing was that I understood completely. I continue to understand, but it hurts and I’m tired of feeling the burden of white guilt.

I can’t help but continue to do what I do because I can’t help but continue to believe that we are all equal, that our world cries out for the acceptance, the embracing of diversity, and I don’t want to live in a world without that diversity.  I will continue to speak out and protest and do all those things, but I do not feel that I am any longer the person who should be writing about the moral universe.

So thank you to those who have read my scribblings of the past few years. May we all find the courage to work for justice and equality wherever we are, whoever we are. And now I’m going to go get over myself.

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!”

The Beast is Loose

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I’m sure I’m not the only person who screams at the television, but Friday night I should have been heard from very far away.

To paraphrase the great Al Franken, Donald Trump is a lying liar, and Chris Matthews of MSNBC let him get away with it.

Fortunately, Rachel Maddow did not.

The beast is not Donald Trump in fact; he is the ringmaster. The beast is his voting bloc, and he has officially let it out of its cage to wreak its damage. For the umpteenth time in a row, protesters against Trump have been assaulted by his fans, verbally and physically. While he egged them on, he then told Matthews that the protesters were trouncing on his bloc’s first amendment rights.

In fact, Trump and his supporters have gone beyond the bounds of first amendment rights to the point of treason and insurrection.

Then he had to go and schedule a rally in downtown Chicago, an already racially troubled city, knowing full well that protesters would come out and a conflagration could ensue.

Yet he bragged to Matthews that he was the reasonable one who called off the rally, leaving Chicago police to deal with the mess.

And then he had the nerve to tweet later in the night that “an organized group of thugs” had disrupted his rally.

And yesterday Trump held two rallies in Ohio, including one in Cleveland, home of the family of Tamir Rice. The people of that city are already going to have to deal with the Republican Convention being held there summer. I envision another Chicago in 1968.

I have read analyses of the majority of Trump supporters, endorsed by Trump himself, that they are people who are angry at the government, they are making less than they did before President Obama took office, and they feel their rights are being taken away.

Which is all bollocks. If anything to do with wages is true, it has more to do with the states they live in and the corrupt Republican governors who have bankrupted their states.

Rights? Which rights have been taken away? Can they not vote? Can they not bear arms? Can they not walk down a street without fear of being murdered by a policeman? Can they not go about their lives without being called rapists and thugs?

The right they need to exercise, and can, is the right to mental health therapy to figure out where that anger comes from and how to learn to get along with their fellow human beings.

I Refuse to be Scared

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I am sick to death of morally bankrupt politicians telling me what and how Americans are feeling.

“Americans are scared.” “Americans don’t want Syrian refugees coming to this country.” “Americans want to know what’s going on inside mosques.”

First of all, I am not scared of being killed by terrorists. I was not scared after 9/11 and I’m not scared now. Here’s why: I do not think that my life is worth any more than anyone else’s on this planet. I do not think that I should be exempt from catastrophe and that the millions of people who deal with natural and manmade disasters on an almost daily basis shouldn’t be exempt.

I never say “There but for the grace of God go I” because I don’t believe that God causes bad things to happen to other people but not to me.

I never say, “See you tomorrow, God willing,” because I don’t believe God might decide to “take” me overnight or to “take” the other person and not me.

Human beings cause bad things to happen to people; human beings take lives. Human beings foment disasters. Human beings create situations in which toxins invade people’s bodies and cause cancer and other diseases. God does not.

Human beings pervert religious ideals to the point of needing to erase the lives of people who don’t agree with them. God does not.

God loves. God loves with a vastness that is hard to fathom until you feel such love yourself for another human being. Even then, we can feel only a small part of it.

I reverence life, all life, on this planet. But what I’m feeling now is that I would give my life if it would save one Syrian child  and bring that child to a haven where the child could heal and grow up and live a life without terror.

And I say to Donald Trump, “You, sir, are the dangerous one who needs to be removed from our society.”

To Jeb Bush: “You, sir, are the one who needs to put yourself in harm’s way if you think that boots on the ground is such a good idea.”

To Mike Huckabee: “Saying ‘for falalfel’s sake’ makes you not only stupid but ignorant and stupidly ignorant is far more dangerous than things that challenge physical safety.”

To Governor Charlie Baker: “Massachusetts is the FIRST state that should be accepting Syrian refugees since it was one of the first shores to which other refugees came so long ago.”

How dare you, Trump, Bush, Huckabee, Cruz, Baker, Fox News, Tea Partiers – how DARE you say that the United States has lost its moral compass when it is YOU who have torn that compass from its binnacle and tossed it overboard?

I say, You are terrorists also, and you do the same amount of psychic and spiritual damage that ISIS does physically. Your fear-mongering, your hate-mongering, your greed and your corruption have poisoned this country almost to the point of making it beyond recognition.

In my anger, though, I have some hope because I do believe that love will win. We saw it in the aftermath of 9/11; we saw it in the aftermath of Paris; love saves and love wins. There are a whole lot of people out there who agree with me, and we’re standing up and shouting it out.

Neither American nor Middle Eastern terrorists understand this, no matter what they profess. They don’t know what love is; they only know hate and fear.

Sorry, folks, you are going to lose. In many ways, you’ve lost already.

 

 

The Moral Universe – I Dream a World

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I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!

Langston Hughes

From Langston Hughes to Walt Whitman to Wilfred Owens to Joan Baez to Pete Seeger and John Lennon to myriad other poets and songwriters, I have only heard and read of pleas for peace in our world.

Yes, there has been poetry and music that beats a drum, but I have never heard or read of an all-out plea for war.

Until President Obama decided to use diplomacy with Iran, that is. Now most Republicans and Benjamin Netanyahu’s party want war. With Iran. Despite the agreement of most world leaders, weapons experts, military authorities and, I’m sure, Pope Francis.

The fact that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz want to stage a protest in favor of war in our nation’s capital, which I have just come from, on my birthday makes it that much more personal.

Because I believe I was born knowing that very few wars solve anything. There have been wars that have had to be prosecuted, and were, but with great anguish and soul searching. Others have been prosecuted out of direct defense of home and hearth. Others have been entered into with great reluctance.

But for the United States, I’m having trouble coming up with one that involved pro-war protests. Correct me if I’m wrong.

So I have to ask, is it me whose thinking is scrambled, or is it them?

I recently read Erik Larson’s In the Garden of the Beast (the title is a loose translation of Tiergarten, the large park in the middle of Berlin). It is the story of the first US ambassador to Germany, who was sent there in the early 1930s particularly to try to get the new Chancellor, Adolph Hitler, to abide by the Treaty of Versailles.

Ambassador Joseph Dodd was an academic, not a diplomat. He was not part of the club that ruled the foreign service at that time. He thought he had President Franklin Roosevelt’s ear, but there were many right there in Washington who really wielded the power of foreign service.

Unsuitable as Dodd was, and as naïve about Hitler as he and his infamous daughter Martha were in their early days in Berlin, they did begin to recognize the truth about Hitler and Goering and Goebbels as friends began to go into exile or disappear. The Night of the Long Knives, during which a purge against German officials who were not loyal to Hitler took place, sealed it for the Dodds. But the ambassador’s warnings to his government went unheeded, and while we can’t say for sure whether earlier US intervention could have saved them, six million lives were lost.

So are we appeasing Iran with the treaty and will it come back to haunt us? Am I an isolationist trying to pretend that the possibility that this is the worst thing our government could do isn’t real?

No, we aren’t and I’m not.

If I compare the early 1930s in Germany to the 2000s in the US, I see much more of the insidious evil of Nazism in the very Republicans who are so eager to go to war with Iran. They have compared President Obama to Hitler, but it is they who want to keep a white supremacist ethos in this country. It is they who fear and loathe the “other” and want to keep the “other” out. It is they who have been paranoid about everything from ebola to immigrants to weapons of mass destruction. It is they who keep the death penalty going and don’t really seem to care whether the prisoner to be executed is innocent or not.

I believe I was born dreaming the world that Langston Hughes describes so beautifully. I won’t let the likes of Cruz and Trump to turn that dream into a nightmare.

 

 

 

 

The Moral Universe – We Remember You

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Not least of the things that bother me about Donald Trump, and Republican campaign buffoonery in general, is that it has pushed off the news streams information about the aftermath of the June 17 massacre in Charleston.

On this two-month anniversary, we should still be in deep conversation about this tragedy, along with the deaths of Sandra Bland, Samuel Dubose, and Christian Taylor.

Ferguson got only negative attention on the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.

The 70th anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki also barely got any mentions.

What does this say about our moral universe?

Yes, I do believe that Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, et al should be called out when they are lying, making up figures, and spouting racist nonsense.

But if we lose touch with the grief and the outrage, we will not continue to fight to change the mindsets of those who hate so much.

For one thing, we have got to get the bill to restore the Voting Rights Act passed before the 2016 election. The wanton murder of African-Americans goes a long way to demonstrating why it needs to be restored. Not only do #Black Lives Matter, Black Votes Matter.

Let us not be distracted from the important work ahead of us. Let our motto be: We Remember You.