Tuesday, August 15, 2017
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being."
In the current crisis in the U.S., all sides are forgetting this keen ethical observation by the prisoner of conscience, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Various sides are claiming, self-righteously, that it is only their enemies who are wrong.
But actually, all of us humans to one degree or another are both good and bad.
"That means that when we oppose and criticize our enemies we ought to do so with an honest awareness of our own moral failings."Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love...Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, [or Black man or Brown man] but to win his friendship and understanding."
--Martin Luther King
A few Key Points:
#1 Free Speech is for everyone, even for those we think have evil views! It is truly scary that the counter-protesters--Black Lives Matter, etc.-- against the White Supremacists appeared to be seeking to deny the White Nationalists their right to assemble, protest, and speak.
#2 All of us need to more strongly than ever counter right wing (and left wing) racism, especially when overt racists act upon that racism and even murder others such as the horrific murderer of the young woman in the street.
#3 The Media needs to do a better job of objective reporting. Notice that in the coverage of the White Supremacist rally, nearly all media outlets identified the legal protest as that of White Supremacists, BUT failed to identify the “counter-protestors.”
Many of the latter were part of Black Lives Matter, a group which is anti-police, which claims that police in the U.S. systematically abuse, unfairly arrest, and attack Blacks.
This is mostly untrue. The vast majority of police officers serve and protect everyone. (I do know that a few police are racists, have heard it myself. But even they don’t treat Blacks wrongly when the latter are arrested during the commission of crimes.)
For instance, Black Lives Matter holds Michael Brown up as a hero, even though he was a criminal who committed a strong-armed robbery shortly before he was stopped by a police officer in Missouri!
Then Michael Brown, allegedly, attacked the police officer in his car. Yet Black Lives Matter, in an odd twist of reverse racism, claims that the police officer was guilty of racism!
#3 All political sides need to take a step back, meditate, learn to respond with empathy and humility toward their enemies.
The complex problems of the present (and the past and the future) aren’t solved by simplistic, political rhetoric and sloganeering.
ALL sides have both good and evil running right through their heart and mind.
#4 The removal of statues and monuments to past human leaders NEEDS TO STOP! We need to learn from the past, both the good and evil, not delete it from our public consciousness.
Nearly all of the first 12 Presidents of the U.S were racists, and many of them slave owners. Does that mean we need to take down the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Monument? Lincoln was a racist, so ought we to remove the Lincoln Memorial?
The past’s memorials, monuments, and statues ought to be used to teach, of how ALL human leaders’ actions are combinations of good and evil. Deleting their statues only worsens the already bad situation.
Those leftists who pulled down the statue to Confederate soldiers in North Carolina ought to be arrested for vandalism, trespassing, etc.
Not only did they do what is unlawful, it was immoral and unjust.
NO more memories from the past ought to be deleted from our public consciousness.
Napoleon committed many evil actions as did Oliver Cromwell, the Kings of England and France, the Roman Catholic Church, etc.
none of their statues ought to be removed.
Neither should any statues of leaders of the United States or the Confederacy be removed.
#5 The CENTRAL focus of current actions ought to be on grieving for the family of the murdered young woman, on seeking to counter the racism of many Americans including the overt horror of the White Nationalists.
We do best if we remember the emphasis of Martin Luther King, of how he emphasized we need to show benevolence toward our enemies, seek to help them escape from their evil views and actions.
#6 At legal protests, NO one ought to be allowed to carry weapons of any sort, certainly not guns.
#7 The police and National Guard ought to keep the opposing sides separate.
And, thanks to Starbucks of Camas, Washington and Hood River, Oregon while I am van-traveling. They made this brief post possible.
In the Light,
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Just finished a very depressing history but powerful biography, Junipero Serra: California’s Founding Father
by Stephen W. Hackel, Associate Professor of History,
University of California, Riverside
As usual, history is very different from—and stranger than--what most people,
based on popular understanding, assume. What an informative, tragic contrast
to the glowing presentations of California Missions in schools,
at the California Missions themselves, and the general public knowledge.
I thought that the Franciscans, started by St. Francis, didn’t do such horrid stuff.
#2 Tragically, one discovers in this thorough biography that the Franciscans (and the Jesuits, etc.) were guilty of plenty of abuse, intolerance, and injustice.
Serra and other monks punished, whipped, and kidnapped-back natives who ran away from the Missions:-(
They sent out Spanish soldiers to capture "fugitive" natives and bring them back to the Missions to be physically punished.
And the soldiers—some excons-turned soldiers
sent up from central Mexico--were definitely not a good representation of the Christian religion nor of civil society.
Some soldiers used to chase natives and lasso young women and then rape them.
#3 Father Serra—and evidently many other Franciscan monks—beat, whipped, and abused their own bodies, too. Really sickening.
Hackel explains that such behavior was probably why Serra whipped natives. If it was important for a priest to beat and lash his body into submission, then, surely, natives needed the same treatment.
And, also, since Serra considered natives his "children," he was following standard practice in Spanish society of how to punish wayward children.
But most of these behaviors were contrary to native Californians, who didn't abuse their children.
#4 Serra and the other monks were caught up with the incessant adoration of the Virgin Mary and praying to Roman Catholic saints. Serra claimed miracles had been performed by Mary and by St. Joseph, the travelers' saint.
#5 Serra and the other Spanish missionaries gave very strong veneration to their dead leaders' bones—especially the thigh bone of one former Franciscan saint. Very weird.
What is this with many religions’ obsession with the bones of their leaders!? Even Buddhists still venerate a toe of the Buddha! Religions are very so bizarre and irrational.
Of course, I realize the truth of the statement in Not Without My Daughter, “That every religion not your own seems weird.”
But adoring old bones?!
#6 I will grant that Serra, as Hackel emphasizes, was an amazingly determined, dedicated, brilliant, courageous zealot and that he did seek to protect the natives from some of the worst abuses of the Spanish System.
But at other times, Serra was an overbearing, abusive, intolerant ‘father’ (as he considered the Indians his “children”).
He, also called the natives "infidels" and, so, besides all the bad actions already mentioned, he opposed the Spanish Governor’s efforts to move acculturated natives into voting for their own leaders.
#7 Serra liked to have total control of the missionary endeavor. In fact, he went outside of Franciscan and Spanish official channels, and met with the Viceroy of Mexico in order to counter the Spanish ruler of Alta California who he opposed.
When Serra was ordered to not communicate with the Viceroy again, he used Catholic theological 'reasoning' to interpret that to mean he couldn't send official documents to the Viceroy, but that he could still send personal letters!
#8 Serra, as has been the case of so many famous human leaders, was a zoo of contradictions:
"He stated that he was always obedient to his superiors, but...
he did largely what he pleased, with few checks on his own authority and actions beyond the narrow confines of his order and mission...
"He had a domineering personality but was bereft of an individual self; he was opinionated, strong-willed, determined, and passionately devoted to his life's work but was typical of his age in that he had no real identity of his own beyond his order."
Junipero Serra, page 242
Serra may not have been has bad as Columbus who enslaved and slaughtered so many "Indians," however Serra doesn’t deserve to be called “California’s Founding Father.”
BUT then neither do any of the other manipulative, oppressive, destructive leaders of early Alta and American California. Hackel writes that the Americans were even more cruel and destructive when they took over, ousting the Mexicans.
Several times I almost quit this negative tome and returned it to the library unfinished, but I hiked on to the conclusion and am thankful I did. But I doubt that I will ever visit a California Mission with as much appreciation as I used to do.
And I now remember my long hours spent with our kids helping them do their Mission Projects in 4th grade, and feel ashamed.
Live for the Light of Truth, Goodness, Justice, Reason, Math, and Beauty,
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Notice the intense fracturing, again, of human communication across philosophical and political divides.
Think of all the billions of humans worldwide who demonize opposing people and their lifestances, who don't make an earnest effort to see and feel things from other people's perspectives.
This doesn't mean that you moderate what
you understand is ethically true;
all humans are equal,
BUT ideas and putting those ideas
into action aren't.
Many ideas are horrifically wrong
and need to be opposed nonviolently
with all of our effort and all of
our intellect and all of our
HOWEVER, it does mean that we seek
to honestly understand others,
to approach them personally
with empathy and compassion,
realizing that most of the other
with very different worldviews
than our own, probably are as sincere
in what they believe as we are.
We need to speak the truth in compassion and kindness.
“Self-righteous politically homogeneous echo chambers,
where we support and encourage derision and suspicions about the “other side,”
end badly for everyone.
History’s...slavery, gulags, concentration camps, genocide, the removal of indigenous people…don’t stem from a bunch of folks committed to seeing things from another’s point of view.
These come from those convinced of their own righteousness.”
Peace and Justice Support Network
June 2017, Dove Tales, Mennonite Church, USA
In the Light,
Friday, August 4, 2017
Remember the days of your youth--
back when we obsessed with trying to find exactly the most heartfelt sweet something to say to our one and only?
In so many cases in organized religions, too, the words of love, sincere pickup lines, have been heart-center--
(Jewish Bible's extended metaphor of God saying 'He' is Israel's lover),
in Christianity, especially Pietism
(Christians are Christ's bride),
in Sufi Islam,
in Bhakti Hinduism,
in some forms of Mahayana Buddhism,
in Unity/New Thought,
and so forth...
According to Pietistic, Wesleyan Christian religion, God infinitely loves every single human
who has ever existed, and loves every single human
who will ever exist in the future.
Talk about spiritual hyperbole...
up close and personal
but as a young, naive, troubled teen, I loved this hope, this spiritual pickup line
(made famous by evangelistic crooners such
as D. L. Moody and Billy Graham)...
I Love This Line
I love this line
“For God so loves everyone."
I love this line
That the Divine, Transcendent Reality, the Good--
the inexplicable Essence at the center of the whole cosmos
cares for each of one of us
to the utmost!
What a wonder, what a hope, what an Everest height
that ultimate linguistic sign.
Yes, I love this line
Yet born with a constant why in my mouth
always looking beyond every belief, every doctrine,
I struggled far past usual doubt
Got blood-baptized by the horrors of Christian history...
though Christians bespeak that heartfelt spiritual pickup line,
their nearly constant brutal actions belie their romantic claim.
Yet I still love this line.
But early Jesus wars in the 4th century
and ever since down to current slaughters,
and endless doctrinal abuses--
Augustine created Original Sin
in sexual love-making, then
abandoned his long-time common lover
for God and, seeking for a high class woman,
he lined this line to eternal death.
And theologians' while lipping For God so loved,
spoke darkly of God's hidden foreordinations to hell for God's glory,
total depravity, limited atonement, forced adoration,
and His constant killings for His own "good pleasure."
They lie the line--
the Inquisition, heresy trials, burnings-at-the-stake,
multi-millions slaughtered dutifully for God and country,
Jehovah,Allah,Shiva, Shinto, Buddha...
And Black Deaths, influenzas, plagues and famines
tsunamis, floods, and disasters,
and 30,000 children
dying daily--21 each minute;
such glaring harsh facts
bloody and leech all hope
from that lied line.
It does appear that Love’s not an endless yes,
never an eternal sphere,
not our Beloved’s ring,
No, not a never ending line of grace and mercy
but only a paltry pickup conning.
Now at 70 years, I hate this false line, the constant
come-on starter by Jews, Christians, Muslims and other con crooners.
How do we ever truly trust again?
Is there only mere--as secularists claim, no myrrh?
What of the "impossible possibility" of Niebuhr,
of the romantic one-liner Good News—
That God never says never?
(to quote Tillich and St. Paul),
Yes, and Yes, and Yes.
But critical assessment of existence
cleavers God’s promise line--
I love you!
Still, I refuse to bow to the cut
The slash of Never--
Let us hope against the brutal facts of religious history..
that ever past is
Despite all, somehow,
let's still love this line--
In the Transcendent Light,
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
from Dead Poets Society:
*Literature teacher Keating waited a moment to let the lesson sink in. Then Keating grabbed onto his own throat and screamed horribly. "AHHHHGGGGG!!" he shouted.
"Refuse! Garbage! Pus! Rip it out of your books. Go on, rip out the entire page! I want this rubbish in the trash where it belongs!"
So begins Dead Poetry Society, a troubling, but powerful movie that grabs us by the throat with unexpected shock--a teacher telling students to rip pages out of their expensive hardbound literature books.
Caution: I didn’t like the movie’s depressing climax--though I do admit that it is realistic, reminding me of the tragedies of students' lives here where I taught literature for many years. One brilliant girl cut herself repeatedly, responding to the emotional abuse of her often absent father.
Nor do I agree with some of the film's philosophical and ethical points. Like most Hollywood movies, it seems to glorify various ethically wrong actions.
Robin Williams as teacher, John Keating, dramatically inspires and is life-changing. Williams creates an incredible acting performance as the idealistic professor at a strict New England prep school.
The character, Keating, reminds me of one of our most creative teachers back when I was a naive teen growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska. Our teacher, Mr. Keene, (yes, that was his real name:-) had a similar eccentric, quirky humorous, thought-provoking way of taking us beyond rote learning, of making texts jolt alive and getting us plunged ocean-deep into thinking, reflecting, and creating.
From the screen play:
*The following morning John Keating sat in a chair beside his desk. His mood seemed serious and quiet.
"Boys," he said as the class bell rang, "open your Pritchard text to page 21 of the introduction. Mr. Perry" - he gestured toward Neil - "kindly read aloud the first paragraph of the preface entitied 'Understanding Poetry'."
The boys found the pages in their text, sat upright, and followed as Neil read:
"Understanding Poetry, by Dr. j. Evans Pritchard, PhD. To fully understand poetry, we must first be fluent with its meter, rhyme, and figures of speech, then ask two questions:
1) How artfully has the objective of the poem been rendered and
2) How important is that objective?
Question 1 rates the poem's perfection, question 2 rates its importance.
Once these questions have been answered, determining the poem's greatness becomes a relatively simple matter. If the poem's score for perfection is plotted on the horizontal of a graph and its importance is plotted on the vertical, then calculating the total area of the poem yields the measure of its greatness.
A sonnet by Byron might score high on the vertical but only average on the horizontal. A Shakespearean sonnet, on the other hand, would score high both horizontally and vertically, yielding a massive total area, thereby revealing the poem to be truly great."
Keating rose from his seat as Neil read and went to the blackboard. He drew a graph, demonstrating by lines and shading, how the Shakespeare poem would overwhelm the Byron poem.
Neil continued reading. "As you proceed through the poetry in this book, practice this rating method. As your ability to evaluate poems in this manner grows, so will your enjoyment and understanding of poetry."
Neil stopped, and Keating waited a moment to let the lesson sink in. Then Keating grabbed onto his own throat and screamed horribly. "AHHHHGGGGG!!"
"Refuse! Garbage! Pus! Rip it out of your books. Go on, rip out the entire page! I want this rubbish in the trash where it belongs!"
He grabbed the trash can and dramatically marched down the aisles, pausing for each boy to deposit the ripped page from his book. The whole class laughed and snickered.
"Make a clean tear," Keating cautioned. "I want nothing left of it! Dr.j. Evans Pritchard, you are disgraceful!" The laughter grew, and...
Keating strutted back to the front of the room, put the trash can on the floor and jumped into it. The boys laughed louder.
Fire danced in Keating's eyes. He stomped the trash a few times, then stepped out and kicked the can away.
"This is battle, boys," he cried. "War! You are souls at a critical juncture. Either you will succumb to the will of academic hoi polloi, and the fruit will die on the vine - or you will triumph as individuals.
"Have no fear, you will learn what this school wants you to learn in my class; however, if I do my job properly, you will also learn a great deal more. For example, you will learn to savor language and words because no matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas have the power to change the world."
Keating slammed his hand on the wall behind him, and the sound reverberated like a drum. The entire class jumped and turned to the rear.
"Well," Keating whispered defiantly. "I say - drivel! One reads poetry because he is a member of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion! Medicine, law, banking - these are necessary to sustain life. But poetry, romance, love, beauty? These are what we stay alive for!"
"To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?"
"Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse."
"What will your verse be?"
Later, in the film, Keating emphasizes the romantic and pagan manifesto: "Carpe Diem."
If "Carpe Diem" means "Live Up Today" in the usual secular meaning, then it isn't a worthy lesson to teach students. Think of how many young people wasted their lives because they took that sort of advice in the last few generations.
However, one can--with a little creative license--turn Keating's meaning into one of deep significance, "Carpe Transcendence."
The latter is what the social activist, peacemaker, and reconciler Thich Nhat Hanh means when he writes:
In the Light,
Friday, July 14, 2017
Could you seek to understand a human who has committed a terrorist war action?
FIRST read this, how just yesterday 2 Druze police officers in Israel, guarding a place of prayer, were gunned down by 3 Muslims, and how Muslim authorities supported the murderers:-(
One of the killed police officers, Druze Ha'il Satwi, leaves behind his 3-week-old son and young wife.
"Ha'il's cousin, Sheikh Asaid Satawi, lamented the Border Policeman's loss. "What good is this conflict, to make a two-week-old baby an orphan? I hope these would be the last casualties of this conflict; that the leaders would sit together and resolve the issues. Have every people in their own state. Enough with the bloodshed," he said.
"The cousin described Ha'il as a happy person, who helped all and was beloved by all. "The service in Jerusalem is dangerous, that's well known, but he loved helping people. Everyone around him loved him and his laughter. He was a man who gave happiness to anyone who knew him," the sheikh said."
"The three terrorists were identified as Israeli Arab citizens from Umm al-Fahm: Muhammad Ahmad Muhammad Jabarin, 29, Muhammad Hamed Abed al-Atif Jabarin, 19, and Muhammad Ahmad Mafdel Jabarin, 19. The terrorists have no previous history of security related offenses, according to the Shin Bet."
BUT Muslim leaders supported the Islamic terrorists and condemned the soldiers who stopped the killers
from murdering anyone else:
"A member of the Fatah leadership, Abbas Zaki, said..."The three young men who were killed in Jerusalem were the ones who faced the real terrorism. We are now paying the price of the fake peace from the Oslo Accords. Resistance is the choice of all Palestinians and it is what will free the homeland."
"The Hamas terror organization said the attack "is a natural response to the Israeli terrorism and the dirtying of the al-Aqsa Mosque. The attack shows the intifada continues and that our people are united behind the resistance."
FROM UPLIFT: "Nobody is Born a Terrorist"
by Christ Agnos
"Forgive them, for they know not what they do"
– Jesus Christ
"If you’re reading this article, I’m impressed. It is quite taboo in Western culture to have any view other than complete and total contempt for those who commit heinous acts of terror. To entertain another possible view risks being the target of that scorn usually reserved for people whose actions we can comprehend the least. But if anyone is interested in living in a more peaceful world, then there is one question we should be asking that very few seem to be looking for answers to.
What experiences must a human being have, what level of pain and disconnection have they had to endure to be capable of going on a suicide mission to execute disabled people one by one in a concert hall?
From retaliation to prevention
Is there something within you that does not want to entertain this question? Would offering empathy to those committing these acts in addition to the victims of them take something away from the victims? Let me say firstly that my goal by entertaining this question is not to promote some utopic vision of the world that denies the horrific experiences were felt by victims from both sides of these conflicts.
My goal is to find a solution to these atrocities. Whether they are committed in Paris or in Syria, it does not matter. All human life is worth the same. I am interested in prevention and in order to prevent a situation from happening, one must fully understand the truth of what compels that situation to occur.
Children are born wanting peace
There are no terrorist infants
I think it is safe to assume that there are no infants associated with ISIS or Al Qaeda or any religion for that matter. No baby is born into this world hating another race of people. Hate is something that is learned through their experience on the planet.
Omar Ismail Mostefai is the name of one of the “terrorists” that committed the recent attacks in Paris. Sometime between the time that he was born and the time he died committing those violent acts of terror, something happened to him to make him no longer care if he lives or dies so long as the he could inflict as much pain as possible on to the world. Isn’t anyone curious as to what those experiences were, not so that we can justify what he did, but so we can understand why he did it?
I don’t mean the superficial “why” of “because Allah told him to kill all the infidels.” I mean the real deep “why”. What happened to Omar that made him want to kill another human being? What happened to make him decide to join ISIS? Did he have other opportunities for a peaceful life that he rejected? If we are interested in finding solutions, wouldn’t the answers to these questions be relevant?
How can we protect the peacefulness of children?
The truth about terrorism
We have this habit of creating labels for human beings that commit acts of violence towards innocent life. We use these labels to distance ourselves from them. We want to believe that they couldn’t possibly be human beings just like us. And so we use these labels to refer to them: “barbarian,” “savages”, “terrorists.”
The truth is that Omar is a human being anatomically no different from you or me. There isn’t some separate race of being called “terrorists” that want to wipe out all the “non-terrorists.” And this also means recognizing that each of us might be capable of doing the same thing as Omar. The question is what would it take?
For me, I imagine that it would take a truly catastrophic experience for me to want to commit an act of terror. There must be no possibility for me to live a peaceful life. If my family was murdered by a random bomb from the sky, if my government was infiltrated with corrupt diplomats with ties to foreign corporate interests, if access from the land was removed to grow food for people living abroad, I could see myself potentially being susceptible to a fundamentalist message that promised to give me some power, some feeling of control over the outcome of my life. But the truth is I don’t know what I would do. I don’t know what that feels like. But I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t do exactly as Omar chose to do.
Nobody is born a terrorist
Getting real about solutions
Look, we can continue to engage in the same responses that we have for centuries. We can go on more crusades, drop more bombs, create more chaos, more broken families, more desire for revenge. If we do, I think we should not be surprised when those feeling the brunt of such actions want to lash out and make other people feel what they feel.
Isn’t this what we do when we get hurt and the one that hurt us does not care or show remorse for how they hurt us? Don’t you have a desire to make them feel what you feel?
We all know how to respond to terror attacks with fear and anger. How might we respond with love?
I think we begin by asking some of these tough questions that get at the real root of the desire to commit harm towards another. Doing so won’t be easy. We will have to confront the systemic atrocities that occur as a result of global capitalist society. We will have to confront our own pain that comes from our forced contribution to this system. And we will need to work together to find more sustainable ways of living on this planet.
All of this begins by asking the right questions and making the attempt to understand each other, even when what they did feels unforgivable.
At the end of the day, it’s your choice to respond to all situations with either fear or love. I hope you choose love."
by Chris Agnos
In the Light,
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Turkish police have arrested the second Amnesty International Turkey leader within the space of a month.
On the morning of July 5th, Turkish police arrested 8 human rights defenders and two trainers at a human rights meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. One of those arrested was Idil Eser, the Director of Amnesty International Turkey.
"For over 24 hours, they weren’t allowed to contact their families or see a lawyer — and no one even knew where they were."
The denial of free speech, restrictions against freedom of press, etc. and oppression of human rights defenders are becoming much worse in Turkey.
"Idil and the others were doing nothing wrong. Some are being questioned on suspicion of “membership of an armed terrorist organization,” a baseless and ridiculous accusation."
Please write to Turkish authorities asking for the immediate and unconditional release of all ten detainees as well as the Chair of Amnesty Turkey Taner Kiliç.
İdil Eser (Amnesty International),
İlknur Üstün (Women's Coalition),
Günal Kurşun (Human Rights Agenda Association),
Nalan Erkem,(Citizens Assembly),
Nejat Taştan (Equal Rights Watch Association),
Özlem Dalkıran (Citizens’ Assembly),
Şeyhmuz Özbekli (lawyer),
Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association).
Also, please go to Amnesty International website and sign their petition.
In the Light,