Sunday, August 27, 2017

OBSESSION with a Border Wall

REGARDING the current OBSESSION with building a BORDER WALL and evicting law-abiding undocumented workers, and shouting "America First!" (How self-centered:-(:
What is needed ISN'T a border wall. 3 months ago, I drove a long the border of the Southern U.S. for hundreds of miles.
Already in many areas, a wall already a exists and where there are roads, border posts control entry.
And there are lots of Border Patrol vehicles patrolling areas up to 100 miles inland from the border!!

Because of criminals, terrorists, etc., I do agree that the borders of a country
such as the U.S. ought to be protected, in a similar sense that the borders of our homes
are protected. In urban areas, most people lock their doors.

BUT we don't lock our doors and build high walls to keep out most others such as foreign students, neighbors, diligent workers, courteous strangers, etc.

On the contrary, we--if we are caring individuals--welcome others, of all shades, colors, and nationalities.

What is needed is openness, compassion, the realization that all humans are equal, that every person is of inherent worth.

If foreigners who come to America, reject Islamic Sharia and accept freedom of speech and religion, our Bill of Rights, then
I think we ought to admit at least as many such refugees as Germany, 1 million.

As for the millions of Americans who are pushing for exclusion, for more border walls, and putting themselves "first":

My response is that we obviously have very different life experiences. And very different ethical values.
One of the best students in my years of teaching was an undocumented alien.

(Many of the very worst non-working students were native-born whites. Ought we to send them over our borders;-) Just a satirical comment. Probably, they had received poor nurture as children.)

Most of the years of teaching, I spent helping minorities in learning to study. We even had a joke in the classroom, since I was often the only non-minority, that I was the "token honky";-)

Plus, my area of expertise is American literature-history. Read of other tragic periods in American history when these anti- movements against the Chinese, the Filipino, the Mexican, the Irish, etc. flourished.

No thanks.

Nationalism is almost as bad as racism. In actual historical situations it is usually worse.
American nationalism caused far more slaughter, harm, and abuse than even slavery, as inherently evil as that unjust, immoral institution is.
Say NO to self-centered "America First!"

Photo: "Detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility, on June 18, 2014, in Brownsville,Texas. Brownsville and Nogales, Ariz. have been central to processing thousands of unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally. Photo by Eric Gay-Pool/Getty Images

In the LIGHT,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Universal Soldier

One of our friends enlisted in the U.S. Army at 17, soon was fighting against the Viet Cong in a lost spot around the globe most Americans knew nothing about.

When this big teen became a battling soldier, not only didn't he know anything about Vietnam nor about Vietnam's history, nor that the U.S. had supported the re-invasion of the French after WWII, none of this was why he was fighting!

This serious soldier was thinking about his own life, and those of his fellow soldiers. Like so millions of other soldiers throughout history, he was in a war NOT
for political,
social, religious,
or historical reasons BUT because he was a young guy who thought that the military might be good for him.

Or consider another friend of mine. When he came back from a year in Vietnam, did he mention politics or justice or even patriotism? NO.

He told me about how his platoon guarded a bridge in the Mekong Delta and smoked weed most of the time.

For millions of other soldiers, they were drafted. Unless they became conscientious objectors (only a very few), these young men (and a few older ones) served out of duty, honor, or because they didn't want to go to prison or leave their country.

Ask most veterans, and they will speak especially of caring about their "band of brothers," NOT about global politics or religious commitment: "God and Country," though all of the German soldiers in the Great War did have that on their belt buckles.

Of course, in the 1800's, the 1600's, and so forth, millions of draft-age men did leave their nations in order not to kill, in order not to be a soldier, not to battle in countless killings. The clearest example are the many thousands of Germans such as the Mennonites and Brethren who immigrated to the United States in the 19th century and before to escape the endless political and religious wars which devastated Europe year after year, century after century.

A perceptive secular thinker on the Internet, Keith Parsons, has spoken to this several days ago on the blog, Secular Outpost, in relation to those who are vandalizing or taking down statues to Confederate soldiers:
"I was born in Macon, Georgia in 1952, the fourth generation of the Parsons family to be born in Georgia. My great-great grandfather Parsons was born in London, England, and in 1844 he settled in Georgia on land only recently stolen from the Creek Indians. On the other side of the family, my roots in Georgia go back at least five generations. Several of my ancestors owned slaves. Several fought in the Civil War; no need to guess which side.

"Am I sorry that my ancestors owned human beings? Yes, of course I am.

"Am I ashamed that my ancestors fought for the Confederacy? Not really.

"Let’s consider just one of my ancestors, the Rev. Enoch Hooten...Seriously wounded...How seriously did my progenitor take that? Was he fighting for slavery?

"I don’t think so. Now, I’m sure he was no abolitionist, and if asked he would have endorsed slavery. But was he motivated to fight by a pro-slavery mania? Was it a die-hard commitment to the “peculiar institution” that inspired him to face shot and shell?

"I don’t think so. Consider a parallel case: Did the average Russian of the Great Patriotic War fight for Stalin? Did he fight for Communism and for the ultimate victory of Marxism/Leninism?

"No, he fought because the Germans had invaded his country. He fought because he hated the invading enemy, whatever he thought of Marxist theory, if he thought about it at all.
"Except for Gettysburg, practically all of the major Civil War battles were fought in the southern or border states. For the southern soldier, it truly was The War of Yankee Aggression.

"So, my bet is that my ancestors fought because they felt a threat to their homeland.

" The despised Yankees had marched onto sacred southern soil and had to be sent home...
Southerners perceived the North as another country,
and northerners as a foreign people who had no right to rule them...southerners thought they were fighting for Christian values over the godless, soulless mercantilism of the north.
They sang, “Down with the eagle and up with the cross!”
"One can see a cause as very bad while respecting the motivations of the individuals who fought and died for it. Just because you oppose, say, gun control, or abortion, or the death penalty, you don’t have to question the integrity of those who disagree with you on those issues.

"So, I’m not ashamed of my Confederate ancestors. I think that, though grievously wrongheaded, they were doing what they thought that honor and duty required which, really, is all that we can ask of anyone.
"...I might be willing to countenance a statue of Robert E. Lee if a statue of Frederick Douglass or Harriet Tubman, just as big and just as prominent, were erected next to it.
"In the end, the ones most deserving of honor are those who were the victims of slavery and of the hundred years of Jim Crow repression that followed slavery.

from "Confederates in the Closet" by Keith Parsons
Secular Outpost

And, let us think back to the millions of 20th and 21st century American soldiers such as our friend who at 17 went off to fight in a place he knew nothing about...

HOWEVER, consider this:


He's five feet two and he's six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He's all of 31 and he's only 17
He's been a soldier for a thousand years

He's a Catholic, a Hindu, an atheist, a Jain,
a Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew
and he knows he shouldn't kill
and he knows he always will
kill you for me my friend and me for you

And he's fighting for Canada,
he's fighting for France,
he's fighting for the USA,
and he's fighting for the Russians
and he's fighting for Japan,
and he thinks we'll put an end to war this way

And he's fighting for Democracy
and fighting for the Reds
He says it's for the peace of all
He's the one who must decide
who's to live and who's to die
and he never sees the writing on the walls

But without him how would Hitler have
condemned him at Dachau
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He's the one who gives his body
as a weapon to a war
and without him all this killing can't go on

He's the universal soldier and he
really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from him, and you, and me
and brothers can't you see
this is not the way we put an end to war.

by Buffy Sainte-Marie

As a peacemaking poster states, THERE ARE NO JUST WARS, just wars...and wars and wars and wars...and every nation thinks its particular war is just, and that all their enemies are "unjust."

Let us seek the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Dividing Line Isn't Between Rightists and Leftists, But "Cuts Through Every Heart."

“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."
-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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,

Daniel Wilcox

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Ugly History of Father Serra: Founder of California Missions

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.

#1 The most shocking discovery in the reading is that Father Serra, brilliant achiever (from an island off the coast of Spain), priest, professor, missionary, was an agent of Inquisition in Mexico! Very troubling.

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.

Evaluation: C+


Live for the Light of Truth, Goodness, Justice, Reason, Math, and Beauty,

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Making an Effort to See Life from the Oppositions' Point of View

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
emotional strength.

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.”
--Jason Boone
Peace and Justice Support Network
June 2017, Dove Tales, Mennonite Church, USA

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, August 4, 2017

One Heart-felt Spiritual Pickup Line

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--
in Judaism
(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 seeking,
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--
Bibical infanticide,
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?

But only,
(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
always future.

Despite all, somehow,
let's still love this line--
love wins.

In the Transcendent Light,

Daniel Wilcox