Wednesday, October 12, 2016

''Speak the truth to Trump"

The following is an excerpt from an article by Andy Crouch published in the magazine Christianity Today. Read the whole article here :
'  ... not all evangelical Christians—in fact, alas, most evangelical Christians, judging by the polls—have shown the same critical judgment [As shown to Hillar Clinton} when it comes to the Republican nominee. True, when given a choice, primary voters who claimed evangelical faith largely chose other candidates. But since his nomination, Donald Trump has been able to count on “the evangelicals” (in his words) for a great deal of support.
The revelations of the past week of his vile and crude boasting about sexual conquest—indeed, sexual assault—might have been shocking, but they should have surprised no one.
This past week, the latest (though surely not last) revelations from Trump’s past have caused many evangelical leaders to reconsider. This is heartening, but it comes awfully late. What Trump is, everyone has known and has been able to see for decades, let alone the last few months. The revelations of the past week of his vile and crude boasting about sexual conquest—indeed, sexual assault—might have been shocking, but they should have surprised no one.
Indeed, there is hardly any public person in America today who has more exemplified the “earthly nature” (“flesh” in the King James and the literal Greek) that Paul urges the Colossians to shed: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry” (3:5). This is an incredibly apt summary of Trump’s life to date. Idolatry, greed, and sexual immorality are intertwined in individual lives and whole societies. Sexuality is designed to be properly ordered within marriage, a relationship marked by covenant faithfulness and profound self-giving and sacrifice. To indulge in sexual immorality is to make oneself and one’s desires an idol. That Trump has been, his whole adult life, an idolater of this sort, and a singularly unrepentant one, should have been clear to everyone.
And therefore it is completely consistent that Trump is an idolater in many other ways. He has given no evidence of humility or dependence on others, let alone on God his Maker and Judge. He wantonly celebrates strongmen and takes every opportunity to humiliate and demean the vulnerable. He shows no curiosity or capacity to learn. He is, in short, the very embodiment of what the Bible calls a fool."

Friday, September 30, 2016

They Were Deplorable Then, They Are Deplorable Now

Pronounced- de·plor·a·ble
Adjective - Means ... deserving strong condemnation.

A postcard showing the 1920 Duluth, Minnesota lynchings, showing three African American circus workers falsely accused of raping a white woman. Lynched without trial.
Photo Courtesy of Wiki media.

There can be no mincing of words when it comes to calling out those among us whose values threaten the lives and humanity of others.

The hypocritical double standard that some appeal to in their efforts to normalize the dastardly ways of the unjust among us, must be exposed and permanently discredited. Hate and its agencies of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and apartheid - deserve our strong condemnation. We must not continue to tolerate values that history has shown to be antithetical to the development of civil society, and to the greater cause of Justice.

Donald Trump is a racist, sexist, xenophobic, wannabe tyrant. He has become the new great white hope of the still thriving racist underbelly of American society. His brand of social and political behavior deserves our condemnation. His attempts to hide behind his token use of individuals from groups that would be victimized by his bigotry is laughable at best. Slavery had its house Negros. Nazism in its infancy, had its Jewish enablers. Fascism has its embedded agents among those in the populations it targets. Trump's use of a few Black preachers, Hispanic talking-heads, and paid female sympathizers that he has yet to fire - including the current head of his campaign - or those who do not yet fit his description as 'fat pigs'... must be seen for what it is - an attempt to mollify his target audience. Donald Trump is a political groper whose only real inner circle are those with sanguine connections to him, and those from whom he sources his economic and ideological orientation.

History is pocked by little men like Trump. They exploit the vulnerabilities of the ignorant and the fearful in our midst to launch their infestation of discord on the way to political prominence. Fear, as we now know, is an agency of hate. It is the facility in our hearts, and in the national body politic, that terrible characters like Hitler and Mussolini and Trump use to develop and spread the venom of discord that they hope will be the magic carpet to political and economic prominence. In this effort they cast themselves as messiahs- come to save their followers from their socio-economic/ knowledge-impoverished lives. Their delusions of grandeur find wings on egos that loudly proclaim ...I alone can save you!... Believe me! This thread of self-aggrandizement runs rampant in the rhetoric of the Hitlers and Trumps who have held sway along our political journey as civilized societies; and who eventually get relegated to the garbage heap of history. 

The following is part of a speech that Adolf Hitler gave on April 28, 1939. Note his elevation of his I-ness throughout - which I have highlighted. I interjected the word bigly for obvious reasons. 

"I overcame chaos in Germany, restored order, enormously(bigly) raised production in all fields of our national economy... I succeeded in completely resettling in useful production those 7 million unemployed who so touched our hearts...I have not only politically united the German nation but also rearmed it militarily, and I have further tried to liquidate that Treaty sheet by sheet whose 448 Articles contain the vilest rape that nations and human beings have ever been expected to submit to. I have restored to the Reich the provinces grabbed from us in 1919; I have led millions of deeply unhappy Germans, who have been snatched from us, back into the Fatherland; I have restored the thousand-year-old historical unity of German living space; and I have attempted to accomplish all that without shedding blood and without inflicting the sufferings of war on my people or any other. I have accomplished this, as one who 21 years ago was still an unknown worker and a soldier of my people, by my own effort..."

Think about Hitler's violation of the Treaty of Versailles when you hear Trump mouthing off against NATO. Think about Hitler's support of Franco when Trump expresses his admiration for Putin's 'strength', and his expansionist practices. Think about Hitler's re-militarization of Germany when Trump talks about his plans for our military. Think about Hitler's conscription of territory when Trump and his surrogate Giuliani salivate about stealing  Iraqi oil lands. Think about the fact that Hitler stopped paying war reparations agreed to in the above Treaty whenever Trump suggests that America should not pay the debts we have incurred. Trump has shown us who he is through his behavior in business and finance. We should believe him.

Adolf Hitler was a liar, and so is Donald Trump. Hitler inflicted the suffering of war on millions- granted they were not his people... Over 6 million Jews suffered and lost their lives as a result of Nazi terror. We witness the groups that have rallied to support Trump, and we agree that there is no other candidate in recent history that could survive keeping such company. But this Republican Party finds itself in the compromising position of having to cozy up to an offspring of its own bigotry... a bigotry cultivated through its relationship with those who sought to delegitimize the presidency of one Barack Hussein Obama - the first African-American to hold that office. Today we witness Candidate Trump trying to make nice with Benjamin Netanyahu, and we cannot help but scream - HATE IS HATE!! Israel cannot be comfortable with a candidate for POTUS who is causing a bulge in the trousers of the likes of once impotent haters like David Duke.

The Trump candidacy has led to a historic resurgence of what we euphemistically call " the Alt Right".  By this we actually mean the KKK... We mean those who idolize Hitler... We mean those who made post cards from images of lynched Blacks... We mean those who, like Donald Trump, want to build a wall between us and our Brown neighbors to the South... We mean those who hate Jews and Blacks... We mean those who became bigly inflamed at the reality of a Black family in the White House.

The gross racism of Slavery and Segregation was deplorable then... It is deplorable now. The disenfranchisement of women and people of color was, and is, deplorable. Trump's standard of beauty, which is reminiscent of the "eugenics" of Hitler was deplorable then... It is deplorable now. The xenophobia that drove the Nazis to victimize the Jews, and which is appealing to Trump and his followers who want to "make America White again", is deplorable. Trump's own racist practices which led to him being sued and fined for housing discrimination in New York is deplorable. His declaration that his followers would still vote for him if he murdered someone in the middle of 5th Avenue IS deplorable... and such followers ARE deplorable. 

Hate is a function of fear. It is the torment that fear wreaks in the lives of the fearful, and that they then project upon those they come to perceive as threats. Advances in technology have led to a shrinking of time and space that challenges us to live together in the new global village that is constantly being created. Instead of walls, we need to facilitate the building of bridges that make it easier for us to interact across the spaces - cultural and otherwise - that became convenient in the old world. 

True leadership in the brave new world that is becoming more and more a fact of our lives, demands the cultivation of courage. That courage is a function of the mutual recognition of the needs of our common humanity. It demands that we work together to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of progress for all. That courage calls on us to deplore the ways of hate, and to explore the possibilities that reveal themselves when we affirm the rights of every person to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

In South Africa Today!


Follow this link for the full article.

''The recent protest by young Black girls at the Pretoria Girls High published on (social) media is a clear case in point here. This incident exposes not only the totality of white racism in South Africa, but also the disguised hypocrisy of us Black people in dealing with it.

Yearly in South Africa children of the RasTafari community and Black children who keep dreadlocks for spiritual purpose like Intwaso or Ukuthwasa are rejected, chased away or suspended from (township & rural) schools for their dreadlock hairstyles – which forms part of their spiritual-cultural heritage and philosophical world views".

Monday, September 5, 2016

Name Yourself... Beyond the Labels of a Circumstantial Existence

Life is often characterized as a journey. It is an adventure that incorporates the good and the bad, the bitter and the sweet, rough patches and smooth paths, high places and depressions that are at times difficult to rise from.

The many challenges that will inevitably come our way demand of us a firm resolve to keep moving forward. In the absence of this resolve we tend to shrink and shrivel and fade into oblivion. 

The interplay of wisdom and folly is a dynamic that will be a constant in many of the steps that we take on this journey. The unique challenge that we will face is that of determining who we are, and who we must become in the face of the challenges that come our way. Ultimately we will face two critically important questions, each of which must be answered realistically if we are to successfully navigate our way through the journey to our destiny.

The first question we must face is... Who do others say that we are? As babies we are given names. These names express the subjective experiences and aspirations of those who parent us. These names become our legal labels. We sign them as a way of identifying ourselves to the world in which we live. They become our "mark" on the many documents that provide proof of our many transactions in this world. To get our attention others call out to us, and we answer in recognition of our given names. 

As we go through life we may acquire other names, words used informally to describe us beyond our given names. We call these "nicknames". Our struggles to navigate our way through the many difficult circumstances we face in life at times result in us acquiring nom de guerres... These are labels that describe our character as warriors. Some of the labels we acquire are not always flattering. Some nicknames honor us...  Some of them ridicule us. These added names talk about the impressions we make in the face of various circumstances. They tell us whether we strike others as heroes or villains, as Jokers or Scarfaces, as strong or weak, as truth-tellers or liars, as leaders or followers.

In life we sometimes come to be known by the fortunes and misfortunes that come our way. For better or worse some people will label us according to the various experiences that we fall into or that befall us. To be fortunate is one thing... we all desire to be known by the "good things" that happen to us, or that we happen upon. Not so with respect to the "bad things". The naming that is a function of the stigmatization that results from the unfavorable experiences we have had is at times ego-deflating to say the least.

The tendency to limit our perspective of other people's lives to our interpretation of the "bad things" that have been a part of their experience becomes a rather convenient practice. This is a rather easy thing to do especially for those who would like to direct attention away from the skeletons in their own closets. Whether we like it or not, there will be those who will insist that we are nothing more than what they conveniently think we are. It is in the face of this tendency that we must ask the second question: Who do you say that you are?

Beyond the names that we are given at birth, and beyond the nicknames that get heaped upon us by those who seek to define us by certain of our experiences and tendencies; we have a sacred responsibility to name ourselves. We do a disservice to ourselves, and we negate our personal integrity by living according to the transient wisdom and the follies of a circumstantial existence. There should come a time in our journey through this life when we stop and spend the energy necessary to address this most fundamental query... Who am I? Am I at ease with the name I have been given; with its many, sometimes subservient applications? Do I need to take a meaningful pause to identify and emphasize the me that I want to be?

With all due respect to the experiences and aspirations of my ancestors; and with appropriate regard for those who may, or may not wish me well... it ultimately is my responsibility to name myself. It is my solemn duty to reflect on all the experiences that have been a part of my life, with a view to determining who I must be on this my journey. In so doing I have the right to put the names I have been given in perspective, and to cultivate a me that will serve the demands of my chosen course through this life. 

Ultimately I cannot bequeath the responsibility to truly name myself to anyone but me. That, I believe, is what makes any talk about self-determination and personal responsibility meaningful.

To ask someone to take responsibility for your definition of their life is a rather tenuous proposal. It is a burden that we must ultimately desist from heaping upon anyone with the expectation that they must then unquestioningly live out our design for their life. And it is therefore a burden we must adamantly refuse to bear ourselves.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Notorious... A Protracted Epitaph

May not have met him... But I see him every day
Standing on the corners with melancholy in his veins
And a look in his eyes that says
No vacancy here...
My life is overflowing... I am full to the limit
With the burden of 400 years that I am forced to carry...
I'm a hunter on the prowl... Too long I've been the quarry
In a jungle that I despise

May not have met him... But I heard the words he spoke
Leaning against a wall... His eyes reddened by the smoke
Of fires in his mind... That burned against his will
Now he talks... Now he's silent
But it continues still
That incessant flow of rage... Which knows no bounds...
His world is no stage... There's no entertainer there

May not have met him... But his bitterness I've tasted...
We have known his strife
And the anger and frustration
Of every single life... That gets wasted at a station
Waiting for a train... That never comes on time
Stressed out with an-ti-ci-pa-tion...
Tired from standing in a line... Staring down time
In lonely dark tunnels
That have no light approaching

May not have met him
But I know the stench of which he told
The foul odors of a world
That he named in words so cold...
His were the senses... Of a target on the prowl
A hawk stalking chicken
Unconcerned about his own fears
A hero... Often beaten
Brushing aside his own tears...
His head held high... continuing to fight

May not have met him... May not have shook his hand
May not have embraced him
Nor stood with him on all his stands...
But I have felt... all the pain of which he told
And we have known... the scary heat of his cold
And you have walked in the multitude of his lonely
And seen
And heard
And tasted
And felt
The potpourri of a life perfumed without romantic intent...

And while we continue to hate the ways of their death
We love our brothers
As we must love

Good vs Evil and the Living-Out of Our Intentions

The world we inhabit is in large measure the externalization of our interior states. 

We project onto the landscape of our lives the cultivated assumptions of our collective experience. The perpetuation of conflict has become an indispensable feature of that experience.

Day and night we are bombarded with stories of conflict. From continent to continent and from the uttermost corners of the globe, the accounts of national and internecine strife are collected and presented to us in a steady and consistent menu designed to create among us, gluttons for blood and gore. In the process our collective insecurities are cultivated in a manner that serves the economic and existential needs of business interests that profit from our appetite for this banquet of horrors.

A critical examination of the practices of the peddlers of information lead some of us to the conclusion that they have no real stake in the resolution of any conflict. The demand for high ratings is the primary driver in their business culture; and this dictates that they breed a callous disregard for the best interests of people. This includes the people who make up their audience, and those who are the subjects of their reporting. There appears to be a silent partnership between Media and those who create the means and the motives for the tragedies they report on.

Through the pageantry of the show our popular media connects with the barking dogs in each of us. They use all the tools at their disposal to create a symbiotic relationship between us and them… much to our collective exasperation. And so we complain, but return for more. We cringe, but can't help the rubber-necking that keeps us distracted against our better judgment. We can't help being strung along in the vain drama that is the news of the day... twenty four hours a day all year long. We are hooked because we see ourselves in the stories. The conflicts presented seem to be, and are our conflicts. The tragedies are our tragedies. We live. And we suffer and die... And then we rise again in a never-ending vicarious drama.

Churches. Mosques. Schools. Government buildings. Train stations. Shopping malls. Movie theaters. Elevators. In urban centers and unknown remote villages... These are the now familiar sites where we witness the brutality expressed by those who choose to feed that evil dog within. It's teeth of steel in compliance with its gruesome volatility discriminates not between the vulnerable flesh of babies, kindergarteners, expectant mothers, the elderly, the newlywed, ... There is no safe haven from its bloody villainy. It prowls as a destructive force of one. It roams in packs with those who share its rabidity.

Our availability to the impulses to become tragic actors in the arena of our conflict driven reality is jarring, but a fact nonetheless. Unleashed...we become the rapist, the child molester, the robber, the terrorist, the murderer. Our communities become haunted by the wearer of the long black coat with the assault rifle hidden beneath, looking to create mayhem. Our nemeses materialize as the wielder of the long knife on the elevator, or on any given street at any given hour. Yielding to an obtuse nihilism we become the oppressor of the disadvantaged, the enslaver of the stranger, the bigot. In the absence of moral restraint we become the invaders of countries, the killers of innocents, the abductors of daughters, perpetrators of genocide. The mean dog within each one of us fights the good dog all day and all night long; it's bark becoming the awful precursor to its terrible, mangling bite.

We know that evil exists because we are aware of its potential in each one of us. That evil thrives unless we make a conscious choice day by day, minute by minute, event by event, not to feed that mean dog within. Many of us may resist the fact that we each harbor the best and the worst of all instincts within us. To those who think this I would say that history is full of examples of “good” people who are guilty of committing some of the worst atrocities.

For good to be triumphant we must each commit to nurturing the good dog within. Essential steps in the nurturing of the good dog in ourselves must take into consideration the factors that give ascendancy to the evil dog. We must identify these factors and deal with them in ways that lead us to replace the destructive tendencies they can breed with more desirable traits.

The most basic of the needs that drive our actions is the need to survive. It is the parent of our responses to the various challenges in the various circumstances of our lives.

The quality of our responses to perceived threats is a direct function of the quality of the values we cultivate habitually. Honesty. Selflessness. Courage. Humility. Indomitable Spirit. These are values that can be inculcated through commitment to the practice of a wholesome discipline. A wholesome discipline is centered around a true commitment to balanced living. It opens our eyes to the essential interconnectedness that is a principal truth of our communal experience. It strengthens body, mind, and spirit in preparation for the many challenges that living presents.

The skillful practitioner of a wholesome discipline learns to focus on what is essential to achieving a balanced life, and acts in the best interest of that balance. Such a disciple knows when and how to act to effect that balance. That person knows that true strength does not exploit the disadvantaged, does not encourage divisiveness... does not put selfishness above the interests of our common humanity.

The thing in us that gives rise to, and determines the quality of our actions is something called intention. It is the big WHY behind every action we execute. To have intention is to be able to determine at the most basic level what we want the desired outcome of an action to be. Intention is the ultimate servant of freedom. In it we recognize our potential to be our best or our worst selves. It is the point of sale of our every social interaction. The good dog in us wants to act in a way that serves the common good. The bad dog’s intention is to serve self regardless of the consequences to others.

Every time we choose to act in the best interest of each other we are feeding that good dog and starving the mean evil dog. The inherent challenge is to become more and more selfless in our behavior. This demands that we stifle our want of immediate self-gratification in the interest of perpetuating the common good.

Acting unselfishly engenders a nobility that, although uncommon, is essential to the building of viable communities. It is what we mean by "being in this world" but not "being of this world". Ultimately it is how we potentiate the possibilities of being Mankind’s "best friend".

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

For-profit Prisons & The Politicians Who Get The Most From Them

"These groups have also publicly stated that leniency towards non-violent drug users and undocumented immigrants could "potentially reduce demand for correctional facilities", thereby impacting their revenue. Many have pointed to private prisons' vested interest in keeping inmate populations above a given threshold as a key factor driving the 'war on drugs', a set of policies that impose mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug users, which have resulted in a 700% spike in state prison populations over the past three decades."

Click on the link below to read the full article.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Jerrymandering via Incarceration... A Fact Of American Life

The United States is truly exceptional in terms of the number of people in our prisons. This country incarcerates 716 people for every 100,000 population, more than any other country in the world. While we have under five percent of the world's population, we account for around twenty five percent of its prisoners. The Prison Industrial Complex in the USA has a vested interest in keeping their facilities full even if crime statistics are on the decline. 
Stop for a moment and let that sink in...  What are the implications of this reality for the way our justice system operates? It is time for a critical examination of the process of what is blatantly an “injustice system”. Can a society that ignores this fact escape its consequences? 

When our aspiring candidates for political office talk about being “hard on crime”, let us loudly interrupt them and ask them how much money they are getting from this prison industrial complex. Are they and the judges we elect the compliant cronies of the system of injustice which now exists to target the poor and underprivileged in our communities...especially our communities of color? 
Paul Waldman writing in The American Prospect observes the following:
"... you can't talk about prisons without talking about race. African Americans in particular are over-represented in prisons; though they are 13 percent of the population, they made up 38 percent of the population of state prisons.... The crimes that landed them there, however, are not too different from their white and Hispanic counterparts. Eighteen percent of blacks in state prisons were convicted of drug crimes, compared to 15 percent of whites and 17 percent of Hispanics."
In addition to the disproportionate number of persons of color in our jails, it is also a fact that the US imprisons more women than any other country. This raises other disturbing questions about the political culture being perpetuated here. Think for a moment about the history of the disenfranchisement of women and minorities in this country's politics.

Keep this in mind as you mull over this issue- Studies have shown that States budgets for education have declined even as their budgets for incarceration have increased. It is a well documented fact that the vast majority of our imprisoned population are from communities with poor school districts. So as the educational infrastructure in disadvantaged communities suffer from crippling deficits, the prison industrial complex has grown more and more muscular. In 2009 the School District of Philadelphia faced a deficit of $147 million after losing $160 million in State funding. Yet, during this same period, taxpayers spent nearly $290 million imprisoning residents from its most economically depressed neighborhoods.
In a Democracy such as ours one may ask... in fact must ask... who benefits from the disenfranchisement of this part of the potential electorate which is disproportionately affected by our present policies on incarceration? Is the excessive incarceration of women and people of color a way of thwarting the democratic process? Does it tilt the balance of electoral power in favor of the same influences that historically wanted exactly that state of affairs? These are questions worthy of further examination. Is this in fact jerrymandering via incarceration?
Let us be very clear about what is at stake here. There are inescapable consequences of this kind of injustice. The institutions in our communities must begin to take this issue to heart. I say this especially to those institutions that focus on the moral issues we face as individuals and as communities. We must do more than is being done to conscientize our fellow citizens about this problem. 

The proliferation of  “prison ministries” focusing on saving the soul of the incarcerated is unlikely to change the hearts of the captives in this new system of slavery. Poor prisoners are more aware than the preachers that the dichotomy assumed between their physical and spiritual needs is mostly false. The moral voices among us must be employed to bring a specific focus- to shine a bright light- on the degradation, misery, and disenfranchisement, created by a system of greed and it's corrupted agents.