Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Michelle Obama... The Gift That History Gave

First Lady Michelle Obama To Speak At Maya Angelou’s Memorial ...
"That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves — and I watch my daughters — two beautiful, intelligent, black young women — playing with their dogs on the White House lawn." --Michelle Obama, FLOTUS

So this happened. Last night I watched, along with millions here in America and around the world, as First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. And I could not hold back the tears that came to rescue me from my own efforts to control my emotions in the course of that speech. Thankfully, when she got to the part quoted above, our ancestor Maya Angelou came and sat beside me. She  rested her right hand on my thigh... and I found myself repeating with her that most profound, universally powerful, verse:

          "Out of the huts of history's shame... I rise!
          Up from a past that's rooted in pain... I rise!
          I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
          Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
          Leaving behind nights of terror and fear... I rise!
          Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear...I rise!
          Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
          I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
          I rise! I rise! I rise!" 

There I sat in that sacred moment... In the company of Michelle and Maya... Phenomenally

There is a life-proliferating quality in the words and work of these two women. In affirmation of the cultural and spiritual offerings they contain, their words stir in us certain emotions that are now inhabitants of  our consciousness as a result of our shared history. Maya came to remind me of this. And having done her work, she gently patted my thighs and left me alone with my thoughts and emotions... And the visage and voice of Michelle Obama.

        "  ..., we cannot sit back and hope that everything works out for the best. We cannot afford to be tired or frustrated or cynical.'

Michelle Obama is the gift that History has given us. Her words serve us way beyond the exigencies of any election season. As a gift she is one of many... but an exceptional one. She has this wonderful ability to draw us to a most sacred place in our life experience; and in this place we become intimate with a mating of ideas and ideals that leave us pregnant with the expectation of something greater for ourselves and all those connected to us. 

Through her cultural and political genius the First Lady reaches deep within and calls forth the memory of our sacred obligation to be fruitful and multiply ... to take charge of our lives and our destiny... to never give in or give up on ourselves despite the challenges of our past and our present. Here is indeed a voice from the Eden of our experiences. It calls us to new dreams, and new hopes, and a new vitality.

Michelle Obama inspires us to refine and redefine who we are and who we would be in a world constantly holding up before us the forbidden fruit of a corrupted culture.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Bees In Our Bonnets vs The Butterflies In Our Boxes

Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself - free PowerPoint Sermons by Pastor Jerry ...
The appeal of the supernatural
Proselytizing is risky business. Religion has always been, and remains a powerful motivating force. It has the power to capture the minds and imagination of people, and move them to act out the convictions they develop. This acting out of convictions is at times executed with gross disregard for the perspectives of those who do not share them.

The need to make sense of the various, sometimes overwhelming, circumstances that we face leads many to reach for a "power" greater than the individual or communal self. That need to become connected to a force more awesome than one’s self, or more powerful than the sum of our communal experiences, drives many people to develop a reverence for existential imperatives that are perceived in supernatural terms. So, for example, instead of simply identifying with the need to live a balanced life and do right with each other, we come up with formulations about “doing the will of God”. We could call this the mystification of enlightened self-interest. We shroud the commonsense imperatives of our personal and communal experience in other-worldly language, and by so doing we transfer the authority for control of our lives from our selves, and one another... to a mysterious Other.

Invariably mystery and miracle become bedrocks of our belief systems. For reasons that we must continue to honestly and boldly analyze, we create the foundations of our faith in the realm of the supernatural. Our Saviors are born of virgins, and not just in the sense of a young woman of marriageable age, no... we make that 'maiden' conceive and have a child without having had sex! Our messiahs come back from the dead and talk to us. They bring the dead back to life... literally… even those who had started to rot. They make wine from water… just water. They walk on water. They feed multitudes with food barely enough for two people. And so, in the process of denying the ability and the responsibility that we have to change our world for the better, we attribute to our gods natures and abilities that are essentially super-human. We believe of course that they have made us to serve them, and that we are lost without our faith in them.

It is for these reasons that we should be aware and wary of the inherent risks in the reach for faith. The connection between our theology and our anthropology is often obscured by ultra-poetic attempts to place the one above and beyond the other. In a world where radical theisms have again become vehicles of  much social and political turmoil, it is useful to remember the essential truth that theology is what one person says and another hears about "God". Simply put, theology is nothing more than our conversations with each other about our gods. These conversations often suffer from our tendency to replace the discipline of critical analysis with dogma. Could it be that dogma is an affliction of the ever-present power dynamic in our relationships?

The butterflies in our boxes

(The general outline of the exercise I am about to describe is from a discussion that took place one evening over thirty years ago while I was a seminarian. The course was 'Development Studies', which sought to engage us in a critical analysis of god-talk in the context of post colonial / developing countries. Details vary, but the essential point remains.)

Imagine that you were the observer of a discussion that two parties were having about the super butterfly in each of their boxes... boxes that only each party could see into. So the one party describes in exotic detail the attributes and actions of the butterfly in his or her box. The thing is said to be beautiful and skilled at flight. It has colors that were too exotic to name, and features that defied one’s ability to detail. This butterfly is said to have appeared out of nowhere one day after a storm. That thing of inexplicable might and magnificent beauty could also talk... in every language... And it was able to tell stories of the past, and prophesy about the future.

Now the other party, not to be outdone, looks into his or her box and sets about describing the butterfly therein. Not only does that creature possess all the attributes and abilities of the already described butterfly, but it's wings are larger and more powerful. The looker into that box states that every time this creature moves in flight, it becomes the source of all the winds. The back and forth between the two parties is sometimes heated, as each attempts to describe the occupant of a particular box in terms that would give that particular butterfly supremacy over the other.

As an intelligent observer, you look on with great interest as the banter goes on. The rivalry between each protagonist grows and becomes more and more obvious. You notice that at times they make claims about their butterflies without even looking into the box in which the creature dwells. This tends to happen especially when the conversation gets very heated.

Eventually they turn to you, each one of them, and ask you to vouch for the veracity of their individual claims... based on their assumption that you now believe what each has been saying about their butterfly. It is then that you are struck by the singularly astute observation that no one can see into the box of each of these persons but them. The experience of actually seeing into those boxes is exclusive to each. No one else has access to those boxes. The prospective convert is left with the very real disadvantage of believing… Or not.

And so you awaken from the more than momentary incursion of consciousness only to hear them each clamoring for you to take sides. Not only do they expect you to believe the stories they tell, they each want you to be a witness for their version of things. That is until you confront each of them with the question: How do I know that there is even a butterfly, or any other creature in your box? You know that they won't give you a meaningful answer... They will of course forbid you to look into their boxes, that is how they maintain their hold over other acolytes. Mystery. The power of each claim is maintained by way of its given mysterious nature. It is enough for them to get you to just “believe”. And I'm thinking that I will give due regard to the claims of each; that is if they in turn will recognize my right to not believe in the very existence of the butterflies in their boxes.

The bee in our bonnets
Where does our unrelenting preoccupation with god-talk come from? Why this perpetual harangue about our origin, our state of being, and our destiny? The competing narratives about faith do not take place in a vacuum. They happen in the context of very real, and at times, competing interests in our social and economic environment… Rich vs Poor… Haves vs Havenots… Good vs Evil… Theist vs Atheists...

Historically, those who have preached to us about rewards that await us in Heaven, or eternal damnation in Hell, have invariably been the agents of those who have taken the liberty to reward themselves with the bounties of a culture of inequity. Yes. The priestly classes have mostly been the servants of the ruling classes. This has been true for all the major religions.

In cases where the religious instinct has been cultivated by the economically and politically disadvantaged in contradiction of the prevailing belief system, any new movement is usually viewed with scorn and ridicule. Almost universally, they are initially singled out for brutal repression. This was the case with the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica. The Rastafarian rejected the idea of a white messiah, favoring instead an Ethiopian emperor of their own ethnicity. This new consciousness is expressed by the Rastafarian artist Sizzla as follows:

"I have no white God... don't teach anything wrong
Would di(the) white God save mi(me) from whiteman oppression?
I have no white God... It's just a BLACK MESSIAH
If a white God a Bless(If a white God blesses)
How him naw bless Sizzla(How is it He doesn't bless Sizzla)?"

The dialectic in which Sizzla engages brings to the fore the basic incongruence between what he was taught to believe and his lived experiences. He declares unapologetically against the idea of a white God in a cultural and political circumstance in which White racist domination functions as an oppressive reality in the lives of Black folk. His new consciousness is expressed in the the cultivation of a new sense of self in which a rejection of European aesthetics and Theology is an ontological imperative. The dread-locked Rastafarian became a symbol of rebellion against White cultural domination, and was reviled and feared as a consequence.

Persecution was a fact of life in early Christianity until the Roman Emperor Constantine realized that he could domesticate the new religion and co-opt it for the cause of stabilizing and expanding the empire. Thus martyrdom gave way to Christendom, and the marriage of Church and State became a reality. Wherever it is the case that strands of religious dogma become the impetus for revolutionary change, the believer is martyred… persecuted and in some cases, annihilated. Alternately, the domesticability of new movements is exploited to further the ambitions of the State.

In societies that are strained by the burden of inequality, the very real antagonism between hope and despair in people's lives becomes the breeding ground for instability. The loss of hope, and the breeding of despair, are the context in which violence develops in such societies. A sense of hopelessness and the futility it generates, is the animus that drives people to do violence... to themselves… and to others.

Injustice is the bee in the bonnets of those who rise up against the status quo. It is a source of the torment expressed by its victim, which is in turn vented on everything and everyone within reach. In such circumstances the need to repair the breach results in the promotion of a choice between the bee in our bonnets and the butterflies in the philosophers’ boxes. To preempt the upset that injustice causes, the dispossessed are called on to defer their need of material fulfillment in favor of a spiritual life, and their desire of a hopeful future until an afterlife.

The question we must answer
More important than our reach for mystery and miracle, is the reality of how we view and treat those with whom we live, and move, and have our being. There is in fact a well established and very meaningful orthodoxy which declares that it is utter nonsense to talk about our fascination with gods we cannot see, while we foster a culture of inequity. The propagation of injustice is a direct contradiction of our claim to obedience to any loving God. It places our faith on tenuous ground, and nullifies all attempts, rhetorical and liturgical, to validate our stated beliefs.

Theological exercises that do not affirm the experiences and the needs of our common humanity are a gross misuse of physical and mental energy. Worse than that, they are potentially dangerous. To profess our love for, and our commitment to the butterflies in our boxes while we actively antagonize one another is to live
a lie. Lies have a tendency to erode our potential to live in authentic relationships. This is as true for each of us as it is for all of us. Lies negate and erode the life-enhancing potentials of individuals and of nations. A meaningful faith is one which finds expression through the cultivation of real equity in our stewardship of Earth and its fullness. Another word for equity... Justice.

In the physical, cultural, and political spaces in which we live out our lives we often have to confront the incongruities between the ideas that we have come to define ourselves by and the challenges that are inherent in the realities of our being together. The tensions herein are real and ongoing. Our efforts to resolve these tensions underline the necessity to engage philosophically with our selves and each other. The honest philosopher comes to acknowledge a truth that is universally affirmed: "There are more questions than answers; ... and the more we find out, the less we know". The less we know for sure that is.

Ultimately the most consequential question that we must answer is not about the nature of God. The responses to that philosophical piece are too subjective to be universally useful. We can agree that that question is indicative of a certain functional genius, and it most definitely has its place in our philosophical resumes. But the more pressing query is: Who is my neighbor, and am I his/her keeper? An affirmation of the wisdom and the duty implied in this question clears the path to the salvation we and our societies seek… and need.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Trump... From The Audacity Of Hope To The Atrocity Of Hate

... , sordid antivaccine history of Donald Trump – Respectful Insolence

"We're not gonna lose. We're gonna starting winning again, and we're gonna win bigly!". 

Witness the novel grandiloquence of one Donald J. Trump, soon to be the Nominee of the Republican Party for President of the United States. This declaration of his after winning the Indiana Primary summarized both his projections for his Primary campaign, and his analysis that the country was losing and that it would win bigly with his leadership. His followers cheered him. His opponents laughed at him. And those who entertain noble hopes for the future of America and the positive role she must play in world affairs let out a collective gasp. 

Trump took Indiana in the Primaries, and now he has taken that State's Governor, Mike Pence, as his Vice Presidential running mate. To compensate for his inability to make a coherent presentation on any aspect of American life and his lack of charisma, he conjures up an unsettling pomposity. Donald J. Trump parades his affluence with a grossness unbecoming of one who would lead a nation where the top one percent own more wealth that the bottom ninety percent. His "trophies", from Mara Lago to Trump Tower, all declare: 

If you are not me, you are a loser! Look at how bigly have succeeded... and how miserably the rest of you have failed!

Trump's pseudo-verbosity is devoid of meaningfulness. In terms of what we should expect of a presidential candidate and a world leader, he is the proverbial "empty suit". He insists that he is not a politician... of that we are sure. If by politician we mean: a person experienced in the science of government, or one engaged in conducting the business of government; then we are most certainly not speaking of Mr Donald Trump. He has demonstrated no real grasp of what is entailed in the position for which he lusts. Everything we have seen so far tells us that he possesses neither the temperament nor the character to be Commander In Chief.

What Trump lacks in substance he makes up for in bluster. He has demonstrated no fluency in any of the issues that demand the attention of an occupant of the Oval Office. What Mr Trump is very fluent in are the gross insults and indecent aspersions that he carelessly discharges at anyone who dares to require him to speak intelligently and cogently to any issue. "Lyin Ted!". "Little Marco". "Low energy Jeb!". "Crooked Hillary!". This is the sum of the Trump critique of his opponents... coupled of course with National Enquireresque insinuations to match.  In place of any effort to be a meaningfully articulate candidate, what we have in Trump is a carnival barker. 

Given his current negatives among most polled demographics, his chances of being elected to the Presidency are close to zero. Of course there are the knights of the White Nationalist sect, ready to ride with him. He is their declared messiah, their one true hope, their prospect to make America hate again! Candidate Trump's dog whistles to racist elements in the national body politic have become full blown clarion calls. So much so, that these elements show up at his rallies ready to punch African Americans in their faces...with the promise that he will defend them. 

Trump is perceived as being such a liability to the GOP that many of their most prominent officials have vowed never to vote for him. Many Republicans are shaking in their political boots at the down-ticket implications of an election that has him at the head of the ticket. No living former Republican President will show up for his convention. Mitt Romney will not be there. McCain will miss it. Paul Ryan will hold his nose and do his duty as Party leader. And the list of Congress persons that will take a pass on sitting in Trump's shadow in Cleveland, Ohio, keeps growing.

All considered, Trump's ascendance to the the top of the Republican ticket is in fact the ultimate expression of political poetic justice. This is the chicken that the GOP has hatched after seven years of roosting with a reactionary TeaParty. They now find themselves in the awkward position of desperately wanting to defeather their own hatchling. This is without doubt a painful existential moment for the Grand Ole Party. When they look at the face of this bombastic offspring of their own reactionary overindulgence they see themselves... And it is not a pretty sight. They would love to snuff out his political breath, or put a cork in his outrageous mouth... but it is too late. Short of breaking his proverbial wings with the blunt force of some kind of obstructive maneuver, they are helpless. They are at the mercy of his bombast and bluster. The GOP is now left to tend to its own self-inflicted wounds. 

In Donald Trump the nation is presented with the choice of rising with the audacity of Hope, or flailing around in the stranglehold of Hate. To be clear, his candidacy is indicative of the latter. The time to boo and snicker is past. What is at stake here is more than just the usual promoted-for-profit theatrics of American political life. Let us not become victims of our own complacency. In the words of two-term President Barack Obama... "Don't boo. Vote!"

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Beyond Our Fears... Updated

In a world constantly evolving toward greater efficiency in our occupation and use of time and space, we are being challenged more and more to be greater adepts in our perception of the values and communal objectives we must develop in order to coexist peacefully. The alternatives to peaceful coexistence in the brave new world that advances in technology and the challenges of our political environment are foisting upon us are not always attractive. We can learn to live together, or we can foolishly choose to suffer the consequences of our existential myopia.

Ultimately we must come to realize that a precondition to prospering together is the establishment of Justice. To live into this consciousness is to thrive in accordance with our most primitive instinct… the will to survive. That will to survive must be understood in terms of our Us-ness… our connectedness of being. The us against them mentality that has become a feature of our communal experience is at best an uncritical assumption born of fear; at worst it is a tool being used to further the cause of those who think they can continue to benefit from it. The violence that is a built in feature of this corrupted way of being will continue to wreak havoc among us as long as it is allowed to define our perception of things. This corrupted view of our shared humanity must be allowed to expire. There are now technologies available to us that make us or them an unviable choice. Behaviors that articulate the prospect of our mutual annihilation are inimical to progress in our world.
<b>Unity</b> Hands - ClipArt Best

In the interest of a nation and a world that can continue to develop and prosper, we... whether we find ourselves in Asia, in Africa, in Europe, in the Americas, or in the Middle East…; or in New York, or Louisiana, or Minnesota, or Ferguson... We must identify and connect with those ways of being that enhance our own fecundity, and the fecundity of our neighbors. We must face the fact that there is no wall that we can build that will negate the essential interconnectedness that has always been, and remains even now, a physical, cultural, and technological reality of our lives.

There is no greatness that is a product of the parochialism being fostered by greedy, insecure little persons who have so far failed to resolve the anxieties they harbor in their own corrupted souls. The only lasting resolution to the fears that haunt the purveyors of division in our world comes from a certain death... the dying of corrupted egos. 

We can attempt to shrink our world to fit our uncritical perspectives; but expanding our horizons to be more facilitating of the shared needs of our common humanity remains our only real hope for a secure future. Those who have ears to hear... let them hear.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Black Lives Matter!... History vs Histrionics

A number of prominent commentators in American media are twisting themselves into unfortunate rhetorical and pseudo-factual knots in their efforts to delegitimize the Black Lives Matter movement. It is worthy of note that this relatively young civil rights action now has growing International support in its efforts to draw attention to the outrageous actions of some white actors in our law enforcement community. One such commentator is the very prominent former Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, who, in his usual cultural incoherence, recently called BLM "inherently racist". Commentators like the former Mayor seem to find a certain inconvenience in those little facts of life we have collected and know as the history of our nation.

According to Victor E. Kappeler PhD, Foundation Professor and Dean of the School of Justice Studies in the College of Justice and Safety at Eastern Kentucky University:

Eric Garner Chokehold Death: NY <b>Police</b> Union Chief Praises Grand Jury ..."The institution of slavery and the control of minorities, ... were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing. Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behavior of minorities."

Professor Kappeler, whose work in this area is recognized worldwide, strengthens his assertions via other scholarly sources (Turner, Giacopassi and Vandiver) who point out:

"... the literature clearly establishes that a legally sanctioned law enforcement system existed in America before the Civil War for the express purpose of controlling the slave population and protecting the interests of slave owners.The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement."

Professor Kappeler underlines these observations when he states:

"In no small part because of the tradition of slavery, Blacks have long been targets of abuse. The use of patrols to capture runaway slaves was one of the precursors of formal police forces, especially in the South. This disastrous legacy persisted as an element of the police role even after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In some cases, police harassment simply meant people of African descent were more likely to be stopped and questioned by the police, while at the other extreme, they have suffered beatings, and even murder, at the hands of White police. Questions still arise today about the disproportionately high numbers of people of African descent killed, beaten, and arrested by police in major urban cities of America."

Anyone witnessing the blatant criminal brutality demonstrated in the actions of members of police forces in today's Louisiana, Minneapolis, Ferguson, New York City, South Carolina, Tulsa, and other American cities and states, must stop to reflect on the origins of American policing as documented by Kappeler and other such scholars. There can be no doubt that the behavior of the officers in question, and those who continue to attempt to justify their behavior, must be understood in the context of this history. We must not be distracted by the usual red herring of "black on black violence" constantly being waved in our faces by those who will not face up to the facts of racism in our police practice

It is a well known fact that the majority of crimes in any group are committed by members of that group. There are criminals in every demographic, we make no excuses for any of them. To point however to the prevalence of criminal activity in certain inner city neighborhoods as a means of bypassing the very real issue of racism in law enforcement is nothing more than an excuse for continuing to provide cover for those who need to be weeded out of our police forces and prosecuted. The struggle in which Black Lives Matter is engaged seeks to create and maintain a focus on the reality that the terror that characterized slave society continues in the actions of White police officers who have a view of people of color rooted in the dynamics of Slavery and its aftermath.

To Rudy Giuliani and others like himself I would say... Let us not forget our history. As terribly inconvenient as it may be to those who would resist needed change, we have a moral duty to continue to shine a bright light on the unfortunate legacy of a holocaust that lasted over 400 years. Not to do so is to create for ourselves a potentially tragic path forward. The wisdom of learning from our past is nourishment for all of us, and more than that... it is the medicine we need. It has been noted that "In the abundance of water, the fool remains thirsty." The evidence of the existence of an insidious bigotry is all around us. Numbers don't lie. People of color are tracked, harassed, shot, arrested, and imprisoned at a rate far disproportionate to our segment of the population. Ultimately there is no reasonable justification for this from any reputable source.

It may well be the case that in the course of the rat race that typifies the efforts of some commentators to get paid, moral compromises in analysis are par for the course. Those hired to offer such analysis must balance their own existential needs with the demands of truthfulness. The debate about matters of life and death in which we are engaged can get very heated. We sometimes experience reality from perspectives informed by... our various needs? The glare of television, the temptations of fame, our anxieties about maintaining the status quo, the appeal of dollar signs... all these things tug against our tongues and our thoughts. We may be pulled to and fro between our prejudices and principle... Ultimately however, histrionics are no substitute for history.

Friday, July 8, 2016

I Know What Terror Is... I Am A Black American

I previously published this piece under the title: "On The Matter Of Living And Dying ...It Gets Personal". I am updating it in light of recent tragedies in our society. #Louisiana #Texas #Minnesota #AltonSterling #PhilandoCastile #MicahXaviorJohnson

<b>Dallas</b> <b>shooting</b> suspect refuses to disarm. Image via social media.

I am a father of black children and grandchildren in this society. I have black brothers and sisters. An enduring fact of my life is that I find myself torn between the angst born of a concern for our safety, and the outrage I experience from witnessing the blatant wickedness of a system of institutionalized injustice. I watch and I listen to the expletives and the explanations that come in the course of the tragedies that this systemic injustice breeds, and I find myself struggling to maintain the moral and cultural equilibrium that I have come to idealize as a function of the hopes I have for a more humane world. The gut-wrenching tension between my hopes and my misgivings are at times very difficult to bear.

Danger is a fact of life. Unfortunate things happen, some of which we have little or no control over. There are bad people of every stripe whose lack of a moral compass wreak havoc in the lives of individuals and communities. In a civilized society we seek through the various agencies of the Law, to curb, if not eliminate, the chaos that bad people cause. The contradiction that plagues us has to do with the fact that some of those entrusted with the duty to maintain order are themselves the agents of chaos. There are poisoners among those who heal. There are arsonists among our firemen. There are murderers and robbers among our police. Some of our elected officials are the scum of the earth. There are perverts among our clergy. In a culture corrupted by these facts... Truth is fiction. This is the unfortunate reality that complicates our quest for civil society. The threats are many and overwhelming, but my main focus here is with the problems involving law-enforcement... Specifically the murderous inclination of some white officers toward black folk.

The murder of our people by officers who have little or no regard for Black Lives must end. The criminals posing in "blue" must come to realize that the filth they represent will no longer be tolerated among us. Their actions are foul... They stink to high heavens. We are well aware of the history that bred these brutes. We are talking about the history of the exploitation and dehumanization of people of color. I am talking about a holocaust that lasted over four hundred years. We are talking about the indelible stain of Slavery and its aftermath. We are talking about Jim Crow and the KKK. We are talking about the Confederacy and Segregation. We are talking about the ignorance that breeds a culture of hate which spawns discrimination and murder. We are talking about white cops finding chicken shit reasons to track and threaten us. We are talking about them shooting us and choking us and lynching us in their jails...and then employing the tactic of "testi-lying" to cover up their crimes. The summary execution of persons whose only crime is living while Black must end. America's aspiration to true greatness will remain unfulfilled while this tragic circumstance persists.

The time for soothing our sorrows with platitudes that were formulated and imposed by our oppressors is past. Our quickness to talk about "forgiveness" is not just theologically deficient, its is culturally and legally perverse. The "Amazing Grace" of God is only meaningful in the context of an active application for forgiveness. True change is a function of repentance. Racists must not have their wickedness quickly expunged by our propensity to reach for a religious balm, so that they can continue to facilitate our victimization. Empty religious supplications are no substitute for necessary justice. A god who watches us being oppressed and killed so that we can marvel at his amazing grace is a joker... and a cruel one at that. I prefer the God who "delivers us out of the house of bondage"... And I know that such a Being has no hands but mine. I prefer the God who demands that sinners repent as a prerequisite for saving their asses... I mean their sinful souls.

The time is now when we must get out of the pews and on to the streets. It is time to make laws that serve Justice. Regulations that permit the indiscriminate use of deadly force that we have witnessed all over the country historically, and that in recent times have elicited the  outcry: Black Lives Matter!', must be removed. Every cop must be required to wear body cameras. All jails must be monitored constantly. Talking back to a police officer is a civil and human right. The mantra of every cop must be to protect and serve, not to dehumanize and destroy. Communities, through their leaders, must become active in qualifying and hiring the men and women who police them. Weeding out those who have no business wearing the badge has always been a challenge... But it must become and remain a priority. It is time to bring the full force of the law to bear against the brute force of the unworthy in our police forces. It is time for us to get involved in our politics with a new vigor. We need to elect Judges and District Attorneys who will prioritize the pursuit of Justice over the financial and political support of police unions.

In the final analysis we all want change. But the Change we need will only come when we end the complacency that results in our non-participation in the political life of our communities and our nation. Our tears will make no difference until they are matched by the profuse sweat that comes from the hard work of acting together to build the kind of society where Peace and Justice are shared values. This requires real activism. It requires that we translate our civic concerns to political decisions at the ballot box. As long as those who victimize us can bet on our continued complacency, as long as we retreat from our duties as activist citizens, as long as we think that our vote and our presence wont make a difference... Until these things change among us .. Our tears will be in vain.

We are talking about matters of life and death. In these matters we do not have the luxury of being indifferent ... I am an African American, I know what terror is. Every time we step out of our dwellings into the spaces where we seek to live out our lives... It becomes personal.

Of Paradise Despised... Poetry For A Day Such As This

Ray <b>Of Hope</b> - <b>illustrations</b> for a horror game on Behance
Shanty towns ...of heated browns
Blighted spirits weighted down
On bended knees ...to hierarchies
Of powers in conflict that compete for the loyalties of those oppressed
By the hardened heart of wickedness
And their own sense of void...

Wanton wasted brokenness
That looks at life through blood-tainted eyes...
Rancid stench of wickedness...
Dark arresting passions of a sinful nakedness
Raging red... Till death and Hell
Confirm the dreadfull truths ...Of Paradise despised
And lives that bought into a lie...

*** *** *** ***             *** *** *** ***

And when we sorrow for the lives of our sons
Who engage in the violence of their mutual despair
Will our tears yet quench the barren-ness
Of this heated state in which we live...?

And can we stop this crimson rain
This predestined clash of conflicting loyalties
If we replace the shanty towns
With fertile places unconfined...?

*** *** *** ***          *** *** *** ***

And on this rise
From which we survey the woe-begotten aftermath
Of a Megiddo inspired conflagration
We retire to wipe our tears
And find a place to build a house of hope
Through which flows the eternal spring
Of that Love that softens hearts ...Restoring hope
And heals the broken-ness
Of every passionate soul

(From my book...Of Paradise Despised... And lives that bought into a lie)

We Have Seen The Enemy...

Culture: the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and ...

The possibilities for the corruption of our communal experiences are ever present. They are as close as every insecurity we harbor about our chances of “making it “ in the world in which we live. They are as real as every prejudice we cultivate about those we have not taken the time and effort to get to know and understand. They are as alive as every hateful impulse cultivated by those who have allowed fear to overshadow the possibilities of our shared humanity. They are as present as every effort we have refused or ignored to take toward our own development and prosperity. As far as the existence of the threats that keep us awake at night are concerned… we have seen the enemy, and it is in many instances… us.

It has become a function of convenient habit, both for individuals and groups, to point the finger at others in our pursuit of the villains responsible for the corruption of our ever shrinking world. The truth, however, may be more clear if we take a moment to examine the influences that are playing a role in our own cultural formation. Chief among these are the blatant violations of our common humanity that we see daily in a culture of injustice that exploits the superficial differences of our human experience. No matter where we come from, or what color our skins are, or what our gender orientation is; we all hurt when we are shot, or burned, or bombed. We all grieve for loved ones caught in the violence we witness all around us almost daily.

Almost reflexively, we point our fingers at others as the main cause of our grief. It is always easier to identify the causes of the dysfunctions we face and the grief that comes with those dysfunctions in the intentions and behaviors of other individuals, or groups, or nations. The time has come when we must face the uncomfortable truth that there is as much of us in them as there are ...them. In our daily experiences we are not just victims... we are also guilty in so many ways of being perpetrators of the culture of injustice that haunts and corrupts our lives as individuals and as communities. The truth of this is most evident in our closest relationships, in our business practices, in the culture of graft and self-aggrandizement that we indulge in at each others expense. Ultimately our world will get better we we become better as individuals.

Our lives and our mutual prosperity matter, and we must evidence that as a constant function of our every behavior. That is as true for every individual as it must be for every group. While we must be vigilant in securing our humanity against the assaults of others, we have as equal a responsibility to develop our own human potentials by every just means available to us. Beyond this, we must guard against our cultural propensity to inflict the harm on others that we do not want to be the victims of ourselves. The Golden Rule must become and remain the standard that we aspire to in our efforts to create peaceful and prosperous communities.

As members of societies evolving toward a greater operation of Justice, we have a sacred duty to be part of the articulation and institution of laws that embody the universal scope of the ancient code that expresses and protects our claims to a common humanity. There can be no justification, religious or otherwise, for our denial of equal treatment to those we perceive to be different. To do so is antithetical to the nurturing of the greater civility that a truly moral community aspires to.

We have no magic wand with which to wave away the sources of our grief. If we did we might find to our own dismay that we ourselves might disappear after that fateful wave. Beyond the rule of more just laws, our world becomes a better place one life at a time. It begins with the courage, with the determination, with our efforts to be better persons for our own benefit... and for the good of each other.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Nail On Which The Robe Of Justice Hangs

In the absence of a codified and enforced system of values that seeks to guarantee the basic rights of individuals and groups to shared space, and to fair access to the resources in that space, conflict thrives. Whenever the most basic of our human aspirations, the need and the right to survive, is threatened by a disregard for the most fundamental code... to be treated as fellow human beings... we have the most fundamental reason for, and a cause of the violence that is all too often a parent of the insecurity that then arms us for more violence. In the presence and operation of a system of behavior that violates the humanity of others, the us against them mentality thrives.

The code: Do unto others as you would have them do to you... must have universal application in order to be valid. It must not, and cannot make exceptions for skin color, class, national origin, religious belief, gender, physical disability or ability, sexual orientation, or idiosyncrasies of any kind or cause. The prejudices implicit in these various convenient classifications have been prime factors in the victimization of individuals and groups throughout history.

In their efforts to justify the claims that serve their unjust perceptions and behaviors, groups have articulated and appealed to less civilizing, and blatantly inferior statutes. But despite every attempt to sanitize these corruptions of civility, we know beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is no law more complete in its distribution of justice than that which is outlined in the code above... there is a reason we agree that it is the golden rule. In fact this code has been the foundation of every viable system of justice predating the earliest recorded civilizations... prior to Hammurabi, and before Moses. The obvious moral validity of this rule stands out through the present day. It is the nail on which the protective coat called Justice hangs... and must hang.

The engendering and proliferation of the us against them mentality is in its very essence a dynamic that results when a group or individual perceives others as threats to their occupation of communal space, and to their access to the resources in that space. The culture that proceeds from this kind of mentality corrupts the very perception of what community should be, and consequently every single relationship in every unit that makes up community. This expression of a corrupted humanity is the dynamic at work in societies that foster racism, sexism and genderism, and every form of economic and social inequality.

The conflicts that inevitably result from the violations of one's humanity by another have tragic consequences. Us against them as an operating principle in any society leads to violence. It does so because the logical outcome of such a perception of life is a conclusion that declares: Us or them! The angst that this corruption of the possibilities of our human experience stirs is aptly expressed in a speech that then Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia delivered before the United Nations on October 6, 1963:

"... until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man's skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained; ... "

The assertions of the late Emperor of Ethiopia are as true then as they are now. They are as applicable to the world in which we now live, a world beset by the threat of terrorism in its every nook and crannyas they were then to nations facing the existential threat of fascism.


Like Lilies In Spring

There is a bulb buried deep inside us all that longs for the end of the season of dormancy. It contains, and is the symbol of all our ...