Archive for January, 2011

Be patient. The puppets are being rearranged.

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

“Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”  – the Who

“Be merciful O Lord.”  – the People

I’ll miss you, Jack.

Friday, January 28th, 2011

When I was a kid, I went to church and people tried to impress me with how long eternity is. It’s a long time. They asked me to imagine a ball of steel the size of Earth, and a fly walking around its circumference. They asked me to imagine that fly walking around and around until it wore the ball in half. Then, they told me: that’s just the beginning of eternity.

Which is how long Jesus claims we live. Backwards and forwards, I guess. It’s remarkable how some people believe, this incomprehensibly vast life of ours is defined and determined by an instant spent wandering here. If he’s talking about any kind of life I recognize, then these few physical decades must be just another thing we happen to do. When Jack finally ‘ruined his reputation’ by dying the other day, my guess is he kept right on working out.

I loved Jack because he was so enthusiastic and strong, and he was what he was just because he decided to be. He said, “you must be psycho if you don’t have fifteen minutes a day to exercise.” And he claimed he didn’t like it that much, himself. He liked living, and being strong and enthusiastic, and he found out anyone could, just by exercising to exhaustion. Then he proved it by doing it. He was the real heroic stuff. Thanks for the time, Jack. See you forever.

It must be hard to be a kid, today.

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

The president talked about the ‘state of the union’ last night. As I listened to the disheartening speech by the guy to his rich friends, crowing about how they were still rich, and exhorting them to get richer by training their workers to be scientists and engineers – I realized, wow, my kids really have nothing to look forward to.

What you want to be is one of the rich folks enjoying the booming stock market. What you want to be is one of the billionaire entrepreneurs who do nothing all day except talk on TV. What you want to be is one of the bankers who get saved by the government whenever they steal themselves into trouble. What you want to be is one of those kids who inherit all that money, and make popular videos of themselves having sex with their friends.

What you get is a math class where you do the same thirty problems every day, so you can compete on an annual government exam which confirms how hopeless your situation is. What you get, if you work really hard, and pass up all the fun things that waste your time, is the chance to be a struggling engineer for a company owned by one of those kids on the video tape. What you get is to ‘out-compete’ for the rich guys. Oh boy.

‘miraculous’

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

We still want miracles. The Congresswoman’s survival makes me feel hopeful, and thankful, and proud – all sorts of nonsensical things, but mainly, good. People from all corners are saying ‘miraculous’ as if they mean it. Later, however she turns out, we’ll have to go back and analyze the perfectly rational scientific explanations.

I’m pretty sure miracles happen all the time. I think they must always be private affairs. I can’t imagine God, so I can only examine his effect. If there really were publicly undeniable, arbitrary, divine actions – I can’t imagine we could be as we are. If God loves us enough to give us freedom of choice, it seems unlikely he’ll make a mockery of it by forcing us one way or the other. How can we choose to love whom we’re forbidden to reject?

But clearly there are miracles. Stephen Hawking is alive. Each of us knows our own. Jesus said there are those standing here today, who will not taste of death until they see him coming in his glory. He isn’t known for lying. I am thrilled there is so much faith in the country, we can, at least in this small way, share in his promise.

The knowledge of good, and evil

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Imagine if, as a child,  you were taught, and came to believe, all that makes you different from other animals is: not that you have ‘the knowledge of good and evil,’ but rather, God gave you ‘the knowledge of good, and [the thing,] evil.’

My little boy asked if he could spend the night, alone with his best friend, in the woods. He asked if he could take some matches. Were I in the NRA, I would ‘pooh-pooh’ the matches, and give him a handful of zippos with a couple bottles of lighter fluid. How odd that unrestricted weapons distribution is championed with the phrase, ‘guns don’t kill people, people do,’ – which seems the strongest argument imaginable to keep firearms away from them.

As young adults, in college with lots of affluent students pondering social responsibility, we learned America, with only a few percent of the world’s population, used a quarter of its resources. We knew this was wrong, and in our hearts we knew the nation had to give up its privilege. So we did two things. We stood watching as the middle class asphyxiated, and we each clawed our way as far up the mast as we could while the ship sank. Affluent liberals, in their hearts, have believed letting America decline was the moral thing to do. Blame it on who you will.

Health Care USA: day one

Friday, January 14th, 2011

My friend scheduled her baby to be born May 17, at 9:00 AM. The birth can be scheduled precisely because she’ll have a ‘C-section,’ which means her belly will be slit open and the unborn fetus removed. Doctors prefer C-sections to ‘vaginal’ births, because many can be scheduled each day, and they can charge more for them. Let’s say $15,000 for this one. My friend will be kept comfortable in the hospital, surrounded by staff continually reassuring her she’s well cared for, and her family and friends will offer all their encouragement and support.

She could instead have her baby at home, tended by midwives, for about $2,000. The birth would be at least as safe as a hospital birth, and the child would grow into a healthier adult. But if she tries to contact medical people for advice, she will be aggressively rejected; her peers will roll their eyes in shock and relate how their babies would have died outside the hospital; and her family will grieve and plead with her not to threaten the life of their anticipated relative.

Medicine is the secular religion in our country today. It plays the role people once assigned to God. Facing the unknown, we turn to a doctor. Completely submissive and obedient, we follow medical prescriptions carefully, so if something goes wrong we know, at least, we were faithful to the highest authority. We believe we did the best we could.

Retraction

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

On November 25, 2010, I wrote, ‘…our representatives will stop at nothing, ever, to overwhelm Republican obstructionism and pass legislation holding the country to its democratic ideals.’ This was not true. Of course we will stop at some things. Christian socialists will stop at many things. We live, firstly, from our faith in God, and in the most desperate conflict we continue to deplore deceitfulness, treachery, and murder.

We are in desperate conflict. We live in a time when dominant parties see the opportunity to strip liberty from the people and assign power to a financial tyranny – from now on. Those who should serve their constituencies, have instead chosen to herd them into permanently antagonistic identity groups, and bully them with fear tactics into compliant and submissive subjects.

I have thought long and hard about my decision to engage in inflammatory rhetoric. The people in my close society are indeed whipped up by a variety of public voices encouraging hatred, and condemning by name, those of us who are ‘liberals’ and ‘socialists,’ as if we deserve to be, well, shot.

I have studied group hatred and the power of ideas, and I believe when people assign hatred to a label, it is useful, maybe even necessary, to display them to themselves as potential victims of the same kind of labeling. Sooner or later, someone must stand before the mob, and direct its attention to the people sitting safely behind, goading the crowd on. But in the event that happens, I pray people choose to do only one thing. I pray they will vote.

Dignity and the fate of the country

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Have you ever watched a child who doesn’t want to do a chore? They swell up, imagining they’re bigger than anybody. They’re furious in their helplessness. They feel bad. They want to feel good. Finally, they screw themselves way up tight and blurt it out: “I’m not going to do it and you can’t make me!”

What you do then, defines the adult you may have forgotten you’re raising. The chore must, and will, be done. The child can be given a way to feel strong and grow through the experience. The child can be humiliated and broken into submission. Or the child can be aggravated and encouraged, by empty threats and false promises, to feel justified in her rage, and even allowed to finish the chore later under the pretense of acting out his own will.

This last, I guess some parents believe, preserves dignity and a sense of self-direction. In fact it promotes a deep selfishness, and an inability to separate real challenges from meaningless impositions. So it’s very useful later to powerful adults, who’ve learned how to fan a rage of indignation while taking advantage of the indignant. Helpless subordinates enjoy their temper tantrum, then walk off to serve their masters; believing they really ‘had their say’ that day.

We’ve had thirty years of steady repression of the American workforce, and the helpless rage now being fanned across the country, to keep control of an ugly agenda, has pretty much paralyzed a lot of us. Try to remember, democracy isn’t a joke.

Campaign 2012 (3)

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

A working person who votes for a Republican is a stupid person. That’s a fact.

Republicans repeatedly say they want to repeal the health care law and restore private death panels. They vow to protect rich people from ever paying into any scheme to help the less fortunate. They insist billion dollar corporations must review elderly Americans’ lives, one by one, to determine if they’re worth insuring. Republicans want your grandmother to die from an ailment easily cured, if only she could pay for it.

As Democrats, christian socialists believe eliminating profit-hungry insurance companies, and offering health care as a necessary public service, will transform Americans’ relationships with medicine. We believe responsible participation, by all of us, will result in much better health, at a far lower cost to each of us.

Here we are. Let’s do something.

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Most of us can’t realistically conceive of a future more than six months away. That is, we don’t, really, believe we’ll have anything to do with it. We can’t see ourselves being there. I remember reading about this years ago, and putting it aside. But here we are, and the fact is, most of us lived our lives like – there’s no tomorrow.

Perhaps this isn’t an accident. We evolved to be what we are. Maybe our purpose is to express it.

Those of us who come here today, come together. We were children together, and we were told not to do what we wanted. We did anyway. The people who once sent us to war, now use our money to pay bankers, and send our grandkids to war. The people who imprisoned us for growing our hair long and smoking marijuana, now imprison our kids for publishing the truth. The people who once shot our girlfriends at Kent State, now tell us they’ve spent the money we saved for our wives’ health care.

We’ve just started showing up, really. Only a few have arrived, but many, many more are coming. Let’s remember who we are. Let’s learn from the long, strange trip. Question authority. Don’t trust anyone under sixty. If your crazy friend wants to stand up and give a speech, give him a listen. Turn up the music and dance, dance, dance.