Posts Tagged ‘material poverty’

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 132: Katrina again.

September 28, 2017

P45_mj

Football.
Millionaires who play games for a living, funding an industry that derives hundreds of millions of dollars selling everything that can be sold under the guise of professional sports.

3.4 million Americans are stranded on Puerto Rico, victims of the most devastating hurricane in history, and American news is full of stories about professional football players, many of whom are incredibly wealthy, living in Privileged comfort.

Of course, the real story isn’t about football and flags; the story is about America’s shameful history of Race.

Let me repeat: 3.4 million Americans are stranded on Puerto Rico, victims of the most damaging hurricane in history. They are without food, they are without water, they are without power. FEMA has sent aid; and the aid is sitting on the docks.

President Donald Trump has made it clear his administration isn’t planning to allow any additional outside aid to get into Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday afternoon [9/27], the president cited business interests as the reason for refusing calls from lawmakers and activists to allow international organizations and governments to ship aid to the island.         Newsweek

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says food, water, and other supplies have reached Puerto Rico a week after Hurricane Maria plowed through the island, and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and shipping firms concur. Most of the 3.4 million Americans on Puerto Rico haven’t gotten that aid, so CBS News correspondent David Begnaud went to find out what’s happening. He found some 3,000 shipping containers sitting at the docks in San Juan, the capital, he said on Wednesday’s CBS Evening News; most of them are filled with relief supplies, and some of them have been there since before Hurricane Irma hit, three weeks ago.
The problems, according to Rossellé and the shipping companies, are many and frustrating. Roads are still blocked or flooded around the island, truck drivers are tending to their damaged homes, their trucks were destroyed, they don’t have fuel, or they’re incommunicado because electricity and cellphone service are out across the U.S. territory, and the bus drivers Rosselló is trying to recruit to drive trucks in their stead have the same problems. In the meantime, nearly half the island doesn’t have potable water, food and water are scare, “gasoline has become like liquid gold,” Begnaud says, and there are lines for everything. You can watch his report below. Peter Weber

Katrina again.

The victims tend to have brown skin, rather than pink skin. Only the dead have white skin. And many are dead.

Instead of demanding that our Government solve the problems of distribution [we can], people are arguing all over the Internet about whether or not someone is disrespecting the flag by not standing; when the Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that Americans are protected by the Constitution when they decide not to stand during the National Anthem; and when they refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag:

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943), is a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States holding that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protected students from being forced to salute the American flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance in school. The Court’s 6–3 decision, delivered by Justice Robert H. Jackson, is remembered for its forceful defense of free speech and constitutional rights generally as being placed “beyond the reach of majorities and officials.”

I quit pledging my allegiance to the flag when I realized that America was built on the graves of the indigenous people who were killed so that the white population could practice their Manifest Destiny. As a follower of Jesus, I cannot in good conscious support a government that refuses to acknowledge the crimes that were committed to getting to this place in history.
This place in history where our President refuses to do everything in his power to rescue citizens of his country. Instead, he shames African Americans who protest the murders of African Americans by white police officers who receive no punishment.

Lynching, again.

The President uses language on global television that would have landed me in great trouble by my father, growing up. He uses language that should be an affront to every Believer in Scripture, regardless of the Scripture being read.
The depravity continues to make me ashamed of our government; and mocks every person who has died defending this country.

Liberty_mj

 

 

 

 

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Chronicles in Ordinary Time 131: An Open Letter to the US Senate

September 21, 2017

Lincoln_mj_

I get it.
You believe that adequate Health Care in America is not a right, it is a privilege. A privilege belonging to US Senators, members of the US Congress; a privilege granted to millionaires and above. Your bosses, the 565 billionaires in this country1 and your other bosses, the pharmaceutical companies and those that run health insurance companies, are threatening your jobs, if you don’t cut their taxes. I realize that the only way to cut taxes, given the current Senatorial budget rules, is to cut expenses. The easiest expenses to cut are those that affect the ‘least important’ people in this country: seniors, the disabled, the underemployed, Veterans who have served and sacrificed for this country, and the poor. Women. Because in America, women only earn 80% of that earned by men; except in the US Senate and the US Congress. Those ‘least important people’ whose only crime, the most important crime of all, is that they haven’t been born rich.

I get it.
You work hard for your money.

The average member will pocket $174,000 while showing up to the office just 145 out of 261 work days in 2017, according to the updated calendar released by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
For reference, the median American income in 2015 was $56,516, according to Census data, while the average employee reported working 47 hours a week ― nearly six days ― and taking just 14 days off per year. 2

I understand that you believe you deserve the best healthcare that money can buy.
One of the problems is that you aren’t actually paid by your bosses—specified above—you are paid by the poor shmucks who actually cast votes for you; and THE POOR SCHMUCKS WHO PAY YOUR EARNINGS THROUGH THEIR TAXES. Those taxes that your bosses want cut, so they won’t have to pay so much of your wages. They will still fund the campaigns that get you elected; they will continue to pay you under the table for the good service you provide, like any other server in this country. Except that most of the servers in this country serve lousy tippers.
UNLESS YOU PASS LEGISLATION THAT CRIPPLES THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT.

Some of your billionaire bosses are talking about not funding your jobs, next election cycle, if you don’t manage to get this one thing done. All that’s necessary is to remove from the health care roles, all those people who ‘didn’t deserve’ health care in the first place—those who’s crime was not being born rich. Those people who actually used the health care system in this country. Those people who will die, because they can’t get the health care they need, and they won’t be a problem anymore. That’s all you need to do; correct the mistake by killing off millions of people. Simple.
It doesn’t matter that insurance companies, who started receiving monies from millions of the newly-insured and those who don’t currently need health care, started jacking up the prices of private health insurance and the cost of pharmaceuticals—simply because they could. And the bottom line made your bosses even wealthier. Kill off the weak, before the strong need to use the system. Preserve profits.

You’ve been hard at work during this year. You have financially crippled the Environment Protection Agency; you have financially crippled nearly all the human service organizations; you have financially crippled nearly every Agency that endeavors to make life in America work better for those who weren’t born rich. Because that President you don’t want to talk about endeavored to improve the quality of life in America; and enabled millions of people to be able to Afford Health Care.

And you have fed America’s Eternal War Machine so that our military budget dwarfs that of every other country on the planet, and still they want more.

US military budgets

When our current President gets the nuclear war with North Korea that he so ardently wants to have happen, to prove how Big he is, our spending on the Military-Industrial Complex will skyrocket, and all of your bosses will have a field day. Meanwhile 25.37 million North Koreans will die, because the leader of their country is just as juvenile as our own.

You were elected to serve the needs of the American people.
When are you going to grow up, and act like responsible adults?

 

1https://www.forbes.com/sites/kerryadolan/2017/03/20/forbes-2017-billionaires-list-meet-the-richest-people-on-the-planet/#3e05fd4562ff
2https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwimhZ-Z4rXWAhVBHmMKHTkWAXgQFggoMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.huffingtonpost.com%2Fentry%2Fhouse-representatives-calendar-2017_us_583ef06ae4b0c33c8e133590&usg=AFQjCNGIQZeK3EKty32BVZbEREJU6bkzFw

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 129: Telling our stories

August 26, 2017

7 Doctors

I just started reading Time And Relative Dimensions In Faith [TARDIF], by Andrew Crome and James McGrath; an academic work that is written to be accessible to those outside academia. For those who aren’t aware, Doctor Who began broadcasting on British television in the early 1960s and has continued until the present. The series has given birth to dozens of novels, audiobooks and graphic novels, as well as the hundreds of television episodes and a few movies; Doctor Who fans span the globe. While I am not a “Whovian,” I am a fan; and have spent a lot of time this year and last, creating my own Doctor Who illustrations. The Doctor has been able to stay on British television for over 50 years by the plot device of enabling The Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, to ‘rejuvenate’ every few years; remaining the same person, but displaying a different face, and a different personality after each ‘rejuvenation’. The newest version of The Doctor is female; the first female Doctor in history [although not the first Time Lord to switch genders during rejuvenation] and is over 2,000 years old. The Doctor, and his various Companions [usually human] travel through time and space in the TARDIS, a somewhat broken device that is very much larger on in the inside than it is on the outside. The TARDIS has a camouflage device that broke in the 1960s while camouflaging itself as a British Police Call Box; The Doctor has never bothered to fix it. People walk by the TARDIS all the time and rarely see it.

Some quotations:

Doctor Who: “It’s not just work, it’s your life. And it’s a human need to be told stories. The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible. Or, what’s impossible? What’s a fantasy?”
Last Christmas [2015]

Astrid: This Christmas thing? What’s it about?
The Doctor: Long story. I should know. I was there. I got the last room.
Doctor Who: Voyage of the Damned [2007]

The Doctor: Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life… an unimportant life… a life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age. That’s… what defines a species.
Thin Ice [2017]

The Doctor: You forgot the last time. You remembered the fear and you put it into fairy stories. It’s a human superpower, forgetting. If you remembered how things felt, you’d have stopped having wars. And stopped having babies.
Doctor Who: In the Forest of the Night [2014]

While I no longer pore over the news, as I did earlier in the year, I do read news articles for a couple hours every couple of days. Current events are extremely troubling. I’m reminded of another story:

             I will impersonate a man. His name… Alonso Quijana.
A country gentleman, no longer young.
Being retired, he has much time for books.
He studies them from morn till night…
and often through the night till morn again.
And all he reads oppresses him…
fills him with indignation…
at man’s murderous ways towards man.
He ponders the problem… how to make better a world…
Where fraud, deceit, and malice are mingled with
truth and sincerity.

              He broods and broods and broods and broods…
and broods and finally his brains dry up.
He lays down the melancholy burden of sanity…
and conceives the strangest project ever imagined…
to become a knight-errant, and sally forth…
to roam the world in search of adventures…
to right all wrongs, to mount a crusade…
to raise up the weak and those in need.
The Man of La Mancha

My ‘discovery’ of Don Quixote was the first step toward faith. The idea of living for an ideal beyond my own needs and wants. ‘The Doctor’ is another step in that faith journey. The Doctor is a Knight Errant, sallying forth to right wrongs–even though he might protest to the contrary.

Story enables us to see into different worlds, different ideas. Story allows us to experiment with new ways of living our lives. I think this is part of the reason that Jesus so often taught with stories. As we ‘listen’ to a story we automatically ‘see’ the story from a perspective not of our making; we ‘see’ the story from the perspective of the storyteller.

It is when we can see life from another perspective, our opinions about our own lives can change, or we can see where change might be desirable. I’ve been reminded in the last few days that one of the greatest gifts we can give to a person is to consistently listen to them, without being judgmental. We don’t have to agree with someone in order to listen to them; it’s alright to allow someone to think differently than you. Their life experience is different than yours; it’s entirely possible that you would agree with someone you disagree with; if your life had been the same as yours. I believe that one of the keys to effective listening is to try and place myself within the other person’s context; so that I continually ask myself, ‘would I have behaved that way, in their shoes?’ It can be frustrating when we honestly can’t imagine living someone else’s life experiences; the listening does not require that I change myself to think like someone else; I am simply viewing life through the stories they tell me.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy Peace.
where there is hatred, let me sow love
where there is injury, pardon
where there is doubt, faith
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
where there is sadness, joy…
It is in giving that we are given.

St. Francis of Assisi

 

 

 

 

 

MJ Arts Celebrates the 13th Doctor!

August 21, 2017


A variety of 13th Doctor [as well as the earlier versions of Doctors] images on a variety of Society6 products, delivered to your mailbox.

Mobile Device Cases & Skins / Stationery Cards / T-Shirts / V-Necks / Tank Tops / Long Sleeve / Biker Tanks / Hoodies / Laptop & iPad Skins / iPad mini Cases / Laptop Sleeves / and more

https://society6.com/mjartscom

 

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 127: Brokenness Can Be the Beginning

July 2, 2017

Independence Day Holiday, 2017

It is when we are broken that we realize we cannot be what we want to be; we cannot accomplish the things we want to accomplish in our own strength. We see our faults for what they are, and we stop hiding from them. These broken places can become places of strength. The broken places are where the Light shines through.

America once had a standing in the world as the ‘home of democracy’; the place of freedom for anyone to be who we can become. Where every citizen can become President. In the words of Abraham Lincoln:
My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.

“Once again”—presumably a reference to the Civil War. Hopefully applicable to the less-than-civil ‘war’ that is happening in America today.

My maternal Grandparents and their family, at different times, came from Norway to America in the early 1920’s. I don’t know why, exactly. I realize now that I really didn’t care, all that much. One of my less-positive attributes, a problem of being ‘asocial’; perhaps a consequence of being an ‘Only’ raised by working parents. I’ve recently learned that there was a famine in Norway in the early 1920’s; my assumption is that this was a contributing factor to their emigration.
My conclusions, based on growing up in my family, is that when my Grandparents left Norway [which was referred to as ‘the Old country’], they decided to become Americans; rather than Norwegian-Americans. I’ve never bothered to find out much about their lives… I know that my Grandmother traveled by train with her three young daughters, across the US from New York. My Grandmother’s first experience of seeing people of Color. She was surprised by the dark brown skin, but found the porters on the train to be very nice. My Grandmother spoke no English at the time; my guess is that she learned a lot from her three daughters, as they learned to speak English. We had Norwegian cookies at Christmas; a small Norwegian flag sat on the mantle. Occasionally Norwegian relatives visited Portland. My Grandparent made at least one trip back to their Norwegian home.

I don’t know how they would feel about today…

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free…”
It doesn’t take long, if one reads stories from the International Press, that we aren’t there anymore. America is failing the world, in terms of our example. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, is rightly being called the “Leader of the Free World.”

The Bible uses a word called, “repent” to symbolize this understanding of our own brokenness, our weakness, and our determination to move beyond our failures through the strength of a Higher Power. The Greek word, usually translated as “repent” actually means, ‘to see the world through new eyes’. Over the centuries, the word “repent” has taken on a moralistic tone regarding one’s behavior. This understanding is incorrect.

Four Presidents, I believe, found the strength to be dynamic leaders of our country, through having discovered their brokenness. Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. The moment some people finish reading that sentence their minds race in rebellion. Do I believe that these are America’s Greatest Presidents? Probably not; I’m not a Presidential historian. There were a lot of Presidents before Lincoln; there have been a lot of Presidents after JFK, who, I believe, never had the opportunity to fully prove his Greatness.

All of these Presidents were flawed; which is part of my point.
Abraham Lincoln, clinically depressed, married to a bipolar wife, lost three children to death by illness; two before the Civil War.
Theodore Roosevelt lost his wife and mother on the same day, early in his political life. He chose to suffer hardship in the Dakotas, leaving his newborn daughter with his sister; possibly in some strange act of penance.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was stricken with polio eleven years before he became President. He taught himself to ‘walk’ using iron leg braces and the assistance of a son.
John F. Kennedy severely injured his back in the Pacific, during World War II, and was in continual pain for the rest of his life, and addicted to pain killers while in office.

Four men, labeled by history as a “Leader of the Free World,” who inwardly realized they could not accomplish anything in their own strength and power, regardless of how the world might view them. Men who became broken by circumstances, and found the strength to overcome their brokenness. I am of the opinion that all these men came to rely on a Higher Power to enable them to do what they could not do on their own. Men who decided that they dare not fail.

Today our President is failing all over the world, and he seems to be oblivious to it. Some critics say that rather than ‘Making America Great Again’, he is making China great. Rather than encouraging the country to become more than it currently is, leading by example, he gets in ‘twitter wars’ with journalists and celebrities…To me, it seems he still thinks he’s on a ‘reality TV show’; rather than attempting to be the ‘Leader of the Free World’. A President who seems to mainly be interested in his own popularity rather than caring for the least of us. A President who supports a Tax Cut for the wealthy at the cost of health care for the poor.

From my reading of Facebook, some will think that I’m whining about the result of the 2016 Presidential Election; this isn’t true. I’m a ‘progressive centrist’. I voted for the Jewish Socialist who spoke the words of Jesus, the words of Torah, whether or not he realized it. I’m writing about character. ‘Leading by Example’; something any Senior Patrol Leader in the Boy Scouts will affirm; but something our President seems never to have learned…

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 126: America, welcome to Broken

June 25, 2017

“What kind of a country are we if anyone can come before you and talk about cutting health care for children with disabilities in order to give tax breaks to the richest people on earth?
Bernie Sanders, June 2017

“This is the first time that we are aware, that a black professional, in law enforcement, himself being shot and treated as an ordinary black guy on the street,” Tate told Fox News. “This is a real problem.”


“Welcome to Broken, America”

The other day I wrote the first three words to a woman I know; a woman who had the courage to write that because of the pain she is in, from a damaged body, that she isn’t able to live up to the expectations that she probably learned from her mother and her mother’s friends and families. Expectations about how a home should operate, how it should look, and what a hostess should be expected to be… All guesswork on my part; I don’t know her well enough to explore her background and expectations.

I never put much stock in those expectations, although I learned them from my parents. Like so many other areas of my life, I chose not to comply.

I choose not to comply.

Probably a mantra of my generation. Most clearly portrayed in this photograph, from the 1968 Democratic Convention:


It is so important to remember that this photo was published during the Democratic Convention; not during the Republican convention where Nixon became the Republican candidate for President. I wonder how many of those pictured above ended up on Wall Street?

1968 was a Hell of a year…
http://cds.library.brown.edu/projects/1968/reference/timeline.html

There was a time in America, [for most of my lifetime and before, when the President of the United States would stand [or sit] before the citizens of the country, and attempt to bring some order out of the chaos. History shows there were a lot of lies, behind the scenes. These men were far from perfect. However, they understood the importance of Leadership.

Two days ago, the New York Times published:

Trump’s Lies

Many Americans have become accustomed to President Trump’s lies. But as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them. So, we have catalogued nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office.
By DAVID LEONHARDT and STUART A. THOMPSON
JUNE 23, 2017
“https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/23/opinion/trumps-lies.html

Recent polling implies that 38%, the same 38% that is unaware that Trumpcare will give $600 BILLION in tax breaks to the wealthiest in America by stripping $600 BILLION in benefits from the poorest in the country [Because, of course, Congressional Rules state that new acts have to be budget-neutral. Every cut in taxes has to be offset by a cut in services].

That 38% very likely believes that the last two paragraphs are ‘fake news’ because that is what the President has brainwashed them to believe.

TR was correct. “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of individuals and nations alike.”

I met a man with character on Friday, a guy who owns a service station. One of the few persons who ever ask to see my ID, even though it’s written boldly on my debit card. “Anyone I catch not checking for their customer’s ID, gets fired from my station. I owe that service to my customers.” I haven’t heard those kinds of words for a long time. From his accent, I expect that he is an immigrant.

It seems so long ago since I watched a President stand up before the American public, tears in his eyes, speaking about the most recent hate-crime murder victims…

“I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as president to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances. But based on my experience as president, I can’t guarantee that. And that’s terrible to say. And it can change.”

Two months after that speech; and again, two months later; and three months after that and four months after that:

“It was at least the 14th time that President Obama spoke to the nation in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting — and the sixth time within just the past year.
“Obama himself has acknowledged that his remarks have become all too predictable. “Somehow this has become routine. The reporting has become routine. My response here, from this podium, has become routine,” Obama said last October, following the shooting at an Oregon community college.”
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/06/12/14-mass-shootings-14-speeches-how-obama-has-responded/85798652/

And then the shootings by the police…

“These are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system. And I just want to give people a few statistics to try to put in context why emotions are so raw around these issues.
“According to various studies, not just one, but a wide range of studies that have been carried out over a number of years, African Americans are 30 percent more likely than whites to be pulled over.
“After being pulled over, African Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched.
“Last year African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of whites.
“African Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites; African Americans defendants are 75 percent more likely to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums. They receive sentences that are almost ten percent longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime.”
http://fortune.com/2016/07/07/obama-sterling-castile-speech/

And our current President says almost nothing. He tweets a lot.

“The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable,” President Trump said on Twitter. “The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.”

In the following quotation:

“This is the first time that we are aware, that a black professional, in law enforcement, himself being shot and treated as an ordinary black guy on the street,” Tate told Fox News. “This is a real problem.”

I’m not positive that the speaker understands that shooting is not supposed to be the treatment of ‘the ordinary black guy on the street’.

America, welcome to broken.

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 124: Donald on the Road to Damascus

June 15, 2017

I’m currently working on a new illustration, one that woke me up one night, a few weeks ago. This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often; when they do, I make an effort to pay attention to them. I have no idea why I’m working on the illustration—in terms of what will be happening with the illustration when it is finished. I’m working on it in my ‘spare’ time; with the expectation that at some point in my story, I will learn why.

The image deals with Saul of Tarsus and the Road to Damascus, taken from the New Testament Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The Road to Damascus is where Saul, Pharisee of the Pharisees, Ultra-Conservative Jewish Defender of the faith; he who became a Jewish hunter of the followers of Jesus—sent to imprison them—the road where Saul was knocked off his horse, and blinded:

‘As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

From there he is taken to Damascus, and brought to the house of Ananias, a devout follower of Jesus, who has been warned in a dream that the feared Saul would come to his house; and Ananias would heal Saul of his blindness. This happens, and Saul becomes Paul. The rest is history, or not; depending upon your beliefs regarding the New Testament.

Having no idea what the Road to Damascus looks like now, much less what it looked like 2,000 years ago, I did what I always do—an image search for ‘Damascus Road’ on Google. Amongst the images of Syria, I found this one:

Donald on the Road to Damascus By Claire Palmer

Speaking for myself, a Believer who was trained in high school and college in Critical Thinking, I have a tendency to treat Biblical events as mythology, more than literal fact… yes, even in God’s Word. I believe that Scripture is entirely True in its original languages; for the purpose it was intended. The Creator of the Universe told Job that 2/3 of the Book of Job [believed to be the oldest of the Biblical texts] is entirely wrong. According to the Creator, not all of Scripture is literally accurate. There are many who seem to forget this piece of information.

I was pondering the notion of what it would have ‘looked like’ to be there in Damascus at the time Saul was knocked off of his horse; or even the more currently applicable incident found in Daniel 4, where:

All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar [who was king of Babylon c. 605 BE – c. 562 BCE, the longest reign of any king of the Neo-Babylonian empire]. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?”
Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”
Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird…

…and eventually King Nebuchadnezzar repents and returns.

What would the Washington Post have to say about an event like this?

If the story is true, there would have been bystanders, witnesses to the circumstances, whose personal descriptions have not survived the test of time. Not enough journalists at the time…

Suppose The Donald is about to receive some ‘horrible’ fall from his throne, becoming the least effective, the least popular, and probably most hated President of current American history [he says the same, about his predecessor]. Where will he go? Will he forsake his ‘palace’ in NYC and go to Saudi, where he has lots of friends, or to one of his many other favored places…or will all of his allies suddenly disappear as the Trump Empire begins its downfall…

One of the ironies is that at the final Correspondents Dinner that President Obama attended, he roasted The Donald; and as the cameras focused on the future President’s face, one could see that he was seething. It is said that one of his main goals in life would be to take the Presidency from the man who had so thoroughly insulted him during that dinner. He is a proud man.


I have seen the facial expression of the middle photo so many times; and I keep getting reminded of the face of Benito Mussolini, dictator over Italy during World War II. Another proud man who fell from his ‘throne’.

Do I wish ill upon P45? No; I think the man is an egotistical fool who had no business running for President—he clearly has no idea what the job entails. P45 was raised to be a real estate magnate who somehow believes that wealth gives him the necessary wisdom to run a University, and somehow, to run a country. He and his thumbs have shown him to be his own worst enemy.

What saddens me most is to see our country as it has become in the last nine or so months; the way that a President who ran a campaign based on racial bias has encouraged the country to become more racially biased; how angry people have taken the statements of an angry man, and found them to be a justification for violence. A few weeks ago, Portland, Oregon was leading the news stories, after the murder of two men who were defending two girls of color from my local high school, girls who were being verbally abused by a known White Supremacist.

Portland, Oregon, my home town, has never had a history of racial tolerance. The State of Oregon was created to be entirely white. Portland was largely white until World War II, when the city became home to the building of Liberty Ships. In order to find workers for the shipyards, people of color were imported to Portland; the community of Vanport was created as an integrated place for them to live. Vanport was flooded in 1948, and hundreds of people of color needed to be relocated; they were sent to the part of Portland with the lowest property values. My Dad worked in the shipyards; I assume that this is where he learned racial tolerance. I grew up in Portland, oblivious to the City’s efforts to keep people of color ‘in their place’. I am mindful of the words of Charlie Black, one of the thirty or so lawyers who had worked on the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared school segregation unlawful and thus began the end of the old Southern racist regime. He tells of his first encounter with Louis Armstrong, at a dance hall in Austin, Texas:

He was the first genius I had ever seen. That may be a structurable part of the process that led me to the Brown case. The moment of first being, and knowing oneself to be, in the presence of genius, is a solemn moment; it is perhaps the moment of final and indelible perception of man’s utter transcendence of all else created. It is impossible to overstate the significance of a sixteen-year-old Southern boy’s seeing genius, for the first time, in a black. We literally never saw a black man, then, in any but a servant’s capacity. There were of course black professionals in Austin, as one later learned, but they kept to themselves, out back of town, no doubt shunning humiliation…
Every person of decency in the South of those days must have had some doubts about racism, and I had mine even then—perhaps more than most others. But Louis opened my eyes wide, and put to me a choice. Blacks, the saying went, were “all right in their place.” What was the “place” of such a man, and of the people from which he sprung?

We are better people than we, as a country, are presenting ourselves to be. We can improve.

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 121: Still, there is hope…

April 17, 2017

Does it bother anyone else that the symbol of America has become a bomb? ‘Don’t like them; don’t like the way they behave? Bomb the crap out of them.’ I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me; after all our national anthem sings, “And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there…” There are other countries whose national anthems that remember death and carnage. Maybe P45 was right in his inaugural speech when he spoke of “American Carnage”. He merely got the continent wrong.

The explosion above isn’t even nuclear; it’s one of the largest conventional explosive weapons in the US arsenal: the GBU-43 MOAB/B– Massive Ordnance Air Blast aka “Mother of All Bombs”. 21,600 pounds total weight, nearly 11 tons of TNT; there’s a ‘penetrator’ version that P45 ordered dropped on Afghanistan on April 13, 2017—Maundy Thursday in America. The night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested. How appropriate.

“The U.S. military’s announcement that it dropped the “mother of all bombs,” one of the largest non-nuclear devices, against an ISIS facility in Afghanistan comes despite the U.S. assessment that only about 700 ISIS fighters remain in the country. It’s the first time the bomb has been used on the battlefield.”
https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/04/mother-of-all-bombs/522960/

“Each MOAB, or Massive Ordinance Air Blast – nicknamed the “mother of all bombs” – costs $16m out of a total programme cost of $314m which produced about 20 of the bombs.

Crunched down – and in the most cold-blooded terms – that means the US military has expended some 5% of its stockpile of MOABs to kill three dozen ISIS members at a cost of almost $450,000 per individual.”
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/14/moab-attack-isis-baffling-choice-cold-blooded-terms-cost-afghanistan

This, added to the $60 million worth of cruise missiles P45 ordered launched a few days ago; which apparently did very little actual damage:

“Syrian officials said at least seven people were killed and nine wounded in US missile attack.”
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/06/trump-syria-missiles-assad-chemical-weapons

Our President has used $76 million of munitions to kill less than 4 dozen people. And he wants most of the public services in our government to reduce their budgets and become more efficient…

 

History tends to ignore the fact that the US firebombed Tokyo before launching the two nuclear weapons in 1945.

Strategic bombing and urban area bombing began in 1944 after the long-range B-29 Superfortress bomber entered service, first deployed from China and thereafter the Mariana Islands. B-29 raids from those islands began on 17 November 1944, and lasted until 15 August 1945, the day Japan capitulated. The Operation Meetinghouse air raid of 9–10 March 1945, which annihilated 16 square miles and left over 1 million homeless, was later estimated to be the single most destructive bombing raid in human history. Japanese later called this event “Night of the Black Snow”.

With an average of 103,000 inhabitants per square mile and peak levels as high as 135,000 per square mile, the highest density of any industrial city in the world, and with firefighting measures ludicrously inadequate to the task, 15.8 square miles of Tokyo were destroyed on a night when fierce winds whipped the flames and walls of fire blocked tens of thousands fleeing for their lives. An estimated 1.5 million people lived in the burned-out areas.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Tokyo#Casualty_estimates

The Ashes of Hiroshima

Thousands of people burned alive.
There are shadows burned into the walls that remain of original Hiroshima and Nagasaki—the only remains of the people standing next to the walls when the blast of light occurred. Hundreds of thousands of people disintegrated.

For every son, daughter, husband, wife killed by our bombs, another terrorist is born; a family member, a lifelong friend, or simply one who is horrified by our hypocrisy—preaching to the world of our greatness, and killing indiscriminately. The boy above [the children were real, their appearance unknown] didn’t have the opportunity to become a terrorist. In the scene above he is already dead, but his body doesn’t know it yet. He will die, as his sister has died, in a few minutes. Victims of radiation poisoning. The young woman in the picture is a teacher, who had been in the country when the Bomb was dropped. She returned home to search for her missing niece and nephew. When she arrived in Hiroshima, all she found were children wandering around, searching for their dead parents. Every child she encounters that day, dies in her arms. She wrote of her story in a “Hiroshima Diary”. There are many such diaries in Japan.

We are fighting a war of ideology.
There are no winners; all those involved are losers.

We [Westerners] are hated for our cultural display of ‘freedom’. Our freedom to behave however we like; constantly offending those who have a cultural belief system from centuries past. If electronic communication was to cease, perhaps the incidents of terrorism would diminish. Perhaps not; however, it’s only in a dystopian worldview that electronic communication will cease. The concept makes a lot of money for “Hollywood”—further fueling the problem…

How do we solve this problem? One person at a time; teaching those who don’t understand our ways that we aren’t intending to offend them, we are simply living out a freedom that is available to all. We teach each person we encounter to live as friends. A difficult task for me, I prefer the life in my ‘cave’. I struggle in engaging with other people. A struggle I realize is worth the effort; and one I am called by my Creator to engage in.

Ken Burns’ “The National Parks” is playing in the living room behind me. A story of the American rape of the environment; and the visionary people who fought to stop the American Carnage by the creation of the National Park System.

The wilderness can heal humankind, if it is allowed… Sadly, under P45, the rape will continue.

There’s a Service Dog who is a member of our congregation; a golden lab named Cupid. I make an effort to say ‘hi’ to Cupid each Sunday; one of the members that doesn’t require conversation. This morning Cupid gave me a thorough face-licking. Cupid’s friend asked me if I was diabetic—Cupid has an amazing ability to detect blood sugar levels. I said that I’m not; what I didn’t say is that perhaps Cupid was aware of my sadness, and wanted to remind me that I am loved.

I watch episodes of The West Wing most nights; reminding myself of what government could be; a remedy for the reading I do during the day, as P45 demolishes some of the greatest gifts our Constitutional system has given to the world. A remedy for my anger that so few in Washington are incensed by his hypocrisy; the hypocrisy that lives at so many levels of our government.

Last night I watched an episode called “Han”. The story of a North Korean piano prodigy who wants to defect, while performing in concert at the White House. Unbeknownst to almost everyone, secret negotiations are ongoing to reduce North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The defection will halt the negotiations. President Bartlett gives the young man the Freedom that life in America gives—the young man can choose to defect, and stop the negotiations; or he can choose to return to the oppressive environment in which he has lived for 23 years, in hopes that negotiations will be successful. The young man then explains to President Bartlett the meaning of the word, “han” a word that has no direct translation into English. President Bartlett says of “han”: “There is no literal English translation. It’s a state of mind. Of soul, really. A sadness. A sadness so deep no tears will come. And yet still there’s hope.”

As a man who has grown up in the relative peace and prosperity of the Willamette Valley of Oregon, the use of the word, ‘han,’ to describe myself is probably an insult to the people of North Korea. But I think I have a sense of what that word feels like.

Still, there is hope.

“Doubting Thomas” by Caravaggio

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 120_The Night He Was Betrayed…

April 13, 2017

Garden of Gethsemane/Malchus’ Legion

“On the night He was betrayed…” From the Words of Institution of the Eucharist, or Communion, for the more informal Church. Tonight is Maundy Thursday, named for “the ceremony of washing the feet of the poor” [dictionary]; especially commemorating Jesus’ washing of His disciples’ feet on the night before His betrayal. Sometime after Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, He led them to the Garden of Gethsemane; and in the Garden, He was arrested by the Roman soldiers who would later torture Him and crucify Him. In the name of Justice. Jesus threatened the Roman government by His existence; claiming that He was the son of the Creator, and therefore, the High King.

On the Sunday before all of this occurred, Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey [not riding a horse, as a Conqueror might do], to the cheering of a crowd, who covered his path with palm branches—Palm Sunday. They expected Jesus to be the promised King who would lead an uprising against the Romans—at least that’s the way they read Scripture. In less than a week, that cheering crowd would be a crowd yelling for Jesus’ Crucifixion. Not unlike modern American sports crowds. One week cheering for a player who does something spectacular, and the next week yelling at him for demonstrating his resolve in protesting the actions of his government. We are a fickle people.

Jesus washed the feet of his disciples—the act of a common slave—to prove that He wasn’t superior to the least of those in Jewish society. Nothing was beneath Jesus; the One through whom all things were made—a concept that people today have trouble believing.

Is it a betrayal, when you know that you are going to be betrayed; or is it the fulfilling of a promise?

While I am a man of Faith; I’m not particularly religious. I’ve attended Maundy Thursday services in the past, rather than staying at home writing about Maundy Thursday—a valuable, symbolic act by the Faithful. Not all churches do the feet washing; many believers feel ashamed of their feet, and won’t ‘display’ them in public. Scripture says that the Creator has known us from our mother’s womb; that there is nowhere we can go that hides us from our Maker. The Creator knows about the condition of our feet; the places our feet have taken us; the real or symbolic lives we have stepped upon. And we are loved by our Creator, without regard to our own self-worth.

Jesus told many parables—stories filled with truth; stories that one had to think about to understand—so that His listeners would have to figure out what He was talking about. He was teaching His listeners to listen—one of the most valuable traits a human can have. The ability to listen, rather than waiting for our turn to speak.

One of His parables tells of a young man who told His father that He wanted his inheritance now [a polite way of saying he wished his father was dead]. His father gave his son half of all he had [yeah, that would be complicated]; the other half remaining, for the elder brother. The younger brother took his newfound wealth and spent it in a far country, reveling in sex, drugs and rock’n’roll… Eventually the money ran out, and this Jewish kid found himself working as a servant, feeding pigs [Scripture doesn’t say if the irony was lost on him]. One day he realizes that the servants on his father’s property were far better off than he was, off in the far country. He decides to admit his stupidity, and to beg his father to allow him to work as a servant. He probably rehearsed his lines for days, as he walked home.

Meanwhile, the father searches the horizon every day, hoping for a sign that his son was returning. One day he spots a familiar shape walking along the road. The father starts running toward his returning son, robe flapping around his age-bent legs [it was incredibly crude for Jewish men to be seen running]. Before his son can finish the first rehearsed sentence, is father is grabbing him and shouting that the son he thought he had lost had returned! When they get home, the father tells all the servants to prepare for a party! The son he thought he’d lost had returned home! Bring out the best robe, and put a ring on the younger son’s finger…meanwhile the elder brother sulks in the corner; once again ticked off because his upstart little brother is the center of attention. I’m told brothers can be that way; I’m an only…

Later the father reassures his older son that he could have had parties anytime he wished; all he needed to do is ask. The elder son continues to sulk.

 

Half of the people in our country who were eligible to vote decided it wasn’t worth the effort. They didn’t see the value in any candidate running in the last election. A couple months into the rule of P45, lots of people are seeing that the election of this particular President was a huge mistake. As our fleet sails toward the Koreas, P45 is preparing to take on an overaged toddler running around North Korea with nuclear weapons. P45 has dropped “The Mother Of All Bombs” [not my title] on the mountains of Syria; having launched about $60 million worth of cruise missiles last week, that did very little damage to the Syrian government [not ISIS]. Apparently, the launching of bombs makes one Presidential. A House and Senate that refused to allow President Obama to target Syria, after chemical weapons were used against its people by the Syrian government in 2013, is now cheering P45 for his Presidential behavior.

Two thousand years and we’re still pulling the same, stupid…stuff. We never learn. Somehow, the Creator, who knew from the moment of Creation, all of the holocausts that humans would rain upon each other over the centuries, knew that we are worth the effort. He found us so worth the effort that rather than coming to Earth as a conquering King, Jesus came as a single cell in a teenage girls’ womb. Jesus came to live among us; to share in the *stuff* that humans do to each other; to be arrested, tortured and hung on a cross as punishment for being ‘the King of the Jews’. Had it ended there, it would be an awful story; and probably lost in history.

On Sunday, churches around the world will celebrate Easter; the day of Jesus’ return from the dead, alive, and still living today; living in the hearts and minds of people who simply ‘walk through a door’ into Faith. We are accepted; not by the pained lives we bring to the Creator; not by our stupid decisions; accepted simply because we are loved by our Eternal Father; who tolerates—somehow—the awfulness we sometimes bring to the world. We are accepted; not by a Conquering King [still a popular concept], but by the One who knows all of the *stuff* we have to live through. The Creator knows, because the Creator became one of us. Jesus shows us that the end isn’t really the End. In the End, we are loved.

Irreverent; I know. However, theologically profound, if one gives it some thought.
The idea isn’t original; I ‘borrowed’ it from Facebook…

 

Chronicles in Ordinary Time 119: Today I met a most remarkable man

March 23, 2017

Cover Illustration, The Declaration of Independence by Melinda Lilly

Very few comments about politics this week… although I could write more. Please read this article by Thomas L. Friedman: Calling On a Few Good Men

Doctor Watson’s Thyroid

The only thing the image above has in common with my thoughts is the first word in the title…

Today I met a most remarkable man; a doctor who listens.

He asked if I ever to medical illustrations…

My current medical journey began 9 years ago. Mine is mostly a journey of inconvenience; I don’t have anything that appears to be life-threatening. While I consider myself ‘partially disabled’, it’s mostly a description of circumstances…

I had a GP of 30 or so years; he retired about 11 years ago. He wasn’t a great listener, but we had a shared history. Gene helped birth my two sons; he was the first long-term doc for our daughter.

I’ve lost track of the number of docs I’ve seen since Gene retired. I could look up the number, but it isn’t worth my time. I have a neurological problem; at this point it has no name, only a description: Idiopathic Polyneuropathy, In layman’s terms: ‘your nerves are screwed-up, and we are clueless as to why.’ Life has been getting more uncomfortable lately; more pain, less control of my limbs. So, my latest Primary and I decided it was time to see another Neurologist.

I started describing the course of my Neuropathy: how 8 years ago, two numb spots on my feet traveled upwards to my lower jaw over the course of a few days.
“That’s not Neuropathy”

How almost exactly two years later, the Neuropathy took over the rest of my head, wiped out most of my taste buds, and altered the way my gut functions. It also dropped my blood pressure dramatically.
“That’s not Neuropathy”

I started explaining some of the other changes over the last 4 years, and he stopped me, saying: “Look, they’ve sent you to the wrong doctor. I do Neuropathy; what you’re describing isn’t Neuropathy.”

“Then why in the Hell have the 15 docs I’ve seen over the last 9 years called it ‘Idiopathic Polyneuropathy’?”
“Because it’s easy.”

So, we’re back to more tests, more scans. But I’ve found a guy that listens.
And, here’s another illustration, if you are reading this…

People don’t listen today. Mostly people wait for their turn to talk.

Over half of the White Evangelicals in the country voted for P45; I think it’s because they weren’t listening.

One can’t be empathetic to the plight of those who lack, while talking garbage. One can’t talk garbage about a person while having the ‘other’s’ best interests in their minds. One can’t be concerned about injustice toward women while insulting women at the same time. One can’t be concerned about injustice toward minorities while being afraid of them at the same time.

P45 expressed concerns shared by a large segment of White America; his solutions were based in fear, not in faith toward ‘our fellow Man’ [that gender-neutral term].

The Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1642

From Facebook. Someone commented that the students were using their smart phones to learn about Rembrandt’s painting.

When one is standing before a Rembrandt, one can’t learn about the painting by looking at a device. One learns about Rembrandt by looking at the painting.


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