Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Bonfires of the Banalities

Sarah PalinWhen the mundane becomes revelatory, when banal pronouncements are considered startling epiphanies, when orchestrated spectacle is considered the apex of statesmanship; a society is fast approaching the finish line in its race to the bottom.

The corrupt leaders of society’s broken institutions remain busy spinning a self serving zeitgeist of denial, sowing gardens of ubiquitous ambivalence.  The liturgy of mass self delusion anoints a polity comfortably numb and safely ensconced in a political paralysis; keeping the Bozos bouncing along on the bus sans wheels, happily enthralled in the reverie of their disillusionment.

Sarah Palin, looking slim and extremely fit slugs down a mega calorie Big Gulp on the CPAC dais. Sarah’s slurp becomes an iconic moment in GOP history, as fawning star struck conservatives believe it to be the symbolism of a new Statue of Liberty.

Morning Joe stuffing handfuls of Captain Crunch into his mouth to tweak the eat healthy nose of liberal manikin Mika, cheers the American driving public for making the 6 mpg Super Duty pickup the best selling truck in the USA.  Morning Joe relishes any opportunity to confirm the resplendent truth of America’s voracious appetite for radical entitlement.

Newly elected Pope Francis closes his first Sunday address by advising visiting pilgrims to “have a good lunch” and the media falls all over itself with adulatory elation.

In a world understood as a branded sound bite, the affirming credo an individual adopts as holy gospel is self serving institutional propaganda that vigilantly defends the status quo.

In such a world, sound bites have become a school of famished piranhas that are devouring the body of rational understanding and the ability to peek beyond the veil of obfuscation.

The messages and symbolism signaled from our leaders and political celebrities is clear, loyal constituents are offered an absolution to remain stuck in the certitude ensuring the perpetuation of failing institutions badly in need of reform.

The CPAC crowd cheers Palin’s clownish moxie as she charges the battlements of Bloomberg’s Nanny State.  Though I wonder if Palin’s salute to Seven Eleven was more of a product placement exercise than astute Kabuki theater; Palin’s masterful pandering played well to the partisans.  She brought down the house and successfully sidestepped the issue of a commercial food chain that is progressively poisoning their customers with unhealthy food due to lax regulatory oversight, harmful food additives and corn fructose syrup infused processed food that is driving an obesity epidemic amongst the poor and minorities residing in the food deserts of America’s cities.

Palin’s showmanship appeals to the growing libertarian streak in the GOP.  Let the market decide is the mantra. The jury is out but when the toxic food chain has killed off enough of the process food industries customers, General Foods will hire a Stanford MBA as a new product manager to design and market better foods for a better world. After all that’s how responsible job creators work.

Mornings Joe’s insistence on his free market right to be a mindless consumer is codified in the divine celestial ledgers of Laissez-faire capitalism.  His fattened bank balance is the sole moral imperative to drive an inefficient gas guzzling truck that poisons the environment with carbon emissions. This is the same mind set that insists on building vacation homes on barrier islands. If a major storm destroys the dwelling so be it. FEMA and private insurance have socialized the risk to preserve the right of these homesteaders to settle on endangered land, tipping into the swelling seas, fueled by a changing climate brought on by excessive carbon emissions from Morning Joe’s Super Duty.

In the aftermath of the Newtown Massacre the yearning of citizens to strengthen gun control laws is met by the intransigent commercial interests of gun manufacturers.  In a society bleeding from gun violence the NRA got busy greasing the palms of senators with filthy lucre to encourage diligence to protect 2nd amendment right to market high powered automatic rifles and 30 round magazines that can spray instant death into a room full of 1st graders.

Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the NRA gave an impassioned speech at the same CPAC conference pointing to “the Washington elites” and “liberal media” as the root of all evil.  States LaPierre, …gun control advocates “insult [us], they denigrate, and they call us ‘crazy’ for holding fast to [our opposition to gun control]. In their distorted view of the world, they’re smarter than we are; they’re special; they’re more worthy than we are; they know better than we do,” he said. “The liberal media can keep hating on me, but I’m still standing.”

How the CPAC attendees and the three million members of the NRA can fail to see the irony in Mr. LaPierre’s condemnation of “Washington elites” escapes me.  To be sure, like many CPAC attendees, Mr. LaPierre and the NRA are fully integrated with the elites of Washington.  In point of fact many are on the NRA payroll.  His pernicious attack on a free press belies his unquestioned fealty to the constitution.

Which brings us back to Pope Francis.  He is hailed as a much needed change in a scandal ridden Vatican.  The global prevalence of sexual abuse by clergymen and the institutional protection of predatory pedophiles continues to trouble the church.   Money laundering and other untoward financial transactions conducted by the Vatican Bank is another explosive issue that continues to fester.  The rising voices of women and LGBT communicants seeking reforms to fully enfranchise them as equal citizens in the church are liturgical and theological issues that will continue to be repressed. These questions beg an urgent response from the ossified paternal hierarchy that resists transparency and fails to transcend practices that sacrifices the faith in service to the institutional religion.

Yes the monied pilgrims that made their way to Rome will enjoy the day and most surely find a wholesome meal to eat. What will sate today’s pilgrims and sustain the future generations will be to sit at an inclusive communion table to richly feast on the bread of truth. Throw the institutional banalities into the ovens to stoke the fires capable of baking a rich wholesomeness into the glorious bread of life.

Music Video: Fleetwood Mac, Hypnotized

Risk: political, religious, psychological, cultural

March 19, 2013 Posted by | conservatism, faith, gay rights, LGBT, Palin, psychology, religion, republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Party of Values, Thoroughly Bankrupt

Republican’s fancy themselves to be the party of values.  They profess to love God and country.  They believe themselves to be the real Americans.  They are the absolute definition of righteous patriots.  They see themselves and their families basking in the light of a celestial exceptionalism.  They occupy the center of a universe anointed by the invisible hand of free market capitalism, governed and sanctified by the benevolent love of their heavenly father, Jesus Christ.

Their values are based on a fundamentalist foundation of the King James Bible and the US Constitution as it was originally conceived and authored by the Founding Fathers in 1787.  They are resolute in the belief of the correctness of their interpretation of this hallowed literature and remain adamant in how the instruction of these sacred tomes should be applied and implemented to shape and govern our Federal Republic.

If you question the basic supposition of their position they will tarry your thrust by questioning your love of country and your belief in God.  Those same questions must be asked of them.  The virulent defenders of the cross and crown of liberty consistently undermine the spirit of both. They serve the corporate objectives of church, military and industrial institutions that have formed an unholy alliance to rule and exploit the hearts and minds of an enslaved consumer market that cannot discern the difference between political liberty and a have it your way experience at Burger King.

America’s political ignorance is a poverty exploited by the oligarchs; giving them full sway to control and manipulate the levers of power to secure and advance selfish interests.  They cloth their motives in priestly robes, medal adorned military uniforms, Rotarian flannel suits and Joe “the wannabe” Plumber overalls feigning a martyrdom of being crushed by the menacing liberal elites by standing for the values of free markets, Christianity, class mobility and a military spreading the global march of democracy.

The GOP presidential debates provided some telling political theater of how the party of values advanced the cause of individual liberty and governance informed by moral precepts. In one session a gay officer serving in Iraq asked the candidates “now that DADT has been repealed and gay service personnel can serve in the military would they support  same sex marriage”.  The gay serviceman unselfishly serving his country in a theater of war was roundly booed by the uber patriots sitting in the audience before Rick Santorum piled on and asserted not only would he not sign a same sex marriage bill into law, he would also reinstate DADT.

In another session the question concerning the mandatory requirement to purchase  health care insurance was raised.  The moderator asked a hypothetical question, “if a person failed to purchase insurance and required a life saving procedure who should pay?”  One of the more compassionate conservatives shouted “let him die”.   This was undoubtedly the same guy who condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

Another high water mark of GOP moral turpitude occurred when the debate moderator questioned Rick Perry about the State of Texas position as the leader in capital punishment executions.  The audience erupted in cheers.  The United States is home to the worlds largest penal colony with an inmate population that exceeds 2,000,000.   This belies the myth of the United States as the land of the free; particularly for the people of color who account for the largest proportion of the inmate population.  This is good news for the free marketeers as the privatization of prisons is a growth industry.  The profiteers of misery require the judicial apparatus of the states to maintain a prison occupancy rate of 90% to assure profitability for private investors.  The threat to a fair trial has never been more at risk.  This is a business opportunity right up the GOPs free market alley. The devaluation of the rule of law an unfortunate consequence.  The value of money trumps the grace of justice.

The GOP’s deep investment in the culture of death mirrors a country thoroughly committed to the continued militarization of the economy regardless of its cultural cost.  Republicans eagerly beat the drums of war and use the poetry of destruction  to articulate a cutesy point.  Remember John McCain using the melody of  Barbara Anne to sing, “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”  The neocons ate it up.  The peacemaker may be considered children of God,  but in the GOP the business of war and righteous crusades are divine.

Republicans pledge undying fealty to the Constitution and the rights of citizens.  One would think that this would encourage vocal opposition  to President Obama’s Executive Order to execute suspected combatant citizens without due process in respect  to the right of a trial by a jury of their peers.  Not a single word has been raised against this grievous violation of a basic constitutional protection.  Where are all the freedom loving, constitution waving Teabaggers?  It’s a natural extension of Republican’s refusal to recognize the full civil rights of  citizens.  As in the case of LGBT civil rights, the GOP’s vision of America protects civil liberties only for select citizens they deem worthy.  The rights of the republic’s citizens and the rule of law be damned.

It is in this light that we can understand Rush Limbaugh’s misogynistic characterization of Sandra Fluke as a slut.  Dehumanizing a group of people as “the other” or “less then”  because they hold a contrary position is a dangerous sedition that undermines democracy.

Democracies need its citizens to reach an informed consensus to function.  Consensus requires dialog to assimilate disparate views from multiple viewpoints and perspectives.  This presupposes that the participants in the discussion recognize and value the rights of citizenship for all participants in the dialog.  The highest value in a secular democracy is respecting the equal rights of all citizens.  Without this value democracies crumble.  Our democracy is in shambles.

This weekend Rick Santorum sat upon the alter at the Greenwell Baptist Church to accept the endorsement of Pastor Dennis Terry for the upcoming Louisiana primary.   After laying his hands on Santorum to bless his candidacy,  Pastor Terry delivered a sermon that spewed fire and brimstone onto the reprobate head of our secular democracy.  “America” he said “was a Christian Nation ruled by Christ the King.  He said American’s don’t worship Buddha, Allah or any other false Gods.  He said American’s worshiped the God on High, Jesus Christ.  And if they don’t like it they can get out.”  As a Christian I can’t tell you how much I loathe this blatant bigotry.  Jesus was all about inclusion and tolerance and I’m sure he would make short work of this Pharisee.  As an American citizen, I can’t think of a more ignorant and damaging characterization of  America’s promise and the democratic values it professes to uphold.

GOP wunderkind Paul Ryan, yesterday unveiled a budget that assiduously accounts for the price of every tax loop hole, generous corporate welfare allocation and tax reduction for the wealthy while demonstrating a chilling indifference for slashed social programs and its impact on human beings.  Republican’s know the price of everything and the value of nothing.  The party of values is thoroughly bankrupt.

Music Selection:  Sen. John McCain, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran

Risk: democracy, values, political culture

March 20, 2012 Posted by | Bible, Christianity, conservatism, culture, faith, gay rights, goverment, Iran, LGBT, McCain, Obama, politics, prayer, religion, republicans, values | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Then They Came For Me

The ones shouting loudest with greatest vehemency for liberty are ironically the proponents of its gravest threat.   Rep. Peter King, the Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee has scheduled hearings on the radicalization of the US Muslim community and its threat to the homeland.  Mr. King said the hearings are the result of a growing concern by law enforcement officials that the US Muslim community has not been cooperative in rooting out the home grown terrorists multiplying within their midst.  In service to liberty’s highest ideals, the ever vigilant Mr. King looks to initiate an assault on the civil liberties of our brother and sister Muslim citizens.

A group calling themselves The Liberty Alliance  are in full support of Mr. King’s ethnic profiling and the grave threat it poses to the civil liberties of all citizens.  Mr. King’s committee hearings will be a resplendent grand standing platform for him to play to the basest prejudices of his constituency and stoke up the fear of American angst already overloaded with a symphony of terrors.  Muslims, like the LGBT community and illegal aliens, labor unions and teachers make convenient scapegoats for the myriad problems confronting the nation.  Mr. King and The Liberty Alliance would like us to believe that labor unions have plundered the wealth of the nation.  Teachers have destroyed the schools.  The poor have bankrupted our federal treasury while the LGBT and foreigners continue to undermine the true American Judeo-Christian culture by defiling the purity of its heritage.

Its a grand irony to witness self styled libertarians mobilized into action to attack civil liberties and right to privacy of their fellow citizens.  They clamor for disclosure and transparency with the diabolical refrain,  “if they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to be afraid of.” Such seditious thinking undermines the spirit of liberty.  It is a direct assault on a  society governed by laws and its citizens shielded by due process and protected by a Bill of Rights.  These democratic virtues once distinguished America as the shinning  city on a hill.  Now The Liberty Alliance denigrates it with an Orwellian platitude believing civil rights, privacy and due process are covers for terrorist cells that must be dispensed with at all costs.

It is not difficult to divine that  Peter King’s committee will encourage a number of informants to come forward to meet a specified quota for stool pigeonry.   A legion of rats and informants are the armies of despots not agents of democracies.  But these are the same Real American Freedom Fighters who led the charge against American Muslim’s right to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero.  Ask them about religious tolerance and the freedom to worship as guaranteed in the US Constitution and they’ll concede the point with the promise to serve Halal meals and build a mosque with extra capacity at Gitmo.

The ones shouting the loudest for liberty do indeed pose the greatest threat to it.  The libertarians who opened the door to 527 llcs have turned Lady Liberty into a common prostitute hiring her out to the highest bidder.  The zealots waving the Constitution with the fervor of a Red Book sprouting Maoist, forms a reactionary vanguard eager to deny the very same sacred civil liberties and rights to fellow citizens in their deranged constitutional republic of unfree and unequal citizens.

Despots and non-democratic societies do not offer or practice universal rights, freedoms and liberties for all its citizens.  Pitting one group against another, scape goating, delineating special classes of people or dual classes of citizenship are hallmarks of repressive societies.  Mr. King’s committee hearing of racial and ethnic profiling divides citizens and denies the constitutional  rights and liberties for Muslims.  This is apartheid.  Gov. Walker’s and Chris Christie’s attack on labor unions and teachers as the source of our economic debasement obfuscates systemic inequities and masks the identities of the perpetrators who plundered the wealth of this nation.  The economic elites are trying to beat the rap by forcing their public elected shills to make the working people of America pay the price for their own victimization.

Peter King’s sons of liberty are complicit agents of enslavement to the power and privilege of corporate oligarchs; hiding behind the billowing smoke of America’s civic strife and brewing internecine struggle.  They are gravely mistaken in believing that they are safely ensconced behind the golden walls of their enclaves the piles of cash allowed them to build to protect themselves  from the seething masses. Mubarak nor Gaddafi’s moat protected strongholds could protect them from the volatile tide of history.

Peter King opening up hearings on radical Islam and its role in creating home grown terrorism is of course just in time for the 2012 election.  It will provide some red meat for rabid Teabaggers screaming for blood.  Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin and other righteous Falangist Crusaders can use the grist of Peter King’s xenophobic fear mill to paint our Mau Mau  loving President and any progressive opponent a Fifth Columnist for the new Caliphate they are working to establish in the last stand of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

You Tube Video:  James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy

Risk: tolerance, politics, civil liberties, Bill of Rights

March 7, 2011 Posted by | Christianity, Civil Rights, class, conservatism, culture, democracy, economics, ethnic, faith, gay rights, government, labor unions, LGBT, Muslim, Palin, psychology, race, republicans, social justice, Tea Party, teaching, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Go Tell It On The Mountain!

The suicide of Tyler Clementi was more then a personal tragedy for his family, friends, those that loved him and the greater LGBT community. It was an event that forced America to hold up a mirror to itself and take a long honest look. It provided an opportunity for a nation that professes to uphold cultural tolerance and civil liberties for all its citizens to truthfully search its heart to determine how well America upholds these sacred ideals. I believe America found itself wanting.

The practice of self examination is not one of America’s strong points. We are much more comfortable living a life of convenient denial. The military practice of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) codified the plausible deniability of institutional ambivalence. It sequestered the need to act to address a nagging injustice. It held the truth hostage so as not to suffer the consequences of an inconvenient truth. It revealed a country in deep state of denial refusing to shatter the myths and the untruths it believed about itself. It pandered to the ugly fears and violent temperament of intolerant zealots that unleashed waves of hateful vindictiveness against the marginalized and most vulnerable. A lie in service to a myth creates and perpetuates a culture of delusion. It allows all citizens to hold tight to our national deceptions, celebrating broken ideals with the untruth of meaningless flags.

America took an important step this weekend with the repeal of DADT. The personal truth of who we are as individuals is now aligned with open and truthful institutions. This landmark legislation corrected a legislative injustice by addressing an institutional discrimination. America must be a place where civil rights for all citizens lies beyond compromise. That is the easy part. Now the hearts of American’s must change and learn to accept the justice that the repeal of DADT upholds.

God apportions equal amount of love to all his children. All are accepted, none denied the grace of light God asks us to walk into. All are fully enfranchised citizens in God Kingdom. The Perpetual Potentate governs over all in perfect justice. The People of the Way are called to be upright citizens in the City of Light. Citizenship requires the beloved “to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patients, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

God is a radical affirmation of self, free to live in the unity of the Holy Spirit as we have been called. We are called to speak our truth to the power of earthy principalities as we are called to be the truth in the living power of God. Our freedom compels us to “Go Tell it on the Mountain”.

The earthly principalities may have lost the exquisite melodies of Tyler Clementi’s music; but the earthly silence is a resounding reminder to weave harmony into a cacophonous world crackling in ugly dissonance. Tyler’s violin may now lie entombed in its case; but it continues to implore us to sing the sounds of joy, enlightenment, revelation, and transcendence to those who refuse to listen to the symphonies of understanding, acceptance and appreciate the celebration of love. The beautiful music Tyler created and brought into the world will forever resonate from the highest peaks of joyous affirmation to the lowest valleys of pedestrian dread. The melody of his life will always be with us. This Advent we sojourn to the mountain to sing the wonderful harmony of Tyler’s life. We pray with expectant hope that those refusing to listen and those most needing to hear will open deaf ears and join the earthly chorus of all the beloved singing in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

absolution is sweet
vindication better
affirmation divine

Selah

Peace and prayers to all the beloved,

You Tube Music Video: Mahalia Jackson, Go Tell It On The Mountain!

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December 20, 2010 Posted by | Bible, Christianity, Civil Rights, culture, faith, gay rights, institutional, LGBT, politics, social justice | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elevated Terror Threat for LGBT Community

The Department of Homeland Security needs to raise the terror threat level to Severe Bloody Red.   The escalation of attacks, intimidation and threats against the LGBT community is on the rise and taking a bloody toll.  The most recent consequence of escalating harassment have resulted in the tragic suicides of two young teenagers and the curiously deranged and dangerous social media stalking of a gay university student leader by an assistant attorney general from the State of Michigan.    These attacks pose a clear and present danger to the physical safety and emotional wellness of the LGBT community.  It exemplifies the prevailing climate of intolerance and bigoted hatred exponentially spawning in the polluted vitriol of America’s political culture.  It is clothed in the righteous banality of religious fundamentalism.  Justified with the certainty of theological platitudes  and enforced with the zealous sword  of biblical scripture.  It presents an extreme risk to the civil liberties of all citizens.  It assails our right to freely associate, compels behavior and demands conformity of thought and adoption of a common belief system.  It is a grave and  looming threat to our democratic way of life.

Tyler Clementi was a college freshman at Rutgers University.  Tyler, a gifted musician, diligent student, good friend and loving son jumped off the George Washington Bridge after Dahrun Ravi, his roommate of three weeks, surreptitiously videoed a sexual encounter Tyler had with another male and broadcast it on a social media site. To ensure the video attracted wide exposure, Mr. Ravi Tweeted to his followers that they should log on to the live stream.  The horror and shame of being victimized by a vicious hate crime and personally violated in such a manner was too much to bear.  Mr. Clementi chose to end his pain by taking his own life.

Understanding this event as the result of a misguided college prank gone wrong or an unfortunate consequence enabled by the misuse of powerful social media technologies misses the point.  To do so would absolve Mr. Ravi’s distorted and heinously warped value system.  His punitive glee in perpetrating the offense.  His demonstrative lack of capacity to feel empathy or acceptance of his roommates sexuality.  His failure to recognize his right to privacy.  His lack of any sense of compassion.  Mr. Ravi’s prurient pursuit of degradation and defamation of his hate crime victim and his intent to do extreme harm to Mr. Clementi is evidence of his deep rooted and socially acceptable homophobia that is shared with many people.

It is curious that one would expect that as a person of color, Mr. Ravi would have a heightened sensitivity to the poison of prejudice and the destructive capacity of  hate crimes.  Trying to understand Mr. Ravi’s motives for his action is an impossibility for anyone to fathom save himself; but one can surmise that as a person of color Mr. Ravi may have experienced a situation where he was cast as “the other”.  The other is always an uncomfortable and dangerous geography to inhabit.  The alien outsider, one who stands apart and is different from the dominate ethnic, racial, creed or sexual orientation is usually cast in shrouds of suspicion, fear and ridicule.  Perhaps Mr. Ravi’s attempt to revile an LGBT person because of their sexuality was an attempt to gain acceptance with his classmates by victimizing Mr. Clementi in league with other straits?   Mr. Ravi gets a pass and is welcomed into the inner circle as one of the good ole boys whose prejudices, fears and bigotries mirror the dominant culture.  The price of admission for Mr. Ravi was the death of his roommate.

The other disturbing factor in Mr. Ravi’s assault was the use of social media technologies.   Many youths enabled with powerful communication platforms like You Tube, Facebook and Twitter have a difficult time perceiving the boundaries of private and public life.  The domain of the public persona and private life has become obscured and confused by the ethical vagaries and accessibility of a multichannel digital life.  Since the time of their birth, today’s youth have been totally saturated, empowered and enraptured in the world of digital technologies and media.  It has become the necessary open source to project your ego, display your passion and live out your angst as a real time avatar.   The reality of interpersonal connections and human skills erodes in a universe of self seeking holograms guided by a radical social ethos to project power through the aggressive pursuit of self will with the ultimate objective to seek aggrandizement and demand  instant gratification.  Mr. Ravi used that power to devastating effect.

Mr. Ravi may believe that his technical prowess provided him license to pursue the character assassination of his victim.  Questions will arise about the harm these social media technologies can cause.  Many believe the power of the technology is to vast and dangerous for teens and children and provides tools for stalkers, predators and criminals to aid their enterprise to exploit others to do harm.  A great example being the recent clamor about Craig’s List and its promotion and support of child prostitution and sexual slavery.  The proliferation of online bullying, sexting and other pernicious uses of social media technologies are problems with no easy solutions.  No doubt these are real concerns but it is not the inherent nature of the technology that is at fault it is the values and intent of the users of technology that are cause for concern.

The problem is not about having too much freedom, or having access to enabling technologies we don’t yet  know how to tame.  Twitter,  Facebook, and blogging sites empower the user.  Like the Luddites of old who believed machines were enslaving them the crux of the matter lied in the intent, use, control and deployment of the technology.  These technologies are powerful tools to enlighten, cultivate, uplift and empower individuals but it can also  just as easily be used as tools to harm, denigrate, enslave and oppress.  Its all about human values.  The values of a society that believes it has the license and the moral conviction to defame and destroy the lives of others because they have the means and tacit consent to do so is terrorism.   The fact that one can quote Leviticus, or find the appropriate passage from the Quran or  St. Paul does not justify nor confer the right to “righteously” expose, denounce or shame a perceived moral depravity in a secular society.

That brings us to the other tragic suicide, 13 year old Asher Brown, returned home from school last week, walked into his closet and used a handgun to end his life as a result of being terrorized by his Middle School classmates in Houston.  Classmates of Asher bullied him and taunted him about his perceived homosexuality.  On the day Asher took his own life, he admitted to his parents that he was gay.  It is startling and comforting to learn that Asher felt safe enough in his own home to admit his sexual orientation to his parents.  Asher’s mother and father accepted their son’s sexuality and did not scorn or condemn him.  They continued to unconditionally love and embrace their son as all good parents do.

It is unfortunate that the boy’s  tormentors did not share the same understanding and practice the acceptance of Asher’s parents.  Children live and emulate what they learn from their parents and communities they participate and live in.  If children are prisms of the families and communities that create them the bullying behavior and bigoted hated must have been a keystone of Asher’s tormentors homes.  Public education is under sever pressure.  Homophobia and bullying is not on the curricula of the public school system.  Tolerance, diversity and secularism are values that  public schools try to promote and are often the ideals that are derided by indidivuals and institutions that condemn public schools as propagators of these “liberal values”.   In response to their abhorrence to these unsavory ideals they choose to home school their children and teach them to fear Ungodly secularism, be wary those who are different and condemn the sinfulness and moral depravity of same sex relations.  Demonizing homosexuals and preaching distrust for people and persons who may not look or think like you do is fertile ground for a violent reaction to express the pent up fear and resentment of the alien and reprobate other.

Since No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the public school system has been directed to be a “value neutral” institution.  It is pressured to reform its curricula to better reflect the prevailing conservative culture that demands creationism be taught as a science, Darwinism is dangerous and unionized teachers are fonts of liberal ideology that needs to be silenced.  The learning  experience in the public school system has devolved  into a mundane exercise of  preparatory drills  to take commercially developed state examinations.  Teachers and institutional  effectiveness is quantitatively  measured by a students ability to retain a series of specious facts.  The quality of the educational experience, love of discovery, pursuit and exchange of ideas, respect for diversity and different points of view are lost in the “value free”  world of pedestrian test taking and fact retainment.  Had these children been schooled in the value of tolerance and the reality of diversity or had time and opportunity to interact with other children unlike themselves, the fear and resentment of Asher may have been lessened and the young boy may still be with us.

The crowning jewel in this trinity of hate has to be the State of Michigan’s Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell.  Mr. Shirvell has engaged in a cyber bullying of University of Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong.  Mr. Armstrong is openly gay and was elected by the university’s student body to represent them.  This has not sat well with Mr. Shirvell a University of Michigan alumnus and a fundamentalist Christian.  Mr. Shirvell has started a website, Chris Armstrong Watch where he unleashes a consistent homophobic fueled diatribe against Mr. Armstrong’s alleged “radical homosexual agenda”.

As a private citizen, Mr. Shirvell closely peruses Mr. Armstrong’s Facebook page to pick out posts and photo’s that raise his ire and uses the material as grist for his Chris Armstrong Watch website.  The accompanying comments and altered reproductions of Mr. Armstrong photo’s scream about his elitism, sexual degeneracy and Nazi like political tactics Mr. Armstrong employs in service to the advancement of a radical homosexual agenda.

This is truly frightening stuff.  A state Assistant Attorney General scouring Facebook pages and setting up a blog site dedicated to attacking and undermining a student leader because of his sexual identity is sickening and comes dangerously close to the abuse of office which I understand Mr. Shirvell was relieved of today.  Mr. Shirvell defends his actions on the grounds that he is exercising his rights of free speech as a private citizen.  Driven by his Christian fundamentalist faith and a reactionary political ideology,  Mr. Shirvell’s political fixation and strident personal vilification of  Mr. Armstrong are classic Rovian attack politics.  Mr. Shirvell stands shoulder to shoulder with James O’Keefe and Andrew Breitbart.  All three have shown a disdain for the truth, law and private rights of their targets in pursuit of a radical right wing agenda.

The values of a society that believes it has the right and the moral conviction to defame and destroy the lives of others because they have the ideological conviction, means and tacit consent to do so is the definition of tyranny and its pursuit is terrorism.  The US Constitution protects all citizens from zealots emboldened by personal truths derived from their holy scrolls.  A secular democracy protects the civil rights of its citizens and frees them from the righteous tyranny of others.  The Constitution stipulates that there is a single law of the land and it is a  violation of civil rights and a crime to expose, denounce or shame a person based on a theological interpretation of moral depravity.  The Constitution is the final arbiter and surest protection of individual liberty for all; damning the psychological culture of extreme political egoism advanced by Shirvell, Breitbart and O’Keefe.

Character assassination and appeal to the baser instincts of fear and loathing help propagandists to demarcate the lines that separate groups, reinforce prejudice and make dialog and the formation of consensus all but impossible.  Consider if you will a government administration populated with individuals with the temperament of Shrivell, O’Keefe and Breitbart.  America would be ruled by a government that edits reality to conform to their ideology.  It would propagate a political narrative that blindly  pursues ideology by running rough shod over the personal life of citizens while resorting to character annihilation and entrapment tactics.  It would truly be an embodiment of an Orwellian nightmare

The terror threat must be raised.  Terrorists are harming our citizens.  The world will miss the gracious presence of Asher’s beautiful smile.  Asher will never anoint another with the promise of renewal again.  The dear gift of youthful transformation is now lost to a world deeply in need of a rebirth.  The precious resource of Asher is squandered and silenced by those clinging to the old ways of ugly bigotry.   Asher’s spirit will remain with all who loved him and venerated by all who respect individual liberty.

We have also lost the exquisite melodies of  Tyler Clementi’s music.  Tyler’s silence will never weave harmony into a cacophonous world crackling in ugly dissonance.  Tyler’s violin now entombed in its case will never sing the sounds of joy, enlightenment, revelation and transcendence to those who refuse to listen to the symphonies of understanding, acceptance and appreciate the celebration of love.  The beautiful music Tyler created and brought into the world will never be heard again.  Tragic that the wonderful harmony of Tyler’s life was quieted by the deaf ears of those refusing to listen and most needing to hear it.

Rest in peace beloved.

Youtube Music Video: Janine Jansen, Lark Ascending

Risk: LGBT, civil rights, constitution, free speech

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Bible, children, Civil Rights, community, culture, democracy, education, gay rights, government, LGBT, politics, Quran, religion, social justice, teaching, terrorism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Living Water

holding-a-piece-of-time-2It was an amazing experience to attend the Gay Pride parade in NYC last Sunday. The colorful exuberance of celebratory revelers enthralled in a proclamation of who they are is a refreshing revelation to experience. For so many LGBT people, the prevailing culture still casts aspersions on their lifestyles and persons. Many LGBT people face ridicule, terror, exclusion, violence and death as a daily reality of their lives. It forces them to hide who they are. Many go throughout their entire lives hiding or denying their identity for fear of discovery or from the guilt of self loathing. This is a pernicious condition of a daily life that takes a physical, emotional and psychic toll on victims guilty of nothing more then claiming a sexual identity different from what is perceived as the cultural norm. It is brutally enforced by religious pronouncements, civil law and a pervasive peer pressure that seeks to eradicate anything that diverges from acceptable community standards of sameness and conformity.

For LGBT youth it is particularly damaging. Afraid, alone, uncertain and unaware they are extremely vulnerable and remain at risk to the dangers and condemnation their sexuality exposes them too. So it was wonderful to witness young people at the parade expressing pride in their identity; perhaps for the first time in their lives beyond the eyes of judgment. It is wonderful to witness and participate in an event that allows people to express a self affirmation and experience the joy of true freedom.

So it was with great pleasure that I recognized the Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire offering water to the Gay Pride marchers and celebrants. It was a poignant scene to witness, and it brought to mind the Woman at the Well scripture from the Gospel of John.

At its center, John’s passage speaks about affirming identity. Indeed it is the through the acceptance of one’s identity that allows one to drink from the well of living waters. God calls the faithful to affirm oneself in spirit and truth. I cannot help but to think how this scene captures Bishop Robinson’s personal journey of discovery, self affirmation and coming to terms with the truth of his sexual identity. As he offered water to the thirsty, I realized how the many generations of LGBT celebrants and activists salved the thirst of Bishop Robinson as he came to the well of living waters wanting to live into the spirit of truth about who he was and what God calls him to be. On this day Bishop Robinson was dutifully living into God’s spirit of truth by offering water to marchers and celebrants ever so thirsty to drink from the same life affirming well of living waters. This could not have been possible had there not been someone from a non-distant past  encouraging Gene Robinson to drink from the ladle of living water, dipped in the truth of God’s deep well of unconditional and inclusive love.

Let our hearts not be troubled. Bishop Robinson stands with ladle in hand offering all who thirst a long and cool drink from God’s abundant well.

Thanks be to God.

You Tune Video: Mahalia Jackson, Women at the Well

July 3, 2009 Posted by | Bible, children, Civil Rights, community, faith, gay rights, holiday, LGBT, life, politics, psychology, religion | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Name Is Legion

stempedeOne of the more disturbing Gospel passages for me appears in the fifth chapter of Mark.  It is the story of Legion;  a man possessed of many demons.  Legion lived amongst tombstones and took to cutting himself.  The townsfolk were terrified of Legion and bound him with chains.  Legion would break his chains and he could be heard howling and cursing his fate as he roamed the night in lonely exile through his mountainous domain.

One day Legion saw Jesus approaching the village and went to him begging not to torment him.  Jesus saw that the man was possessed of demons and commanded them to leave the stricken Legion.  When the illness left Legion the demons asked Jesus if they could inhabit a heard of pigs foraging nearby.  Jesus consented and the pigs went mad and rushed off a cliff into the sea where all the pigs drowned.

Though the story may be the first accounting of a human sickness causing a swine flu infestation it always bothered me.  Jesus’ consent to infect a heard of innocent pigs whose sickness compelled them to leap to their deaths is disturbing.   Perhaps there is a cultural justification to the story for the prohibition of eating pork and the classification of pigs as haraam but upon rereading the story,  it was the desire of the illness to enter the swine.  The story is a wonderful examination of the non-discriminate nature of illnesses and disease.  Jesus provides the reader with an important lesson not to shut out the ill and to take considered action to engage the malady to effect the cure.

Who amongst us does not have demons or illness lurking within?  Indeed we are all Legion.    As a person in recovery, I identify with Legion’s state of possession and find great comfort in Jesus’ example of the necessity to heal. He rebuked the use of chains, showed tenderness and empathy to the infirm.  He effected the cure and commanded the ill to rejoin the the community as a whole and healthy human being.  John Donne’s Meditation 17 is very similar in the importance of community in dealing with illness and tribulation.

Jesus’ understanding of illness and his example as a healer stands in direct contradiction to some of the inane proscriptions for dealing with the swine pandemic that have been put forward.  Guided by fear and the desire to politicize the pandemic some politicians are using the swine flu as an opportunity to collect some political capital.  The Stepford Republican Congresswoman Michelle Bachman; observed with great intelligence and insight that the the last swine flu outbreak occurred while another democratic administration held the White House.  Ms. Bachman apparently suspects that the pandemic may be politically inspired and connected to the platform of the Democratic Party in some way.

Twitter and other social networking sites are alive with tweets proclaiming this is evidence of another terrorist attack.  Ive seen a bunch of tweets stating this pandemic is clear evidence of Al-Qaeda activity in Mexico using our open borders to destroy America.

This type of thinking is very dangerous.  I remember when AIDS first surfaced as a disease.  Little was known about its origins and causes.  What was known was that many Gay men were becoming infected with the disease and if I recall correctly it was referred to as the Gay influenza or virus.  This categorization of AIDS stigmatized the disease and those who were infected.  This stigmatization contributed to the spread of the disease because homosexuals who were infected with AIDS would avoid treating the disease because of guilt and shame.  Non-gay men who were infected with the disease may have been slow to seek treatment because they believed themselves not to be infected because they did not engage in homosexual activities.  In either case the misinformation, stigma and shame attached to the disease by people for the purpose of political gain were responsible for the spread of the disease.

The howling yodelers of Talk Radio and Fox News are also crowing about the political dimensions of the flu.  Some want an immediate closure of our borders and question the political resolve of of the Obama Administration to live up to their pledge to protect the Homeland.  Glen Beck of FOX TV states that President Obama is a prisoner of his liberal PC convictions.  Beck cries through a river of alligator tears about  the failure to close the borders is synonymous with an act of sedition that seeks to destroy America.

While Mr. Beck professes a great love for his country he demonstrates a poor understanding of  what distinguishes America.  Just lurking underneath the surface of Mr. Beck’s demagoguery is blaming Mexicans for the pandemic just as Ms. Bachman blame of democrats for the spread of the disease.  Science  instructs that illness is an equal opportunity malady.  It does not discriminate on the basis of people place or color.

In Mark’s story about Legion, Jesus took action.  Jesus didn’t say use a more study chain nor did he say build a wall around us to protect us from this scourge.  No Jesus touched Legion.  In story after story Jesus touched lepers,  blind people, crippled and the dead to cure them.  Jesus was available during his ministry to all people and allowed others to touch him so that their faith would free them from their demons.  Jesus understood that a wall of ostracism is a poor defense from a pandemic.  Ironically its isolation that incubates the disease of body, mind and soul.  Jesus  stressed that the ill be part of the community to witness and teach others about restoration, rehabilitation, the importance of action and the need to serve.

Politicizing problems obfuscates solutions. The mother of fear is ignorance and the thinking exemplified by Ms. Bachman and Mr. Beck is enough to create 10 pandemics of fear, suspicion and resentment.  Little do they realize the real gold that can be mined through the challenge of tribulation. We’ll close with these words from John Donne’s Meditation 17.

Writes Donne:

Another man may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell, that tells me of his affliction, digs out and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another’s danger I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.

You Tube Video: Louis Armstrong, St. James Infirmary

Risk: isolation, politicization, ignorance

May 4, 2009 Posted by | Bible, community, culture, democrats, gay rights, jazz, LGBT, Obama, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Must Disenthrall Ourselves

lincoln-collage1The wisdom resonating from this voice that now belongs to the ages still begs his countrymen to heed it. Lincoln’s admonition that his countrymen must disenthrall themselves to meet the momentous challenges of the time continues to speak to the dire condition of our nation today. Lincoln asks us to let go of our intransigence and the tired dogmas that we cling too. In a world rife with uncertainty and risk, surrounding us in a whirling maelstrom of existential dread, emotional responses to pressing problems born from fear of a perceived pending doom is insufficient and dangerous. We must mount a constructive response of considered actions to safely land our ship of state in a safe harbor. It is our pathway to becoming whole once again.

The great national hero Captain Sully was successful because he refused to succumb to the quickly deteriorating conditions that were enveloping him and the plane. He disenthralled himself from the emotional distraction of pending doom. He kept the wings level, his nose up and maintained the right speed. Captain Sully landed the plane in the most trying circumstances and became an example of how we must respond get through our national crisis.

Our politicians in Washington can learn much by heeding Mr. Lincoln’s words and studying Captain Sully’s actions. Our elected officials are enthralled with the righteousness of their ideals; contributing to a dreary deadlock of legislative stasis and partisan intractability. Politicians got to get over themselves and begin to serve their largest constituency and not their largest contributors.

Large corporations need to become disenthralled of their self perceived cleverness. Many believe that major investments in applied intelligence create a culture of insularity that hedges all risks and protects every business move. This allows corporate executives to hide behind a wall of opaqueness. They buy the best and brightest minds from our esteemed business schools convinced that this treasure of intellectual capital will protect them. They believe the digital blips of risk models to be sparkling Rosetta Stones containing the secrets that unlock the mysteries of effective risk management. The codified results of these algorithmic exercises are revered as holy Dead Sea Scrolls that offers the protection of an supernatural mojo. This is the thinking of a bankrupt brain trust.

As citizens of the worlds greatest military power we must disenthrall ourselves from the conviction that the powers of our armies, superior technologies and well stocked arsenals is our country’s surest way to protect our beloved country. The power of an enlightened citizenry educated in a vibrant public school system is the bulwark of a democratic republic and its surest defense. Our enlightenment will be a lamp to those who value liberty; as will our practice to extend the hand of peace to all nations through considered diplomacy and an honest search for shared interests.

As a people we must disenthrall ourselves from the petty preoccupations, dogmas and prejudices that consume our time and attention. I believe too many of my countrymen are more impassioned about A Rods admission of steroid use then they are about the substances that control and dictate our behaviors and beliefs and the ever present and growing dangers to our democratic way of life.

We’ll end with the words from the great man himself.

Happy birthday President Lincoln.

“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

You Tube Video: George Harrison, Beware of Darkness

Risk: fear, discernment, action

February 16, 2009 Posted by | Civil Rights, culture, gay rights, philosophy, psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bishop Robinson’s Benediction Censored by HBO

Censorship
Eric Drooker

Someone somewhere in the offices of HBO decided not to include Bishop Gene Robinson’s Benediction Prayer in the cable broadcast of “We Are One”.  Included is the text of Bishop Robinson’s Benediction prayer and a You Tube Video of the Benediction. Link to Pam’s House Blend for more discussion.

A Prayer for the Nation and Our Next President, Barack Obama

By The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

Opening Inaugural Event

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC

January 18, 2009

Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God’s blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

AMEN.

You Tube Video: Christianity Today Link to Benediction Video

Risk: censorship

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Civil Rights, gay rights, LGBT, media, Obama, politics, religion | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bishop Robinson’s Celebratory Benediction

I was the Warden at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church when the then Rev. Gene Robinson was being considered to become the 9th Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. At a vestry meeting the then Rector of St. Alban’s asked vestry members to sign a letter in support of the candidacy of the Rev. Robinson. I in good conscience stated that I could not sign the letter as it was written. Though I knew of Rev. Robinson I did not know him. Though I supported his right as a Gay man to be considered for the position of Bishop, I did not believe that his sexual orientation automatically qualified him for the office. Nor did it allow me to sign a letter advising the electors of the Diocese of New Hampshire that they should vote for Rev. Robinson because I new little of his experience and background and how he would benefit their Dioceses.

I suggested that we incorporate language that we believe that Rev. Robinson’s sexual orientation should not be a consideration of his candidacy. We also stated that if the Diocesan electors understand Rev. Robinson to be qualified and suitably gifted to meet the requirements of the position then we wholeheartedly support their decision to call him as the 9th Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. Thankfully God moved the electors to call Rev. Robinson. His consecration as Bishop has removed another barrier for the denial of civil rights for Gays.

I believe that my opposition to the letter as it was originally presented was in full conformance with Dr. Martin Luther King’s admonition that we should judge a person by the content of his character, not the color of his skin, or in the case of Rev. Robinson his sexual orientation. This teaching is central to my understanding of the ministry of Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus practiced a ministry of inclusiveness that calls everyone to his table. By doing so Jesus asks us to see the divinity in one another, unencumbered by earthly prejudices and predispositions. Jesus asks us to see each other as God sees us by looking at what is written in the heart of a person. By recognizing that we are all children of God, equally endowed with the gift of grace and apportioned an equal amount of divine love.

The Constitution of the United States is a political document that parallels that idea. We are all equal citizens under the law. No law will abrogate or abridge the civil rights, privileges and protection of our laws for any citizen based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

Bishop Robinson’s Benediction will speak to this issue on many levels. His benediction will ask that we be mindful of the call for inclusiveness and to engage in the work to bridge the cultural, political and racial divide that is always a clear and present danger to a democratic republic. The shameful thrust of Proposition 8 that seeks to codify the denial of equal civil rights to Gay people denies them a place at the table of democracy. I don’t believe Jesus would approve. But we must take heart and be content in the understanding that children of God like Bishop Robinson walk and teach among us. Asking us to be ever mindful of those who suffer the injustice of exclusion and to set a place at the table so that all may eat the bread of life and drink from the cup of liberty.

You Tube Video: San Francisco Gay Men Chorus, “Oh, Happy Day”

Risk: civil rights, democracy

January 18, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, Civil Rights, gay rights, LGBT, Obama, politics, religion | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment