When 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
Every once a while an event happens that shifts the prevailing scheme of things. Julian Assange’s dump and release of US State Department cables (CableGate) for global distribution on WikiLeaks is such an event. It radically alters existing convention and the public’s general perception of normalcy, acceptability and protocol. It brings into question the motives and interests of nations and their leaders. It squarely plops an 800 pound gorilla on the sofa in everyone’s living room and provokes questions that naggingly insist answers. Asking leaders about duplicity, conflicts of interest, distortions, fabrications, fibs and outright lies all done in the national interest. It is how a new Weltanschauung is cast and forged to conform to the needs a new world order. The sun has set on the American Century. Blessedly, America’s days as a self righteous post Cold War marauding superpower are coming to a close. The WikiLeaks disclosures gives us some insights into the thinking and banter world leaders engage as they move the Chess pieces across the board on the great global game of new world order.
There are moral considerations and ethical arguments to be made on each side of Mr. Assange’s incendiary action. CableGate raises complex multidimensional issues of national security, informed citizenry, the protection of information, its public disclosure and citizens right to know. The natural tension between the simultaneous need for confidentiality and transparency is a reality of our complex and interconnected world. The management of these issues have escalated to become a preeminent dilemma of our time. This raises significant challenges to democratic societies and the governance structures of both public and private institutions. It threatens institutional sustainability and undermines institutional capability to function in highly interdependent stakeholder ecosystems. The risk of seeking pathways to safely navigate the virtual minefields of a digitized global world is great and continues to grow.
The most impassioned issue raised by CableGate is the ethical violation of stolen property. The cables were not Mr. Assange’s property and what gives him the right to publish and violate diplomats right to confidentiality and privacy? His actions could endanger diplomatic relationships, compromise government initiatives or derail delicate negotiations. Do governments have a right to privacy? If so, what information needs to be classified as secret and confidential? If all documents are secret then the designation is meaningless and government nothing more then a ruthless leviathan lording over a clueless citizenry.
Another critical question CableGate raises is who is served by the publication of these cables? Certainly American citizens in whose interest the State Department purportedly acts benefits from the added transparency. US citizens must admit there is a certain level of comfort in being able to track the satchel of an Afghanistan Vice President stuffed $52 million of taxpayers money through the U.A.E. Customs.
Detractors of CableGate assert that the leaks are a danger to America and its citizens. If so why is the public aggrieved and who exactly is the “aggrieved public”? Soldiers and servicemen fighting in Afghanistan? Does State Department Cables provide tactical and strategic information on troop deployments? Highly doubtful. More likely it is the special interests enriching themselves at the public troughs by cutting deals to shamelessly engorge themselves as insidious war profiteers. Better to ask why our country has placed our young servicemen and woman at risk in wars that makes little sense and accomplishes nothing.
Another set of critical questions CableGate raises are “Do citizens have a right to truth? Is access to information meaningful? Does the information help citizens of democratic societies understand the actions and motivations of their government? Why do diplomats pursue certain course of action and who is profiting from the course of action pursued? These are critical tenants citizens require to make informed decisions in a democratic society and CableGate certainly supports the notion of information empowerment for citizens.
Arguing the contrary one must ask “is it better to be mislead and be lied too in the name of propriety and protocol then to be victimized by the truth? I’ll take conviction in a court of truth and pray for a life sentence every time.
If you believe that the public can’t handle the truth or needs protection from it; imagine yourself living near a nuclear power plant and it was leaking radiation into your drinking water. Would you like to know about it? What if disclosure led to wide spread panic? I believe that truth and transparency always serves to discover and determine the best course of action to pursue.
CableGate has also shed damaging light on the power exercised by private corporations and the commercial control and open access and free availability of information. Amazon’s cloud computing service had no silver lining for WikiLeaks. After the WikiLeak dump it shut down access to the cables due to the unacceptable risk posed by denial of service attacks mounted by computer hackers. This was followed by PayPal’s closure of WikiLeaks donation solicitation account. Was PayPal’s motive purely patriotic? Where they just pissed at WikiLeaks or were they at risk of aiding and abetting a subversive organization that risked prosecution under certain provisions of THE USA PATRIOT ACT?
Academic freedom also seems to have taken a blow due to CableGate. This weekend, Columbia University warned its students not to download or distribute WikiLeak cables because it may affect future employment opportunities with the State Department. Government employees were also warned not to read or access the cables because they had no security clearance to do so. If they were caught accessing the leaked cables it could cost them their jobs. Even though the cables are published in great detail everyday by newspapers throughout the world, government employees must be careful not to notice for risk of losing their employment. This is truly a Kafkaesque dilemma for some, a divine comedy for others and a growing political drama for everyone.
I’m still not sure that Cablegate is what it purports to be. As the old saying goes and the cables affirm nothing is ever as it seems. I find it most improbable that a Private First Class sitting at a PC in Baghdad could download the Iraq War Logs and throw a great superpower into a first class crisis of the new world order. I liken the leaks to the past practice of “special unnamed high placed sources” leaking inside information to the liberal mainstream media outlets. Its done to float trial balloons about new government directions. They do it to test the waters of public sentiment to new ideas, or change in policy course or potentially damaging information to see how the public reacts. Not one to be of a conspiratorial mindset, I perceive CableGate in this light. As expected the public reaction thus far has elevated our collective sense of outrage to a heightened level of ambivalence.
In many respects Iraq War Logs supports the construction of a new narrative about an exit strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan. The revelations of wastefulness, corruption and back room deal making with a full caste of sordid characters reinforces the public perception about the uselessness of these wasteful and expensive misadventures. The cables may prove to be the documentary evidence of America’s Waterloo and CableGate may be seen by future generations as the historical high watermark of an expired global empire.
As the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs helped to prepare the public psyche for an exit strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq; CableGate helps construct a narrative surrounding the need to “cut off the head of the snake in Iran”. These cables implicate Arab States in a desire to undermine the apostate Persians and abrogates Israeli culpability as the driving force behind an attack on Iran.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the cables psychological warfare. I don’t doubt for a second that atomic weapons in the hands of Iran is a dangerous development that needs to be mitigated. That does not mean that we should employ bombers to destroy Iranian nuclear processing facilities. This would only create an environmental disaster and political crisis that further destabilizes the region. It would secure the enmity of new generations of Muslims and no doubt stoke the escalation of the Crusade against Islam.
In the Far East,China’s growth as a world super power and ascending rival to US dominance makes for compelling reading. Here its no surprise that cables assess a strengthening China, its growing nationalism and military readiness. Reading these cables against the backdrop of rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, China’s complicity in helping North Korea ship nuclear materials to Iran and the changing sentiment in the US concerning the largest note holder of government bonds may prove to carry grave consequences for harmonious US/China relations. The cable revealing China’s ambivalence toward its North Korean surrogate state is laid bare as long as it can secure preferred trade agreements with a unified Korea.
The revelations offered by Pakistan’s leaders about support for the Taliban and a growing concern about the safety of their nuclear arsenals raised the possibility of a US military move to quarantine or neutralize Pakistani weapon systems. Though so far India seems to come off unscathed by the cables it must be heartening for India’s leaders to know that its budding friendship with the US may encourage a move to disarm the nuclear capability of its northern antagonist and the worlds sole Islamic atomic state.
These WikiLeaks offer up a brand new narrative for an emerging new world order. The damaging realization of the spillage of confidential proprietary discussions and dialogs between world governments and the mishandling of those documents diminishes the stature of US federalism. The undermining of federalism and its suitability as a governance structure for the new millennium foreshadows the growing antagonism of global corporate entities like Google and the nationalistic government of the People’s Republic of China augers an era of conflict between statism and corporatism.
CableGate is a deliberate attempt to have institutions open up with greater transparency and construct a democratic narrative that force governments to change. Mr. Assange’s avowed goal is to, “allow governments and institutions to become more transparent or force them to become more opaque” Depending on the what side of the fence your sitting on, openness and transparency benefits the public interest. The struggle for democracy requires the open access and the free flow of information.
In the digital age denial of free, open and equal access to information is tantamount to fascism. Withheld, it will encourage people to rise up demanding the means to pursue conscious enlightenment. This may spur political activism that demands institutional accountability, and the practice of democratic governance based on constitutional principles. Failing that once free citizens will be forced to accept the meager lies and obfuscations of leaders and power elites whose self interest is the sole interest of government.
So as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tries to plug the leaks in a failing dike system, we cannot content ourselves to live with our heads buried in the sand, filling our minds with reality TV reruns of Jack Ass Three and Bristol Palin bustin a move on Dance Fever. I’ve heard it said that the best way to influence the future is to invent it. Mr. Assange has given us a world of insights and a basic tool set to start constructing a foundation for a new world order.
You Tube Music Video: REM, End of the World As We Know It
Risk: diplomacy, international relations, governance
This little ditty on NPR this morning about the Smithsonian Exhibit, Hide and Seek, an exhibition of Gay portraiture. Seems Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor and Bill Donahue, President of the Catholic League is upset that taxpayer money is being used to showcase what they consider to be unacceptable art. Here’s the link:
Its a doubled edged sword when government underwrites the creation of art. Exhibitions can confer a type of sanction that promotes censorship in service to state sponsored propaganda. From my perspective that is not the issue at stake here; but if you listen to the audio Bill Donahue condemns museums as “liberal elite institutions”. Mr. Donahue probably considers Hide and Seek as the latest subversive initiative by Obama’s Politburo to undermine American Family Values.
Mr. Donahue, still smarting from Andreas Serrano’s Piss Christ gets off his best shot in America’s escalating culture war by asserting that “working people, like himself, (read real Americans) don’t go to museums. He says they go to WWF wrestling matches.” He sarcastically suggests that perhaps government funding of the arts would be better spent underwriting WWF ducats for the masses. Beholden to his dogma, Mr. Donahue fails to recognize the difference between pedestrian commercial camp and artistic pursuit. He confuses the spectacle of bread and violent circus with aesthetic encounter, discovery and contemplation.
Mr. Donahue’s insistence that his position should be viewed in the same light as Muslims reaction when depictions of the Prophet Muhammad appear in visual art presentations is disingenuous. Muslims prohibit all visual representations of the Prophet Muhammad. The same prohibitions of promoting visual images of Jesus Christ is not a common practice of Christian denominations. Secular democracies also do not sanction fatwas and post bounties for jihadists to take out apostates and infidels. That is a unique blessing of secular societies that fundamentalists, religious zealots and Mr. Donahue fail to perceive.
File this one under the dumbing down of America Series, Triumph of the Willfulness.
Walt Whitman: Calamus Poems
You Tube Music Video: Aaron (Gay American) Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man
Risk: culture, censorship, homophobia
For this years Thanksgiving, I have decided to focus on developing a sense of gratitude. The world is full of real bad stuff happening to too many people and its easy to let the darkness of our times cast long shadows of resentment, anger and ill will over our outlook on life. So today as I travel to a relatives home to gather for our national day of thankfulness I choose to leave resentments at home and cultivate a sense of gratitude.
I’m grateful for my eyes. My sight allows me to perceive the million graces The Almighty abundantly confers upon the inhabitants of the good earth each and every day. My eyes help me to discover the pressing needs of others and respond to it. My eyes help me to discern light from darkness, distinguish the forest from the trees and eschew pedestrian views to behold a beautiful vista. My eyes are a pathway to my soul moving me to contemplate the good, forsake the bad and move against evil in service to truth.
I’m grateful for my ears. The grace of hearing permits me to listen. My ears alert me to the cries of my brothers and sisters and enables me to understand our shared human condition. My ears tune my spirit to the chords of exquisite music and the natural symphonies of Mother Earth’s angelic chorus of singing birds, heaving oceans, the majestic pause of silent mountains and the fleeting rush of the swelling wind are all divine voices singing the joyful hymns of life.
I’m thankful for my sense of smell. Graciously my nose breathes in the inviting aroma of a lovingly prepared home cooked meal, the wholesome scent of baking bread wafting from the door of the corner bakery, a briny snort from the boundless sea, the rich compost of the deep woods after a soft summer rain, the bouquet of an infants hair and the perfume of a lovers embrace.
I give thanks for my ability to touch. Hands engaged in productive work and gainful employment is a blessing absent from too many Thanksgiving Day tables this year. We yearn to connect and the sense of touch invites our ability to feel. Feeling is the father of empathy and the mother of compassion. Caring for our animal friends we live in communion with all sentient beings. As we touch one another and allow others to touch us; the hardest of hearts is softened, the most grievous wounds are healed to liberate the sensual yearnings dwelling in the deepest recesses of ourselves. Feeling allows us to become fully present, fully aware and fully alive in the celebration of what it means to be fully human.
I’m thankful for my sense of taste. As Sinatra croons “from the brim to the dregs” the wine of our lives may not all taste good but it all flows clear and true. Sample, savor and learn. Taste and see the glories of the Lord’s banquet so abundantly placed before us. The bitter herbs, the sweet cakes, the leisure repast, the fortifying meal and unrequited hunger is the daily bread of being human. Pause to consider those that are lining up for the tenth Thanksgiving Day meal in Afghanistan and Iraq and pray that the awful rations of war fed to our young soldiers be supplanted with the good manna of peace.
Perhaps we loose our sense of gratitude because expectations of ourselves and others always seems to come up short of the mark. Imperfection is our most endearing quality. It informs our ability to forgive transgressions, form bonds of friendship and unconditionally love each other. I remain grateful for the sense of my imperfection as I overlook your imperfections and remain ever hopeful that you will extend your hand to help me over come mine.
You Tube Video: Jean Ritchie, Shady Grove
risk: resentment, gratitude, peace, metal health,
That day has arrived again. In a very real sense it is a day that has never left us. We remember our incomprehension of how benign jetliners could transform into vehicles of mass murder. We remember our astounded shock as we witnessed the compelling images of those trapped above the gaping mortal wounds of the WTC Towers cascade downward after a decisive leap of death. We remember the indomitable Towers crumbing into broiling clouds of toxic dust rumbling through the canyons of Wall Street engulfing the spires of Bankers Trust and Trinity’s dark steeple. We remember the confusion of the civic turmoil that erupted throughout the besieged city and the depths of terror that rang our soul from an unseen force of wanton power and ambivalent devastation. We remember the heroic bravery of first responders who gave the last full measure of their devotion in service to others. And we remember our shared egregious grief, the broken hearts and the traumatized families whose sense of loss will never fully dissipate.
For nine years we have weaved the bits of steel from the wreckage of that day into our national DNA. 9/11 has truly transfigured our nation and its people to a depth that we find difficult to comprehend or understand. We have entered two wars, ceded civil liberties and fed the beast of fear a diet of suspicion, mistrust and agonizing vulnerability. We have let this fear express itself as an emotional response that quickly acts to salve immediate pain with force of will then allow a more deliberate and considered course of action that fully expresses the resolve, fortitude and ideals of a free people.
We believe that the terrorists attacked us because they fear us. They fear a nation and a people that cherish freedom and prize liberty for all. The cornerstone of those liberties are the freedom to think, express, associate and worship according to the dictates of ones own conscience. No authority or government institution will abridge those freedoms nor compel any individual to associate, act, think or worship in a manner antithetical to their personal beliefs or values. Tyrants, despots and authoritarian governments compel belief and extract tribute of action by demanding conformity to ideology and submission to self serving authority. They idealize the use of force foregoing dialog and negotiation as a way to convey ideas and forge consensus.
The tool of terror is the way of tyrants. Terror compels the terrorized to acquiesce and submit to wanton authority at odds with personal liberty and freedom. Is not Pastor Terry Jones, “Burn a Quran Day” nothing more then a form of terror aimed at Muslims, a maligned and vulnerable minority? Why do many believe it is perfectly suitable to ascribe the status as “less then” for Muslims seeking to build the Park51 Mosque on the grounds that their religious affiliation excludes them from building a house of worship too close to the hallowed ground of the WTC? Prohibiting the rights of a people because of their religion is a Taliban like mindset that all lovers of freedom should abhor. The propagation of the belief that the construction of the Park51 Mosque is a monument intended to commemorate the martyrdom of terrorists is a vile lie and a pernicious attempt to advance a reactionary political agenda.
Can the United States extol religious bigotry by celebrating intolerance? Do we applaud compelled fealty and submission by profaning Holy Books and sacraments of religions and faith traditions that are not our own? Do we deny the full and equal rights of a group of citizens that are somehow deemed less then or not fully enfranchised to enjoy and exercise the protections of a full palate of constitutional freedoms? The United States cannot allow itself to sink into the morass of intolerance, bigotry and exclusion. It runs counter to the central ideals of a democratic republic and the very essence of what distinguishes the United States from the forces of terror that seek to destroy it.
Creating national emblems of fetishistic icons to express our grief is not the correct response to the 9/11 attacks. Chunks of steel from the downed towers, bits of damaged flags or falsely ascribing a sanctity to a two block radius around the WTC site turns grief into a fetish that will forever enslave the will and endlessly torment the soul. This nation cannot cling to its illness, it must restore and strengthen its democratic character by building alters to liberty through the practice of tolerance by jealously guarding and joyously celebrating civil liberties for all.
Let the burning of the Quran be an indictment of ignorance, bigotry and religious intolerance. Let the building of the Park51 Mosque be a monument to the strength and hope of a free people that proclaims America as a light to all nations.
Our prayers for peace, restoration and life affirming abundance to all affected by 9/11 remain steadfast.
You Tube Music Video: Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings
Today the High Holy Days begin with the observance of the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah 2010, marks the 5771 year on the Jewish Calendar. Rosh Hashanah , The Day of Awe, is a day of awakening. The Shofar is sounded to rouse those from a sleep of spiritual and moral ambivalence calling all to a season of personal introspection and examination. The new year provides an opportunity to identify character flaws, meditate on the impact of our actions, make amends and take corrective steps that honors affirmative relationships and breeds transformative growth.
The High Holy Days will conclude in ten days with the observance of Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement. The culmination of a period of deep examination and action, Yom Kippur offers all a clean slate to begin again. Opportunities to start anew are truly a divine grace that should be eagerly embraced with intentional gratitude. An opportunity to make amends with those we have injured, forge news bonds of trust, restore integrity and stand upright and unstained in the presence of God is a miraculous grace.
Year 5772 will not arrive for some currently present to mark this years Rosh Hashanah. Indeed some of us will not see tomorrows sunrise. The day of transfiguration has come. We must examine ourselves to discover what must heal. We must engage our neighbors to understand what rifts must be repaired. We must open our eyes to banish the darkness of self serving pursuits. Doing so will allow us to stand in the restorative light of God’s unconditional love. It is up to each of us to take the needed action to reinvigorate, restore and set things right. Lift up your ears and hear the piercing peal of the Shofar. This Day of Awe calls to us.
You tube music video: The Klezmatics Araber Tants
Risk: opportunity, restoration