Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

The Empty Chair

Today the recipient for the 2010 Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to Liu Xiaobo. Mr. Xiaobo could not be present to accept the award because he is a prisoner in a Chinese jail. Mr. Xiaobo is a writer, educator and life long human rights activist. The Nobel Committee believes Mr. Xiaobo’s life and work to be exemplar of the ideals of human rights and global peace. Mr. Xiaobo was imprisoned for advocating that his country should be more mindful of human rights and become more democratic. Mr. Xiaobo was not allowed to come to Oslo to receive the Peace Prize. This years Peace Prize was conferred to an empty chair.

The empty chair may be fated to be the metaphor of our time.

It is said that a prophet finds no honor in his own country. It is also said that China may have lost an opportunity to show commitment to human rights and the clemency of justice by ransoming their captive to allow him to collect his well deserved prize. So much impassioned enmity inflamed in the name of peace. Those who are wagging tongues, shaking fists and pointing an accusatory finger at China for desecrating the hollowed pursuit of peace should look into the mirror and dislodge the splinter from their own eyes.

We can’t absolve China for its lax accords on civil rights. Nor can we overlook the continued prosecution of America’s two wars or the incessant drumbeats for another against Iran. Our ears cannot shut out the screams of entrapped Palestinian’s clinging to a vapid life in peace starved Gaza as our eye’s behold the unending horror of the Grim Reaper threshing his way through the rubble of Port-Au-Prince with a cholera infected sickle. Our dread consumes us contemplating a divided nuclear Korea burying the prospect for peace in the false refuge of fearful bunkers and the horrific prospect of the slaughter of innocents commencing again as caravans of saber wielding Junjaweed take aim at Southern Sudan.

In Ephesians, Paul speaks of the man made malady of separation of the circumcised and the uncircumcised. We are all exiles from the peace of Zion, foreigners to the promise of the covenant until we embrace the covenant of peace by removing the barriers that separate us. The walls that cleave the unity of the beloved is the father of conflict. It is through the unity of the Holy Spirit that the exiles are called home to Zion to build the Kingdom and firmly reestablish The Prince of Peace on an earthly throne.

On Friday nights I attend a Men’s meeting. We sit in a circle to share our experience strength and hope as beloved brothers. In the middle of our trusted circle we place an unoccupied chair. At the beginning of the meeting the leader will say;

“The empty chair in the middle of the room is saved for the still suffering alcoholic. It is there to remind us that he will always have a place in this room if he has an honest desire to recover. “

The Good Shepard is forever faithful! The empty chair is miraculously transformed; always to remain open as a necessary condition for communities of hope. Those moved by the spirit will arrive at these well lighted places. Welcomed as a lost brother, the wounded wanderers will be tended to, nursed and nourished; so long as they carry a desire for restoration and light of hope within them. They too shall know peace.

The empty chair may be fated to be the metaphor of our time. It remains unoccupied, welcoming Liu Xiaobo to claim his welled earned rest and restoration in the Peace of the Lord.

Emmanuel!
The Prince of Peace
Dwells with us
Dwells within us
Dwells all around us
My peace I give to you.
My peace I leave you.
Not as the world giveth.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
Saith The Prince of Peace 

Selah

Peace and prayers to all the beloved,

jbm

You Tube Music Video:
John Lennon, Give Peace and Chance
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December 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Black Monday

Americans are waking up this morning to one hell of a Thanksgiving hangover.  As the USS George Washington plies the waters of the Yellow Sea daring North Korea to “make our day”;  we are barraged with the news that the King of Bahrain and the House of Saud is urging us to take out Iran’s nuclear reactors.  Wikileaks is spilling the beans about America’s hypocrisy and disingenuousness of empire while the plutocracy is concerned that Black Friday wasn’t black enough to keep their fat dividend checks flowing.  Our abandoned and ill led armies continue roaming the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq like lost Bedouin in search of a pesky phantom jin that only materializes to harass, kill and maim our unsuspecting and vulnerable young soldiers.  The European Union is loaning $160 billion to Ireland’s banks so institutional investors can be made whole and the Irish people can labor the rest of their lives to pay off the debt.  This is getting Wall Street a bit nervous and may drive up interest rates threatening the portfolios of well healed investors and choking off our elusive economic recovery.  But as Sean Hannity is fond of saying, “don’t let your hearts be troubled”, cause Palin bagged a Caribou last night on Sarah’s Alaska and Cyber Monday is here and nirvana at Amazon is just is just a few clicks away.  Party on Garth…….

You Tube Music Video: Donald Byrd, Change

Risk, stability, peace, economy

November 29, 2010 Posted by | disaster planning, nuclear, Uncategorized, war | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

She’ll Be Comin Round the Mountain

John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
John Muir, The Yosemite

 

Last night I attended a public meeting in Ringwood on the proposed plan to upgrade the capacity of a natural gas pipeline through 16 miles of North Jersey’s pristine and endangered Highland woodlands. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. a subsidiary of El Paso Corp has filed a Letter of Intent with Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) to extend the swath of its pipeline grid with the Northeast Upgrade.  The meeting was chaired by FERC and its purpose was to solicit feedback on the pipeline upgrade known as the 300 Project.

A FERC representative declared the meeting open and outlined the purpose of the meeting and the process the agency will use to evaluate El Paso’s application to extend its footprint in the region.  The FERC representative then introduced an El Paso project engineer who took the audience through a brief power-point presentation on El Paso and the proposed pipeline upgrade project.  The meeting was then opened to comments from attendees.

Numerous people rose to speak.  Representatives from the Sierra Club, Ramapough Indian Tribe, local environmental groups, residents and public citizens voiced concerns about the 300 Project.  Not one spoke in defense of the project.

Many of the speakers raised the issue about the need to conduct a comprehensive environmental impact study.  The proposed pipeline extends way into western Pennsylvania and is key delivery platform for natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale region.  The Marcellus Shale project has recently gained some negative notoriety from the Josh Fox documentary Gasland and the use of the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Fracking involves the use of water mixed with chemicals, pumped underground into the shale formations to release the natural gas entrapped between the sedimentary layers.  Though the 300 Project does not involve natural gas extraction or the practice of fracking many speakers spoke about the lack of sufficient end to end regulatory oversight and the unsuitability of regulatory silos to effectively deal with the environmental, social, economic and cultural risks posed by the project.

The regulatory response to the risks posed by the pipeline goes to the heart of the many questions Americans are wrestling with at the polls in today’s Mid-Term Elections.  The Tea Party/GOP believes government is too big, regulation impedes economic growth and natural gas extraction is key to energy independence.  The progressive response is that corporations cannot indiscriminately impose their will on communities, regulatory safeguards align the interests of stakeholders, environmental stewardship is key to a sustainable future and non-fossil fuel based renewable energy sources need to be encouraged and promoted.

The speaker from the Sierra Club stated that his membership is not opposed to natural gas.  The Sierra Club views it as a key source of energy but also stated that the impact of its extraction and transport must be assessed within a larger context of risk factors confronting a complex ecosystem of community stakeholders.  He stated that the 300 Project posed unacceptable risks to the protected Sterling Forest Highlands watershed.  In the absence of a meaningful comprehensive Environmental Impact Study (remember BP’s Deepwater Horizon boilerplate EIS stated their environmental protection plan would carefully monitor the risk to a non-existing sea lion population)  the unknown dangers it posed to underwater aquifers supplying water to 4 million people remained unanswered.  He also spoke of the risks posed to the areas flora and fauna and the aesthetic degradation to The Appalachian Trail,  Monksville State Park, Ramapo Mountain State Forest and Ringwood Manor.

Coincidentally, much of the area El Paso chose for the proposed pipeline expansion is on public land.  The Highlands, Sterling Forest and Ringwood Manor comprise a portfolio of public land assets that are protected by a public trust.  Many people worked long and hard to protect these vital natural lands and El Paso is leasing them on the cheap.  The political disposition of New Jersey Governor Christie is an  ideal dance partner to enable El Paso’s unfettered access and use of these public lands.  I would not be surprised if Christie is in negotiations to sell these priceless assets to a private equity firm eager to mortgage the future of  these irreplaceable watershed resources.

As an avid hiker I am in love with the North Jersey Highlands. As a citizen of America’s most densely populated state the escape the woodlands offer is a most welcomed respite from the crushing confines of urbanity. Hiking the Appalachian Trail or bounding along the rocks of the Ramapoughs allows one to gets lost in thoughts and become thoroughly moved by an intimate unbreakable connection to the natural world.  When I mount a rise to be confronted by the clear cut of a gas pipeline “comin round the mountain” I’m reminded that the dear value of solace offered by nature is an endangered species.  I must pick up my step and heighten my resolve to protect the natural graces for succeeding generations.  Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir would expect nothing less.

When I am traversing through the woods I am anointed  with a spiritual grace Mother Nature freely offers and abundantly confers on any communicant.  As I cross the speaking streams and walk wooded paths carpeted with golden leaves the immediacy of being alive in a rich wellness and holy balance with nature alights our human divinity.  The Highlands is where we get our water to drink and fills our soul with a natural food vital for our survival as human beings.  The protection of the Highlands truly preserves our bread of life.

You Tube Music Video: Ramblin Tommy Scott, She’ll Be Comin Round the Mountain

Risk, environmental, regulatory, energy

November 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Life in the Time of Cholera

The nightmare unleashed by the earthquake in Haiti boarders on the surreal.  We are simultaneously drawn into the epic disaster that repulses and threatens to overwhelm our sense of empathy and compassion.  The  outbreak of cholera compounds the suffering of the Haitian people as the unfolding tragedy escalates into an unimaginable spectacle whose severity, scale and complexity daunts comprehension.

The heroic efforts of the Haitian people assisted by aid workers, foreign governments and NGOs have diligently engaged the urgent mission to combat the carnage wrought by the disastrous earthquake.  The efforts to rescue, resuscitate and rebuild a nation entombed by the earthquakes rubble and a crippling legacy of poverty and underdevelopment must now also battle cholera in the multi-front war against this disaster.

It is believed that the earthquake killed an estimated 230,000 people, injured 300,000 and made 1,000,000 homeless.   It is estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged.

Haiti is the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.  Its ability to respond to the cholera outbreak is severely compromised due to the lack of administrative capability and an infrastructure to provide potable water, waste disposal and deliver medical services to the distressed population.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the absence of simple remedial medical care let thousands of minor untreated wounds fester.  Tiny cuts grew into major infections, turned gangrenous and required amputation of arms and legs.  These amputations could have been avoided with a timely treatment of simple antiseptic and a band aid.  The inability to quickly extract the trapped, the blockage of debris strewn roads, the disruption of  water, flattened hospitals and the nonavailability of trained medical personnel  transformed a patient with a minor treatable injury into an amputee.  Haiti is now a nation of amputees.

As the threat of the cholera plague grows, the growing desperation of a desperate people in a desperate situation also grows.  In the absence of simple and timely remedies small treatable wounds becomes terminal. The world can ill afford to abandon the ravaged people of Haiti to scavenge the countryside and roam through the rubble strewn streets of Port-Au-Prince in search of a cure for a nations ailments.  Life in the time of cholera in Haiti does not have to be long lived.  The timely delivery of small and simple treatments can repress this growing nightmare and put an end to this ongoing human tragedy.  The required aid to remedy this festering wound on the body of humanity is tantalizingly close and we must not allow it to remain just out of reach for those dying from the want of a cure.

To help please consider supporting the work of Doctors Without Borders.

You Tube Music Video: Rara Music

Risk: humanity

October 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Guest Editorial: Jesse Holland US Senate Candidate from Nevada

Back in July Risk Rap posted a blog on Fundamentalist Politics in Nevada.  Jesse Holland an Independent US Senatorial Candidate responded to the blog post with an outline of his platform.  I then asked Mr. Holland a series of questions about his political platform and his responses are included in the thread of the blog comments.  Given the heightened national profile of the recent debate between Democratic incumbent Harry Reid and Tea Party backed GOP challenger Sharron Angle, and the exclusion of any participation by independent candidates I asked Mr. Holland if he would be interested in writing a guest blog post on the debate.  He agreed.

The exclusion of independent candidates from participation in debates and the denial of free and equal access to media helps prop up the two party system and its stranglehold on government administration and legislative institutions. The growing paralysis of government is due in part to the extreme partisanship practiced by the ruling Democratic and Republican Parties. This Risk Rap post by Mr. Holland is an attempt to redress independent candidates denial of access to media. More on Mr. Holland’s positions can be found on his website, Holland for Senate.

Risk Rap does not endorse or agree with Mr. Holland’s positions concerning the issues confronting America.  We do however, wholeheartedly endorse his right to speak  and his right to be heard.  Risk Rap welcomes Guest Editorialist, Mr. Jesse Holland, Independent Candidate for US Senate from the State of Nevada. The following is Mr. Holland’s response.

The debate was a comical skit about ‘he said and she said.’ It saddens me greatly that viable candidates are left without media support. The media is intentionally limiting our choices and silencing our voices. The media has chosen your options and we, the People, will be left without truthful representation if either party candidate wins. Can not people look behind the curtain and see it is all about money? Representation can not be offered by he/she who spends most. The track record is your proof. If signs, TV appearances and advertisements give truthful representation, then why are People unhappy? Why can not citizens step outside this foolishness?

It is hard for either chosen media candidate, to obliviously explain why their opinion is better then the will of the State and the citizens therein. That was the failure of this debate. The debate was a series of skirted responses that demonstrate the failure in our country. Honesty was absent in candidate responses and was swapped for absurdity and placating replies. Why?

The role of a Senator is to support the best interests of the State and the citizens therein. My interest as a candidate will not change after elected as Senator. It is heartbreaking and immoral to constantly watch elected representation miss-represent the people and the State of Nevada. I enjoy the freedoms our country provides as any other citizen. Our collective voice should be adequate to push our suggestions forward and enact laws in our government. Representation needs to be just that; representation, outside any influence or gain. I am running to give voters an honest and viable choice by offering my services as an independent candidate this November. I am running to give us, the people, a realistic meaning and cause.

Our government has been hijacked by a two party system. It is truly our government. Our government has robbed our future generations and replaced current funds with IOUs.

We must return the position of the United States Senator to that required by law. Above the personal opinions of any representative is the duty and obligation to represent the State of Nevada and the citizens therein. What happened to oaths? We have accepted a rogue system far too long. What an idea; a representative that actually represents.

We must strengthen and assert our legal necessity to follow and adhere to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Nevada. Stop allowing either party to tinker with our soundness as a nation.

I, Jesse Holland, am a conventional man who could no longer stand in the background and wait for a party to stand honestly for the people and the State of Nevada. Our Republic was designed to merge the will of the people with the will of the states. We, the people, through our representation, decide what legislation is valued and then move these proposals up the chain. I have always spent less than I earn. I do not receive union or out-of-state monies. I owe only the people my favor. I am Jesse Holland. I am the best candidate money can’t buy.

Risk: democracy, consensus, political participation

October 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

By the Waters of Babylon

By the rivers of Babylon we sat
and wept when we remembered Zion.
Psalm 137

It was the last concert ever to be held at Giants Stadium and the first time I would see Bruce Springsteen live.  Situated between the exits 16E and 16W on Jersey’s own Thunder Road me and my friends arrived early to tailgate at the Meadowlands Stadium complex.  We gobbled subs and washed them down with exotic bottled water imported from Long Island.  We amused ourselves by watching the growing parade of Bruce fans cramming the highways that slowly inched toward entry gates granting license to plow through carousing crowds to search for a parking space.  As a fiercely proud and life long resident of the Garden State this occasion was long overdue; but catching The Boss at the last concert at Giant Stadium made it extra special and worth the wait.

I grew up not far from the stadium.  Fifty years ago I lived in a house on the rise on the western edge of the Meadowlands on Orient Way in Rutherford.  As the crow flies it may be a mile and a half from the splash of asphalt I was now standing upon.  As a child I remember being in awe at the vista that laid outside the window of my room.  To a young lad the vast expanse of a seemingly endless grassland stretching beyond the bounds of my peripheral vision was my idea of a wild and untamed jungleland.  I remember hearing tales of bottomless pits of hungry quicksand eagerly awaiting an opportunity to swallow unsuspecting little boys unfortunate enough to wander into the infinite expanse of tall reeds, thick grasses and towering bulrushes. Thinking back it was probably a story my parents told me to warn a young child off from the thought of a solo expedition to explore the intricate and dangerous swamp of rivers and rivulets weaving together the beautifully complex riparian ecosystem.

Half a century ago it was a common sight to see cars parked along the dirt roads that lined the tidal pools and estuaries of the Overpeck, Berry Creek and Hackensack River.  The brackish waters of the Meadowlands sustained a rich biodiversity.  It nourished interdependent communities of crabs, mussels, clams, fish and mammals that would grace Sunday afternoon dinner tables of intrepid trappers and fishermen that happily spent  the day harvesting the bounty of the rich urban aquaculture.  I would often imagine the sight of the ancient ones, engaging in the same activity, who centuries ago, situated on the banks of these same tributaries, pulling up nets bursting with fish, blessing the abundance the Great Spirit so richly conferred upon them as their rightful inheritance.  As it says in the Old Testament “there is nothing new under the sun.”

My salami sub with mozzarella and roasted peppers was going down real good.  Bite after bite it just tasted better and better but its good size and over apportionment of spicy meat and rich mootz was filling me up.  I feared if I took one more bite it would burst my gut so I had to put it down, wrapped it back up and save the rest for tomorrows lunch.

To know when enough is enough is a virtue that we as a species are hard pressed to understand.  If your full from a meal, saving a bit of the sandwich for tomorrows lunch is an example of moderation and a lesson in good stewardship.  Nowhere on earth does the glaring examples of overindulgence, avarice, corruption and the pernicious wastefulness of corporate greed manifest itself in such a shocking manner as it does in the Meadowlands Complex.   Two stadiums, a race track, an IZOD Center and a commercially bankrupt and aesthetic abomination called Xanadu forms the commercial polyglot known as the Meadowland Sports Complex.  It is the finest work of commercial developers, financiers and local governments eager to cash in on ambivalent taxpayers and gullible local townsfolk believing billion dollar stadiums, built atop garbage laden landfills, financed with state bond issues will be sufficient to retain the loyalty of Jets, Giants, Nets and Devils.  Desperate job seekers also hope to land a job as a beer vendor allowing them to walk up and down the windy steps of these sacred sports palaces to pay taxes to cover the loans on the stadiums.

When we entered the stadium complex looking for a place for our modest tailgate we wanted a space offering an easy exit from the incomprehensible mess of the parking lot.  Unfortunately extracting ourselves and our fellow citizens from the unsustainable commercial, political and environmental mess created by the New Jersey Exposition and Sports Authority will be impossible for the many generations of Jerseyites that will follow in our footsteps.  Our local governments have ceded stewardship responsibility of the Meadowlands to corporate developers.  A corporate  manager’s  idea of stewardship is to extract a maximum amount of profit for shareholders in the shortest time frame possible.  Corporations may come and go but the people of a community must remain.  Sometimes left  to pick up the pieces from the wreckage  caused by ill advised development and are tasked to restore the delicate balance of nature with the complex ecosystem of stakeholders.  Well considered balance is the cornerstone of effective stewardship and is essential to a community’s long term sustainability, wellness and growth.

The Meadowlands is dealing with the wreckage caused by EnCap.  EnCap acted like a pernicious organized crime syndicate.  It  operated with the complicit support of local governments, business associations and sophisticated private equity investors that conspired to loot public treasuries, steal public lands, and secure licenses to dump toxic waste into the delicate Meadowlands ecosystem.  The Meadowlands Sports Complex should be considered a white collar crime scene.  Xanadu, yet another needless mall of America is an aesthetic abomination.  It remains unoccupied and sits like a useless heap of garbage as another crass commercial scar on a once pristine riparian ecology.  Where crabbers would gather on afternoons to harvest a natural bounty; the garish presence of Xanadu now presides like a festering scab, concealing a cancerous tumor, implanted by the toxic greed of EnCap, metastasizing in the gooey mush of the meadowlands good earth.

When they broke ground on the Sports Complex in the early 1970’s they discovered that highly toxic mercury levels polluted the water and earth in wide swaths of the development zone.  The pollution was the remnants of a long departed manufacturer.  The remedy was to encase the mercury in a plastic sheet.  The mercury poisoning forever altered the delicate ecology of the meadowlands leading one to believe  that this would make current developers and planners more sensitive to the ecological impact of development.  But the anti regulatory mindset that has pervaded government and business partnerships has opened the door for environmental assaults as exemplified in this most recent example by EnCap.

As show time approached, the parking lot was growing more crowed.  The growing party of revelers spread out their tables, coolers and barbecues to celebrate the momentous event.  As the smoke from the fires rose into the air I recalled  a vivid vision from my youth.  One evening as I peered out my window, I witnessed  the night sky frame a line of fire extending to the outer reaches of my vision.  The conflagration consumed the reeds and tall grasses of the meadowlands.  The flaming horizon was an electric line of agitated orange that reached ever upward.  The fire danced against the ghostly backdrop of the lighted Manhattan skyline.  The combustible apparition of angry flames appeared to threaten the looming silver skyscrapers lining  The Avenue of the America’s.

The image of that fire will always haunt me.  It heralded the drastic turn in the nature of the meadowlands.  The fires were clearing space for the industrial parks, land fills and new commercial enterprises desperately needed for the rapidly expanding American economy.  The waterways and aquaculture of the meadowlands were incompatible with the economic needs of our changing nation.  Clean water, vibrant stocks of fish, rich flora, birds and mammals were something we willingly sacrificed at the alter of economic progress.  Today during these austere times, when the gods of economic progress have seemingly abandoned us; we should make it a point to visit the empty malls and walk through the unoccupied office spaces purchased with the sacrifice of our natural environment to the fickle gods of economic progress.

Fire and water is an eternal dance of opposites that continuously engages a dynamic dialectic heralding a harbinger of change that always moves to restore a balance in the cycle of opposites.    The fire of development that consumed the meadowlands of my youth may now be snuffed out by the waters of a changing time seeking to restore a sustainable balance for future generations.  This will indeed please the Great Spirit.  The Boss began the concert with a tune he wrote for this special occasion.  It would be a good idea to take a wrecking ball to the unsightly Xanadu mistake as a first step in restoring the meadowlands to its true natural glory.

You Tube Video: Bruce Springsteen: Oh Mary Don’t You Weep No More

Risk: sustainability, environment, commerce

Artwork for this post is by Susan K. Arnold, By the Waters of Babylon.

This post is written in participation for Blog Action Day.  Theme is water.

October 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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

Equinox


eggs stand on edge balanced perfectly
night embraces day in leveled equanimity
spirit and flesh dance on in serenity
equinox again returns eternally

You Tube Video: John Coltrane,  Equinox

Risk: seasons

September 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Ramadan 2010

As-Salaam-Alaikum

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Ramadan.  Ramadan is a holy month of observances for Muslims.  Ramadan encourages the faithful to fast, give alms to the poor, read selections of the Quran and recite prayers that bring Muslims into a deeper  faith engagement to draw closer to Allah.

This years Ramadan comes at a time when relations between Muslims and Christians are severely strained over issues such as The Ground Zero Mosque, continued war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Palestinian/Israeli politics and the challenges of assimilating Islamic practices into the cultural traditions of secular western societies.  The evidence of strain often manifests in ugly displays of intolerance and xenophobia that are exacerbated by economic duress and eagerly exploited by reactionary politicians.  Religious rightists seize on the opportunity to gnash away at the racial wounds and cultural divide to arouse suspicion to advance an intolerant Falangist agenda.

We hope that people of good will welcome Ramadan in a spirit of tolerance and recognize it as an opportunity to develop a greater understanding of Islam and to build bridges with the Muslim community.  Religious tolerance and the protection of the free practice of faith is a principal pillar of secular democracy.  The protection of this right is the surest safeguard that personal liberty and the free expression of thought remains central to the democratic culture of the United States.

We welcome Ramadan and offer a blessing to our Muslim brothers and sisters that they grow to understand the gift that secular democracies  confer on the free practice of religion.  And we hope people of faith and people of conscience recognize that Ramadan is an opportunity to bring all the great faith traditions together in a deep and rich engagement guided by the light and unifying love of the Beneficent One.

Amen

You Tube Video: Azan, Islamic Call To Prayer

risk: tolerance, religious liberty, secular democracy,

August 10, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Longest Day

can’t make short work of the longest day

the long and the short of it

go long the market

cover your shorts buy the long bond

hedge your longs

trim the long hedge row

the long bomb may work

if you say Hail Mary long enough

the suns latitude is more longitude

the sun will set first on eastern Long Island

Vikings will build long houses

Indians row long boats and aim long bows

long tails will be lopped off

long johns will be washed

Long John Silver will walk the plank

pirates will take a long slake

long rifles will shoot

long legs will don boots

those not long for this world won’t give a hoot

Long Tall Sally will be snuck through the ally

the longer I stay I no longer feel welcome

long songs seem to never end

long speeches help me sleep

long talks are helpful

long walks are healthy

long goodbyes are tearful

long kisses are sweeter

long in the tooth is the price of age

thoughts of long ago are winsome

long sought after stuff is in the long draw

The longest day is here

there are none longer

and none shall ever be longer

so don’t long for love

just love a little longer

have a long present day

You Tube Video:

The Longest Day

06/20/10

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment