Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

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

We Deserve Better (Part 1): Tea Party Fundamentalism

You hear it all the time.  All the candidates running for office are horrible.  The democrats and republicans both stink.  But this guy ain’t as bad as the other guy.  “He is the lesser of two evils”.  So we make our choice based on two evils.  We deserve more then the lesser of two evils.

When you think about it, a lesser evil is still an evil.  Even if its a lesser evil, the essence of its nature will soon enough turn on us as it seeks to actualize the essence of its nature.  It brings to mind Aesop’s Fable of the scorpion and frog.  The scorpion comes to a river that it can’t cross and calls on a passing frog to let it ride on its back to the other side of the river.  The frog was suspicious because it knew of the scorpions venomous nature but finally relented and let the scorpion mount its back for the ride across the river.  When they were halfway across the river scorpion delivered a fatal sting to the frog, dooming them both.   As the deadly venom took its hold, the frog asked the scorpion why it delivered its sting that would destroy them both?  The scorpion answered “it is my nature to sting.”  In a nutshell that is the nature of evil.  It will eventually deliver its sting.  So if we want to be safe we must avoid evil whenever we can.  This is most true when we are considering political candidates.

In many respects The Tea Party has done this country a favor.  They have energized the country by reigniting passion back into the political process.  Their raucous demonstrations and appeal to populist sentiments has served to remind America of its activist heritage and the many protest movements that have been central to the creation of our republic.  America, the great democratic experiment,  is the result of a history of struggle to claim and extend democratic rights and privileges to all citizens.  The great social justice struggles that fought for universal suffrage, women rights, living wages and labor laws, civil rights, environmental protection and antiwar movements are important chapters in America’s story that are often neglected and too often forgotten.  The Frederick Douglas admonition that “power concedes nothing without demand” is a keen wisdom that Tea Party activists have taken to heart.

The Tea Party has adamantly asserted that the elite class of professional politicians is beyond reformation.  The political elites cannot change their nature.  The Democrats and Republicans are well beyond redemption.   A more astute truism has never been spoken.  Here the Tea Party rhetoric diverges from their practice because they advocate support for GOP candidates.  So the first lesson we can learn from the Tea Party is to do what the Tea Party says “don’t trust either party,” not what they do, support the GOP.

I am convinced that both parties are totally bought and controlled by big money channeled through K Street lobbyists doing the bidding of large corporate interests. The final nail in the coffin was Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  This decision has altered the democratic scales of our Republic.  They have been dis proportionally tipped against the individual citizen.  The law of the land  has codified this inequity by protecting the right of deep pocketed corporate institutions to purchase the favor of political elites that rule America.  This will further strengthen the entrenched class of the two party monopoly.  This leaves the citizen to content themselves in the illusion that America is still a participatory democracy.  Dressing up in Minuteman costumes to pretend we are racing off to meet the dreaded enemies of our republic; and proclaiming an intention to water the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants makes for amusing political theater in a land where  the value of one man one vote is severely distressed.

Here the mendacity of the Tea Party’s populism is made clear.  Tea Party candidates are the principal recipients of corporate money.  This money finances expensive media campaigns that flood the airways of critical electoral districts with advocacy ads  in support of Tea Party sponsored candidates.  This money is also used to attack liberal Democratic Party opponents.  The populist claims of the Tea Party are bankrupted by the heaps of corporate gold flowing into their campaign war chests.  This prompts conservatives to parrot “global warming is a liberal fiction” and “God placed oil on this earth for our use and its our divine right to extract it.”  They condemn government regulations as an assault on the economic liberties expressly protected in the Constitution.  It is as if they believed the  natural resource of the land was theirs and not the property of a faceless global corporate entity.

We can also be thankful to the Tea Party for revealing how the core values of conservatism are put into practice.  Property rights trump all rights.  Militarism and nationalism is our salvation.  Tolerance is the hallmark of ignorance.  Compromise and negotiation is a sign of weakness and consensus born from a democratic process must be repressed.   The stridency of their pronouncements seep with homophobia, Islamophobia and insistence on closing the southern border and eradicating illegals within our midst expresses deep cultural and racial fears born from an eroding cultural supremacy.

The geopolitical reality of the changing demographics of America’s ethnic and cultural landscape fuels a desire to arrest the democratic political process.  The populism of  the Tea Party is based on summoning the support of the declining population of Caucasian America.   They give voice to the anger of  the ebbing dominance of a demographic group;  screaming, crying and cursing its economic, political and cultural pain.  Barack Obama manifests the threat in a stark contrast of black and white.  He fuels the fear that gives pointed political focus to the racial aspects of Tea Party politics.  The nations first Afro-American President conveniently offers cover to an undercurrent of racial animus prevalent in Tea Party slogans and images.

The Tea Party’s professed love of the Constitution is disingenuous.  I ask where was their righteous outrage as Bush and the Republicans violated some of the basic tenants of the Constitution.  Most were out front cheering him and his fellow Republicans on.  Their support of positions that deny the basic civil rights to the LGBT community; the clamoring silence concerning violations of privacy rights under the Patriot Act; the failure to recognize religious freedom and the right of Muslims to build mosques; their practice of advocating the selection of circuit judges on the basis of ideological commitment to the GOP and the endorsement of torture and unlimited imprisonment without due process for enemy combatants in the war on terror are examples of their disdain for constitutional protections and basic human rights.

Fundamentalism is a strain of thought that is psychologically appealing in a complex world with no easy answers.  With fundamentalism the cosmology is all figured out.  There is no need to ask any questions because the answers are self evident truths that confirm the ideology before the question is asked.  The Tea Party raises the US Constitution with a fervor that rivals any Bible thumping Born Again Christian or Quran fueled Taliban operative.  I heard a Tea Party member once advance the idea that no new legislation can exceed 30 some odd pages in length because that was the length of the original US Constitution.  This thinking fetishizes the Constitution.  It believes the original document to be a holy tablet that the Founding Fathers brought down from the highest peak in the Appalachian Mountains.  It fails to take into account that the United States of 2010 is a vastly different place then it was when it emerged on the world scene as the first democratic republic in the late 18th Century.  This fundamentalism fails to remember that some of the original framers of the Constitution were slave holders, considered people property, disenfranchised women and perceived Native Americans as savages and worthy targets of genocide to annex their lands for the new and growing republic.   No the reality of the 21st century nation state and the rights and responsibilities of its citizens in an interconnected global ecosystem has evolved and is vastly different from the time when the Constitution was authored.  The foresighted crafters of our Constitution sat through a sweltering Philadelphia summer and sweated out this hollowed document  through intelligent compromise and a respect for consensus and the democratic process.  It is a vital lesson lost on Tea Party zealots content to wave copies of the document as some righteous proof of their love of country while they profane the spirit and enduring truths of the Constitutions essence.

The Tea Party’s political fundamentalism is mirrored in many respects by the religious fundamentalism held by many of its members.  If the Constitution anoints true believers with political righteousness, religious fundamentalism provides theological justification for a social agenda advanced with nasty intolerance, celebratory bigotry and cultural exclusion.  Religious fundamentalism has long been the cornerstone of the conservative movement.  They attack secularism as an obscene manifestation of the liberal welfare state.  It threatens civil liberties for everyone as it seeks to exclude the full rights citizenship  for all citizens.   It is a dangerous foil aimed at the heart of public education.  It is a tool employed by education reformers to underfund school programs, transfer monies to charter and private schools and transform humanities based curricula. It seeks to replace science in our public schools with stories from the Bible.  Evolution, natural selection, and big bang theories are replaced with creationism and  a 6,000 year old world that was created in 6 days.  Civil law and cultural mores will be guided and enforced by a moral code of prohibitions written 3,000 years ago to bring order to a nomadic tribal people assembling the nation of Israel.

The future competency of our nation and its ability to compete in a complex world is at stake.  America cannot hope to maintain its leadership in the world economy if it allows science to be politicized, its schools to crumble and a segment of its people not fully enfranchised with the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.  The greatest danger is the installation of a bifurcated society where well to do Judeo-Christian Caucasians are in a position to purchase the best education, access health care services and enjoy a full pallet of rights and freedoms not available to the growing stable of “others” lawfully excluded from their rightful inheritance of citizenship.

The Tea Party has crystallized the choice in the coming election.  Beware of the Bible thumper.  Beware of the Constitution waver.  The stridency of  Tea Party proponent’s and their religio-political fundamentalism may stand like “Old Hickory” on a timely quote from their sacred tomes but  resorting to such a defense reveals an inherent weakness in their argument.  No dialog, no consensus, no possibility of arriving at a democratic resolution to problems.  Tea Partyer’s may offer factual recitations from the books but no understanding and less truth can be found in pronouncement of their words.

You Tube Music Video: Art Tatum, Tea for Two

Risk: Constitution, secular democracy, education, civil rights

October 21, 2010 Posted by | Bible, Christianity, Civil Rights, class, culture, democracy, elections, government, labor, LGBT, politics, Quran, religion, republicans, social justice, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Liberty and Justice for All

Today is Gay Pride Day in New York City.  The march commemorates the Stonewall Uprising by Gay men in a Greenwich Village bar over 40 years ago.  Stonewall was a watershed event for everyone.  It was a poignant reminder to all people that a specific population of our citizens were the victims of harassment and repression because of their sexual identity.  Stonewall was a bold proclamation that the LGBT community would no longer suffer in silence and shame.  Refusing to be victimized,  LGBT people would courageously come out of the closet at great personal cost to claim their place at the table of the worlds great democratic republic.  It is the very same spirit and motivation that led to the creation of the United States and its promise of liberty and justice for all.

Sodomy Laws prohibiting homosexuality and its practice has been on the books of state and municipal law since the founding of our republic.   Jefferson wrote the first sodomy law in Virginia in 1778,  proposing castration for those found guilty of the act. Pretty amazing that during the height of the Revolution, Virginia took time to write laws prohibiting homosexuality.  I also find it a bit ironic that as revolutionaries were striking a blow to end the rule of a foreign tyrannical monarchy they would focus their attention to pass a tyrannical law aimed at repressing the rights for a portion of its citizens.

Sodomy laws find their inspiration and justification in a biblical certainty proclaimed by parties that remain painfully at odds with the promises and problems of secular democratic government.  Proponents of  laws prohibiting civil rights to LGBT offer a world view informed by Old Testament precepts and proscriptions authored two thousand years ago.  Their moral compass seems to be ruled more by a dogmatic creed enforced by a vengeful deity.  In their zeal to live a pious life they seem to miss the greater message that all God’s children enjoy full and equal rights in God’s Kingdom and that we demonstrate our love of God by extending that love to others.

Those that oppose equal and full rights of citizenship to all people are the avowed enemies of democracy.  Democratic republics cannot survive if it withholds any right or civil liberty to a group of its citizens based on a legislative distinction of acceptability.  Indeed, today’s proponents of laws like Proposition 8, Defense of Marriage Laws, the prohibition of gays openly serving in the military or the denial of the right for a teenage girl to go to the prom with her girlfriend share a mindset more in common with the Taliban then our Founding Fathers.  We recoil in horror as we witness the divinely inspired handiwork of the Taliban and rise to meet it with a national resolve to assert and protect the sacred liberties offered by secular democratic governments.  Given a choice and a true understanding of what is at stake, I pray that my countrymen will join me in support of equal rights and civil liberties for all citizens.

Frederick Douglas’s famous quote that “power concedes nothing without demand”, is as relevant today as it was when the great abolitionist spoke these words.  Douglas states,  “If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation…want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters…. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

We salute the Gay Pride Marchers as they step off  this morning  to remind us that liberty and justice for all remain beyond compromise and an absolute necessity for America to remain true this promise for all its citizens.

You Tube Music Video: Bob Marley and the Wailers, Get Up Stand Up

Risk: democracy, civil rights, 

June 27, 2010 Posted by | culture, democracy, government, legal, LGBT, politics, religion, social justice | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect is a component of Chaos Theory.  A butterfly flaps its wings in a far away place creating tiny ripples that begin a flow of cause and effect energy that eventually creates a hurricane force wind.  These tiny ripples, seemingly irrelevant can precipitate and contribute to a major event. The right set of factors comes together and a major event takes place.  Can the humble service of an single person create a butterfly effect?

Last year President Obama designated Martin Luther King Day as a day of service.  It seems a fitting designation for a day dedicated to a man who lived a life in service to others and willingly gave that life to realize his ideals.  MLK, Jr. offered his life to the struggle for civil rights to protect the human dignity of all people.  There is no higher calling for citizens of a democratic republic.  Civil rights and the protection of human dignity is the foundation of a democratic society.  Equal protection under the law for all citizens and unfettered access to all its rights and privileges are the surest safeguard of a peoples security and liberty.  MLK, Jr. perished in the struggle to enlarge and protect that liberty for all people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, creed or color.  It is the responsibility of all citizens to place themselves in service to protect and enlarge the dream of liberty and freedom.  A failure to assume this responsibility risks failure of our democratic culture and the relinquishment of personal liberty.

As individuals,  we are overwhelmed by the massive problems that confront us.  We freeze in place as we witness an avalanche of cataclysmic world events.  The endless duration of incomprehensible wars, the vicious repression employed by intractable power elites, the posturing and threats of great nations intent on projecting their power, global economic calamity and disenfranchisement brought on by institutional excess and governance failure, cultural intolerance spawning sectarian violence and the massive natural disaster calamities intent on assaulting  our humanity by delivering devastation to the most vulnerable among us; conspire to immobilize us.   As a people we are left to stand mute unable to comprehend and unwilling to act out of fear of wasting good efforts to no effect.  Ambivalence of conviction, vacillation of intent, cynicism in thought are subversive elements that are more powerful then 1,000 Al-Qeada cells because the subversion of terror nests securely in the minds of seemingly free people.  These subversives incessantly whisper “distrust liberty for all and learn to loathe the responsibility that freedom requires of free people.”

This weeks Haitian earthquake is an event that startles, humbles and hopefully shakes us from our torpor and ignites a desire to serve.  The massive destruction and sweeping misery of its aftermath is a clarion call for a humane response to address this assault on our shared humanity.   Yet in its wake, leading televangelist Pat Robertson opines that the earthquake was God’s way of delivering retribution on the people of Haiti.  Mr. Robertson believes the old Haitian superstitious folklore that Haiti made a pact with the devil to free themselves from the colonial domination of France.  Mr. Robertson’s theology proves Thomas Paine’s wise maxim that “a belief in a cruel God makes for a cruel man.”    Rush Limbaugh’s criticism of President Obama’s immediate call to marshal aid to the stricken country prompted the Ditto-head and Chief to state that the President’s call to aid Haiti was a political ploy designed to gain favor with the light and darker shades of people of color.

We recoil in horror at Pat Robertson’s vision of a God that keeps score.  A God whose patience spans generations,  eagerly waiting to notch another victim into the wooden handle of his deadly cosmic six shooter.  Such spiritual poverty and moral bankruptcy is a self evident truth.  We are equally appalled though hardly surprised at Mr. Limbaugh’s deep cynicism and his gleeful celebration of racism and partisan vindictiveness.  What both pronouncements share is an offer of absolution for moral ambivalence to their constituents and a warning to remain politically suspicious of institutional  response to this massive human tragedy.

God weeps at the peril of his children and the Beneficent One is moving nations and people to serve and respond to the pressing need of the Haitian people.  Individuals from all over the world are giving time, treasure and prayers in response to this tragedy.  People of good will everywhere are placing themselves in service to the people of Haiti out of compassion to relieve suffering and a compulsion to protect the sacredness of our shared humanity.  The world goes up in a collective cheer each time a search and rescue team extract another small soul from the hell of a mountain of rubble.  Refusing to walk away from the plight, refusing to avert our eyes from the pressing need of a people in need is a desperate rescue mission of a most fragile respect for our shared humanity.

Small people everywhere are flapping tiny butterfly wings, creating a gale force wind to knock down the walls that divide us.  It is the only way to solve the massively complex  global problems that work to undermine us.  The collective desire to change overcomes the sense of our powerlessness to change.  Just like a Baptist Minister from Montgomery, or a tiny woman who refused to go to the back of the bus, big things emanate from the smallest places.  All one must do is begin to spread the wings and flap.  Today is a very good day to flap our wings and offer prayers that our small individual actions taken together will blow down the barriers that divide and address the problems that vex humanity.

You Tube Music Video: Mavis Staples, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Risk: ambivalence, paralysis, cynicism,

 

January 18, 2010 Posted by | Civil Rights, community, culture, democracy, faith, government, holiday, LGBT, MLK, politics, seasons, social justice | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Convergence and Innovation Inhibitors: 011110

As we start the second decade of the new millennium, innovation is understood as a critical driver to overcome the economic malaise plaguing the global economy. Economic stasis and political factionalism has made it increasingly evident that faltering economic and social institutions cry out for sweeping reform. These reforms can only be achieved with innovative approaches in policy and practice. Innovation is realized by giving flight to uninhibited thought and the clear application of ideas with decisive action. Though most agree that we badly need reform, we remain at painful odds as to what those reforms should be and how to implement them. The destructive legislative debates on health care and the ugly political theater of town meetings that occurred in the United States over the summer accomplished little in regards to meaningful reform. The exercises  only served to drive a deepening wedge into the ability of a democratic culture to form a transformative consensus.

Our society is a complex ecosystem comprised of many competing interests. The classic definition of politics, “the means to decide how limited resources are allocated to disparate interests” is clearly a truism that must be applied if we are to realize the reform that we desperately need. In a post scarcity society that definition may seem a bit crude or antiquated. America’s history is marked by a culture of innovation and the incubation of industry. Innovation and its commercial expression in entrepreneurialism is a national asset that tempers the hard edges of stringent allocation or resources and has been the source of our great social wealth. Democracies continually require citizens to arbitrate how competing interests are reconciled and converge. As a self professed democracy the United States must break down the barriers that inhibit innovation by confronting the challenges posed by convergence.

Convergence has been the watch word in the tech industry for the past few years. Convergence aggregates, joins and aligns discreet trends, competencies, technologies and missions to spawn innovation and progress. Masters of business innovation understand that a precondition of convergence is the ability to collaborate. Collaboration requires extended conversations and dialog to understand how competing interests can be reconciled and brought together so that innovation and progress can be achieved. Marketeers invent neologisms like coopetition to brand the idea and lend heft to its thrust. We believe that innovation borne from convergence is the path to rebuild our economy, heal cultural wounds and take a step toward political maturity the United States needs to sustain the great experiment of our democratic republic.

With that in mind we offer a list that outlines the inhibitors to innovation. It is hoped that our nations leaders and people can begin an earnest conversation to address these barriers to growth. Maybe I’m wrong with offering this modest list but I remain willing to discuss it, hopeful that people of good will with a different viewpoint will be open to correct my thinking and contribute to my enlightenment.

1. War: War is inherently wasteful. The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are grievous examples of waste and national distraction that hampers the United States economic recovery. At an  Ecumenical Memorial Service held at Yankee Stadium following the 9/11 terror attacks  a Buddhist Monk stated that  he believed “it was wiser to drop refrigerators on Afghanistan then bombs”.  Almost a decade later and two wars on I can’t help but to think what a meager $100 billion investment in Afghanistan would have returned to the United States tax payers.  More importantly it would have shown the world that above all else America values the sanctity and preservation of life.  It would have also minimized the rising toll of casualties of both citizens and soldiers.   We developed some great bunker buster bombs but we can’t figure out a way to stop a suicide bomber with exploding underpants.  We succeeded in stirring up a hornets nest of angry insurgents and failed to build innovative pathways to peace with steadfast bridges to secure allies and pacify combatants.

2. Politics: To be sure politics is omnipresent  but the politicization of faith institutions and government functions is a great separator of people. When politics infects faith institutions their ability to breach the social divide and  join people together is seriously compromised or downright destructive. The Catholic Church’s practice of denying the Eucharist to parishioners based on political biases of the communicant places politics at the center of the Lords alter.  The recent occurrences of  radical Islamists burning down Christian Churches in Malaysia  is tragically ironic.  The violence, a response to the Christians appropriation of the word Allah as a name for God; is  a violent rejection of  language convergence of two great faith traditions.  It would seem that unity is a  threat that God cannot abide and is a growing threat that must be abolished.  In the secular world government agencies  were instructed to withhold scientific climate change research of the National Science Foundation because it did not conform with the politics of the party in power.  The extent of the politicization of the judicial branch of government under the Bush Administration was a seditious move worthy of dictatorships.  Innovative application of constitutional law in defense of civil liberties is one of the greatest challenges the war on terror poses to this country.  The creation of kangaroo courts to support the politics of the ruling party would undermine our system of justice.  It would  transform our judiciary  into a repressive apparatus of the state, our laws into  stale dogmas ill suited to meet the legal challenges  of our time and a  justice system that is indistinguishable from the justice offered by our opponents.

3. Ideology: Only good ideas need apply. Deng Xiaoping said it best “does it matter if its a communist or capitalist mouse trap. The question is, does it catch mice?” Seeing this as a threat, Mao Zedong unleashed the cultural revolution and routed the capitalist roaders as a threat to the Great Proletarian Revolution. After the death of Mao, Deng would be rehabilitated and play a key role in China’s adoption of a market economy and its current ascendancy as a world economic power.  In my mind there is a striking resemblance to the debate about heath care.  Socialized medicine is bad.  Do you want to turn into France?  Canadian health care is too expensive.  UK heath care system is overloaded and can’t cope with demand.   These problems would be solved however after the death panels had a chance to meet  and decide who shall live and who must walk the plank.

4. Entrenched Commercial Interests: Though we are ardent believers in capitalism as an engine of innovation the dictatorship of ROI, entrenched concentrations of capital and an unwillingness or inability to adopt longer term investment horizons hamper innovation. The failure of the United States automobile industry to develop fuel efficient vehicles is a good example of market intransigence. The development of junk bonds by Michael Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert dismantled the manufacturing base of the US economy accelerated the countries decline as a net exporter of products creating the foundation of a debtor nation. During the presidency of Jimmy Carter solar panels were installed on the roof of the White House. The succeeding administration had them removed. Imagine where the alternative energy industry would be today had it developed this leading edge idea and capitalized on this first mover advantage.

5. Unbridled free markets: The economic carnage of the banking meltdown is a startling example of the excesses the pursuit of profit will create. The boom in commercial and residential real estate construction created massive stocks of unused inventories that misdirected and wasted enormous resource. The energy and capital expended on these wasteful endeavors misdirected funds and created huge social hazards that requires massive amounts of capital to mitigate. Also worth mention is the development of video gaming. Lots of energy and creativity is being expended on the best techno music to use while your Mafia Avatar bashes open the head of your opponent with a baseball bat. We are not suggesting censorship or a prohibition of video games nor centralized economic planning. Its a compensation and social value issue.  Perhaps a communicants denial of participation at the Lord’s Table lead them to leave the church and miss the message about social values.

6. Technology: It may seem odd to include technology as an inhibitor to innovation but technology for technology sake may inhibit the development of innovative applications solutions that are not technological in nature. The technorati of the world is transforming technology into a religion. Deprived of its human dimension it can become a dogma that grows in an antagonistic relationship with its human masters. The United States continues to trumpet its technological prowess as the deciding factors in its war in Afghanistan. But that paradigm was explored during the war in Viet Nam where pungi sticks ultimately trumped napalm bombs. The power of an idea and how it connects and motivates people is force that is mightier then the sword.

7. Fundamentalism: The Pharisees once asked Jesus, “is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?” Jesus answered that it was always the right time to heal those who are sick. The world recoils in horror at the capacity for destruction fundamentalism regularly visits upon the world. The denial of equal civil rights to LGBT people creates a  bifurcated system of citizenship.  It is an ugly stain on our democratic heritage.  The gravest peril to democracy is the abridgment and denial of civil rights to any group of citizens. Democracy necessitates that all republicans enjoy equal access and rights in order for it to function. The denial of that right based on a fundamentalist reading of religious scriptures makes it particularly abhorrent because civil rights of citizens in a secular democracy is not an issue that is decided by theologians or the adherents to a particular theology.

Tolerance and consensus are both antithetical to the precepts of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is not the sole province of religion. It has its secular and ideological adherents as well. Fundamentalism is a pillar of dictatorship; either of a political or theocratic nature both are enemies of secular democracy. Secular democracies require tolerance to respect the diverse ideas and competing viewpoints require in the democratic process. Secular democracies require the trust to converse and hash out the best ideas that serve the greatest good. This is only possible if consensus can be achieved. It is how “out of many becomes one”. It is the true genius of America. It is a worthy innovation of governance that every freedom loving citizen should jealously guard and consciously pursue.

8.  Public Education:  The public education system that the United States built is the true arsenal of democracy and the nations source of wealth and its many contributions it has made to the world.  Without the vast network of learning institutions built and supported by successive generations of Americans the worlds great experiment in representative democracy would have long ago perished.   The public schools sole charter is to create an enlightened citizenship with the skills to discuss, discern and decide in a civil and constructive manner the ever evolving dialectic of a democratic consensus placed at the service of the republic.  It is one of the true geniuses of America and remains her enduring strength.

Today public schools are under attack by forces whose agendas are the pursuit of parochial goals that first and foremost seek their enrichment and interests at the expense of the greatest good of the republic.  The charter school movement is a trend that threatens the public school system by privatizing some of the systems assets and draining away much needed resource and financial support.  It forces public schools to dispense with curriculum offerings like music and arts, sports programs and civic excursions that will convey an understanding of how institutions  interact and support the greater social good. This aspect of the educational experience is supplanted by an exacting examination regime that destroys the love of learning.  Secular learning is also being threatened through the introduction of theological precepts like creationism into the science curriculum of public schools.  Religion and faith are important precepts to offer in a public educational curriculum;  however theology that masquerades  as   science  is an ideological stricture that has no place in public schools.    These  trends are pose great challenges to the  public  schools mission to form enlightened citizens free to think and free to act in the sole service of liberty and participatory democracy.  Innovation and progress is in danger of becoming a secular sin a disease of the soul that needs to be eradicated from the public schools as its threatens to infect the greater body politic.

You Tube Music Video:  Louis Armstrong, I Get Ideas

Risk: innovation, convergence, progress, tolerance

January 11, 2010 Posted by | 9/11, business, Carter, China, Christianity, culture, democracy, economics, faith, history, institutional, manufacturing, Muslim, politics, real estate, recession, regulatory, sustainability, terrorism, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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