Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

My Name Is Legion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writes Donne:

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

You Tube Video: Louis Armstrong, St. James Infirmary

Risk: isolation, politicization, ignorance

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

Cedar River, Five Feet High and Rising

The flood of Cedar Rapids seems like an ugly rerun of the Katrina disaster.  Hospitals are being evacuated, homes abandoned, businesses closed, commerce halted and a community is in acute distress.

The City of Five Seasons, population of 120,000 boasts a strong economy, rich culture and engaged citizens whose civic pride and community involvement is the city’s greatest asset.  It is a great city of The Great Plains and its people will rise to the challenge to rebuild itself. The Cedar Rapids Chamber of Commerce lists 1700 members.  Some will do well as a result of this flood.  Construction companies, waste management firms, building suppliers and others will find opportunity as the flip side of this risk event.

This extreme risk event however, may prove to be a coup de grace for small businesses already stressed due to the slow economy and inflationary pressures. As this incident unfolds the disaster response agencies FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security will be closely watched to see how they perform in their recovery and restoration efforts.  We wish them well.Floods and their destructive aftermath are becoming a cruel joke on the American people because these types of events can be mitigated.  I am of the mind that the severity of geo-risk events can be mitigated by investing in the country’s infrastructure like levees, dams and other engineered solutions.

It is a question of priorities and all citizens should ask why the Federal Government continues to ignore the crumbling infrastructure of this country?  Why must needless lives be lost, businesses bankrupted and communities destroyed because the priority seems to be an open checkbook to fund the prosecution of a war that is exhausting the political, emotional and economic capital of this nation.

The administration spends over $10 billion dollars a month to bolster the failed state of Iraq in their nation building project.  What they seem to have forgotten is that the infrastructure of the USA is worthy of this type of investment and certainly demands its undivided and immediate attention.

Consider what New Orleans cost this country and the many billions of dollars we continue to spend to partially recover from the Katrina disaster.  Consider what the return on investment a $1 billion improvement project to upgrade New Orleans’s antiquated levee system prior to Katrina disaster would have yielded the American taxpayer?  Not to mention the avoidance of the utter devastation of a great American city and it’s people.

That’s the hallmark of true leadership.  Leaders need to offer solutions to problems before they occur.  Unfortunately, current leaders are too preoccupied with other priorities and immediate returns on political capital to propose solutions that look beyond the next election cycle or special interests checkbooks.

Today in Cedar Rapids the front line in the war on terror is being fought against an unrestrained river that is carrying away lives, fortunes, dreams and the personal security of citizens that only a strong, vibrant and stable community can provide.Yes, infrastructure is an area where government matters.  Being anti government, anti tax, anti federal bureaucracy are nice radical platitudes that play on voters political suspicions and partisan sentiments; but eventually the bill comes due at all to often too high a price.  This country can ill afford to lose another city.

All politicians should note, as the Cedar River rises’ so too does the personal anguish and political discontent of our citizens.  We pray for their safety and full restoration.

Here is another version of Five Feet High and Rising by the great Johnny Cash.

Risk:  geo-risk, small business, political, infrastructure, opportunity, community, culture, ROI, opportunity cost

June 13, 2008 Posted by | Bush, cities, community, infrastructure, war | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment