Archive for October, 2017

Two Party Tyranny

October 25th, 2017 No comments

The two party system only gives the illusion of choice. At best, it’s like telling a child she can choose between red or blue socks. They think they have a choice, but they still end up wearing socks. As it is our choice is more dire, and dismal. The Republican Party has been hijacked by lunatics, possibly doing the bidding of an enemy power, and the Democrats are in the pocket of Big Money, blind to the fact that they’ve been losing elections at every level because they don’t stand for anything and refuse to make a stand. It’s time to ditch them both. The party system is entrenched but it is not constitutionally mandated.


Behind the DNC infighting, there’s a deeper battle for the future of the party

At the conclusion of last week’s Democratic National Committee meeting in Las Vegas the news was blanketed with tales of of DNC infighting and disarray. In a major staffing change, several longtime members of the DNC were removed or demoted, while new members perceived to be loyal to DNC chair Tom Perez were added to the committee.

The Bigot and the Anti-Bigot

October 21st, 2017 No comments

In Luke’s gospel Jesus tells a parable about two men in the temple, a Pharisee and a tax collector, presenting themselves to God. (Luke 18:9-14) We should note at the beginning that Jesus’ parables were never intended to make his listeners, including us, comfortable. He didn’t tell the story of the Good Samaritan to point out how kind and merciful the Jews of his time were, but to rebuke them for their hard-heartedness. (Luke 10:25-37) The same is true of this parable. Jesus doesn’t want us to think we’re the good guys, but to notice where we need correction.

In Jesus’ time, a tax collector was someone despised by the people. Tax collectors worked for the Roman authorities and could use the power of Rome to extort money from their neighbors. In contemporary society we could probably equate brutal gang members with the tax collectors of Jesus’ time, at least insofar as they are regarded by the “good” folks. On the other hand, and we might have a hard time imagining this if we are familiar with Jesus’ relationship with the Pharisees, they were the good folks. They were the upstanding righteous followers of the law and social norms.

In the parable, the tax collector is keenly aware of his sin, refusing even to raise his eyes to heaven, and he begs God for mercy. The Pharisee, standing a little way off, turns his eyes to heaven and brags on himself (justifies himself) to God. He begins his “prayer” with thanksgiving that he is “not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11 NABRE) He then goes on to list the evidences of his righteousness. But at the end of the story, Jesus shocks his listeners by saying it was the tax collector, and not the Pharisee, who received God’s mercy.

Like most of the parables this one is packed with meaning. But what we might notice here is not what the story says, but our own reaction to it. I would be willing to bet that most of us, after we get the significance of the story, say to ourselves, “Thank God I’m not like that Pharisee!” And of course, the whole point of the story is that we are the Pharisee.

For example, if the polls are to be believed (and I think they are), a majority of Americans are strongly opposed to the racist and nationalist bigotry that has reared its ugly head in our national discourse. And we cheer when we see champions come forward to publicly denounce it, as both Senator John McCain and former President George W. Bush did this week.[1] But our response isn’t to look inward to correct our own faults, rather to point our fingers at the subjects of the condemnations and say, “Thank God I’m not like them!” We level accusations against those we oppose, telling them how their self-righteousness really offends our own self-righteousness, blind to the fact that we are actually enacting what we are condemning. We use appeals to higher action not to spur us on to higher action, but to tear down our “enemies.” And by doing so, we become what we denounce.

Ugliness is ugly, even when it comes from the “good” folks.

[1] Paul Kane, “McCain condemns ‘half-baked, spurious nationalism’ in clear shot at Trump,” Los Angeles Times, October 18, 2017, accessed October 21, 2017,; John Barabak, “In stunning attack, George W. Bush rebukes Trump, suggesting he promotes falsehoods and prejudice,” Los Angeles Times, October 19, 2017, accessed October 21, 2017,

“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil”

October 17th, 2017 No comments

I’m not a Republican and i disagree with much of this man’s politics but I respect him as a patriot. His comments about his relationship with Joe Biden provides a model for working with those we disagree with. He inherited the generous vision of America held by his (and my) father’s generation. That vision was blind to a lot, but it was much more hopeful than the dystopian nightmare of the man now in the a White House and his minions. Trump doesn’t even deserve to stand in this man’s shadow.

McCain’s full speech at Liberty Medal ceremony – CNN Video

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Chairman of the National Constitution Center’s Board of Trustees, presented the 2017 Liberty Medal to Senator John McCain for his lifetime of sacrifice and service to the nation.

ESPN: Ex-Green Beret Nate Boyer pens open letter to Trump, Kaepernick, NFL and America

October 14th, 2017 No comments

Dialog is one thing and I’m all for it, but the issue is much deeper than just kissing and making up. This protest was never about political division; it’s about a deep wound in the heart of America caused by centuries of systemic racism. If Trump and Kaepernick shook hands and became great friends, which is not unthinkable, our country would still be left divided, with one group suffering injustice that another group refuses to acknowledge, and a third group perpetuating and capitalizing on the tragic brokenness. If we love each other it will show not in our grand proclamations of unity but in the ability of each person to live in peace, dignity, and security.
If we want to make America great we have to come together to fix those things that are not great. It will never be great as long as our discourse is driven by fear and anger.

Ex-Green Beret Nate Boyer pens open letter to Trump, Kaepernick, NFL and America

Editor’s note: More than a year after penning an open letter to Colin Kaepernick, former Army Green Beret and NFL player Nate Boyer writes another one, this time calling for unity across all sides of the United States. Here’s his letter, as told to ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter Nick Wagoner.

Who’s disrespecting who?

October 12th, 2017 No comments

Veterans? Deport them. Active duty families? Deport them. Constitution? What a crock!

Having served in U.S. military, immigrants fight deportation orders

WASHINGTON – Olivia Segura hauled her daughter’s photo and the distinctive triangle-shaped wood box holding the flag that draped her daughter’s coffin and through the hallways of the building where members of Congress have their offices.

Take a Stand

October 11th, 2017 No comments

“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. 1968

The Arrogance of Historical Memory

October 9th, 2017 No comments

Social media is abuzz with excitement on October 12: variously known as Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day and there are other names for it. As if we didn’t have enough to be concerned about some of us need to take time out to denounce Sr. Colombo, laying the blame for all that happened in the Americas after 1492 on him. We should not be so quick to pass judgment.
As a historian one of the things I learned early on is that many of us use history as a hammer. We apply our 21st century standards of what we think is right and wrong to actors who lived in a world completely alien to us, so that we can associate our political enemies with their supposed historical misdeeds. This may give us some sense of moral superiority but it doesn’t serve any positive purpose. If we look at history through the lens of our own time we can’t possibly understand it. Then what is the purpose of looking at all? It just becomes another way of dividing ourselves up and casting blame at the “other.”
The historical profession is not about rehashing the crimes of the past. It is not only useless it is redundant for us to smugly condemn historical actors, because their actions wouldn’t be considered crimes if history had not already made that judgment. Our more difficult and profitable task is to try to see the world through the eyes of historical actors, not to excuse them, but so we can understand why they thought what they were doing was legitimate.
When Columbus sailed for the Indies he didn’t start out with the intention of finding geography previously unknown to Europe so that he could rape, pillage and enslave people he had no prior knowledge of. He set out on a perfectly respectable expedition to seek trade in Asia. He carried with him an entire worldview that saw what happened in the Americas as justifiable, even admirable. What kind of thinking would allow that? If we learn that, we can avoid repeating it. Understanding historical actors does not mean we agree with what they did. In fact, if we understand them, we can prevent what they did from recurring.
There is plenty of injustice to address today without casting stones at the past. Much if not all of the injustice that surrounds us is abetted by our failure to understand the past. If we spend our effort working for justice today, maybe our descendants five centuries from now will not remember us as criminals.

Wretched in the Generality 

October 9th, 2017 No comments

I am dumbfounded by my fellow citizens. As I watch social discourse I am reminded of the epigraph of William Shirer’s massive The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, where he quotes Goethe, “I have often felt a bitter sorrow at the thought of the German people, which is so estimable in the individual and so wretched in the generality…”  Shirer set out to record how a nation sure of its civilization and humanity could succumb to the siren-song of Nazism and carry out the most gruesome lawlessness the world has ever seen. As I see Americans respond to tragedy after tragedy, I fear that my country may be sliding down the same slippery slope. 

How can people who profess to believe in the principles of the Enlightenment on which this country was founded, principles that call for life, freedom and equality for all, blithely, almost blindly, argue in favor of inequality and injustice? How can people who claim to subscribe to the idea that all men are endowed with the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness act as if that right is resaved to only some men, those who “look like me?” And how can people who give nod to the right to life enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, a landmark product of the Age of Reason, advocate life-denying policies justified by fictions, lies so blatant a mere glance at the facts would vanquish them? 

And yet this is what drives our national discourse. Otherwise estimable individuals parroting ideas planted in their consciousness by greedy and power-hungry interests seeking to profit from their gullibility, creating a mass of ignorance propelling the nation toward oblivion.  

Dr. King prescribed a solution: a revolution of values. In a speech denouncing the war in Vietnam, he differentiated between the outlook of a thing-oriented society vs. a people-oriented one. What defines our sense of value? Is it really economic well-being? Or is it commitment to the liberation of the human spirit? 

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. 

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. 

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. 

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. 

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood. 

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. [1] 

[1] Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence” (lecture, Riverside Church, New York, New York, April 4, 1967), accessed October 9, 2017, 

Don’t thank me for my service…

October 6th, 2017 No comments

When I joined the Navy during Vietnam nobody was thanking me for my service. The military couldn’t have been held in lower regard. Reagan resurrected the military’s image, but subsequently pols have harnessed fake patriotism to fuel foreign wars for profit at the expense of American lives. So I think when most people say “thank you for your service” they’re really saying, “‘Murka. Fuck Yeah!” and don’t give a damn about my service. If you really care about veterans, work for peace.

Love Our Country…

October 6th, 2017 No comments
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