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Friday, January 30, 2015

Good and Evil in Our Time


“A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most.” ― George Bernard Shaw

History serves as a reliable witness to tragedies which put to rest any philosophical or rhetorical back and forth about whether there is in fact good and evil in our world. The tracks left by the presence of these essentially opposite forces throughout the course of our experience are indelibly impressed on our consciousness and on battlefields all over the globe. The substance of those impressions is an unmistakably gruesome mix of the blood, sweat, tears and brutalized flesh of warring factions.

The spilled guts, broken bones, and the haunting screams of mutilated souls deny us any retreat into some specious academic comfort zone regarding this matter. The massacre of innocents will not allow it. The body bags from battlefields near and far containing the remains of our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, our neighbors and their children, rankles our convenient stoicism. Those who would resort to their rhetorical acumen to deny the existence of these opposing forces are rudely aroused, and kept awake by the cacophony of war and its foul stench.

The heroes we celebrate in our individual and corporate lives are usually those who stood in firm opposition to the forces of evil. Those who have represented the expression of evil must bear the eternal rebuke reserved for them. There are those among us who even now would salute Hitler; but they are in reality a fringe trying to survive against the moral tide of History. There are those who would resurrect the fascism of Mussolini; but they inevitably find themselves marginalized and eventually swept aside by the thrust toward a more equal society and a better world. The putrid stench of slavery lingers in the air we breathe. The Ku Klux Klan still has its disciples, but they appropriately still hide their faces... In shame?

The forward march of History gains impetus when we identify and call Evil by its name… That which seeks to destroy the will to achieve the common good. The establishment of the common good is the goal of our civilization. It is a foundation of the kind of Peace which issues from the triumph of the forces of good over the presence of evil. We understand civil society to be a function of the recognition of each other’s right to the pursuit of our highest human potential regardless of circumstances of race, gender, sexuality, religious persuasion, or the socio-economic circumstances of one’s birth.

When we appropriate to each other as a human right the ability to thrive in ways that are non-obstructive to the strivings of our fellow persons, we regard that as a good thing. To live at peace with each other by the establishment of equity among us is good. We know beyond equivocation that there have been, and that there remain among us persons and influences that do not share the values implicit in these notions. They foster in their own lives, and seek to foist upon others, the inequity that serves their twisted sense of being. They create misery. They are agents of chaos. We call such persons and their intentions and influences... evil.

There exist in each of us the potential for both good and evil. We all experience the strife of both barking dogs. The preeminence of either is a function of our decision about which dog we will feed. This is the dilemma of every free being. Ultimately we cannot hide from our responsibility to be the architects of the kind of world we want. History waits. Our destiny is by no means inevitable.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sarah's Dilemma... Salvation or Oblivion




The following piece of incomprehensibleness tumbled from the mouth of Sarah Palin as she spoke at the Iowa Freedom Summit this past weekend :

"Things must change for our government. Look at it. It isn’t too big to fail. It’s too big to succeed! It's too big to succeed, so we can afford no retreads or nothing will change with the same people and same policies that got us into the status quo. Another Latin word, status quo, and it stands for, ‘Man, the middle-class everyday Americans are really gettin’ taken for a ride.’ That's status quo, and GOP leaders, by the way, y'know the man can only ride ya when your back is bent. So strengthen it. Then the man can't ride ya, America won't be taken for a ride, because so much is at stake and we can't afford politicians playing games like nothing more is at stake than, oh, maybe just the next standing of theirs in the next election."

If her teleprompter was broken she should have just stopped talking until it was repaired. Maybe she should have scribbled the meanings of words she did not know on her palms. To say she is ignorant is not to hate on Sarah Palin. She does not know; and she does not care that she does not know. Ultimately Mrs Palin is another human being who deserves our sympathy. She is a wife, a mother, and a grand-mother. Her dilemma is indeed a shared one… How do we chart the course of our lives given the gifts we have acquired and the opportunities that life presents to us. The challenge we all face is one that demands that we avail ourselves of a moral compass as we chart the course of our ambitions. This is where many of us fall down. This is where Sarah has fallen. When we race ahead into the uncertain future blind-folded by a morally and ethically challenged perspective, we inevitably find ourselves unable to navigate away from the stumbling blocks in our path. Hence our almost certain down-fall... A broken teleprompter not withstanding.

There comes a point at which Wisdom suggests that we stop and take stock. When we ignore the prompting of Wisdom we suffer an existential stumbling that lands us down the slippery path of self-destruction. It is time for Sarah to stop and take stock. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows an overwhelming majority and a plurality of the American public want her to find a quiet place and retreat there from our presence. That’s putting it as kindly as I care to. It would be advisable for her to avail herself of the implicit wisdom of such a recourse.

To be sure, Sarah Palin is no political, rhetorical, or philosophical tour de force. She brings nothing new or useful to the nation’s political discourse. No one has any doubt that picking her as a Vice-Presidential candidate was an error of epic proportions by the Republican establishment. If they refused to acknowledge this then, they now have no doubt given the record of her public utterances. Her abbreviated spell at Fox News is proof of this. Palin has shown herself to be nothing more than a ruthless prospector, mining away at the underground of our nation’s still present bigotry. Her specific appeal is to a cultural fringe unflinchingly unenthusiastic about the progress we are making in our still young democracy.

To continue as a mercenary tongue for the hateful and obstructive influences that keep her motor running, is to assure herself a place on the garbage heap of the American political and cultural consciousness. Her dilemma is a function of her self ordained destiny. For Sarah it is either salvation or oblivion. She has time to change course. And she should.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

American Sniper... A Matter Of Perspectives

Wikipedia documents the following with regards to the Iraq war:

''
The invasion of Iraq was strongly opposed by some long-standing U.S. allies, including the governments of France, Germany, and New Zealand. Their leaders argued that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that invading the country was not justified in the context of UNMOVIC's (The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission) 12 February 2003 report. On 15 February 2003, a month before the invasion, there were worldwide protests against the Iraq War, including a rally of three million people in Rome, which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest ever anti-war rally. According to the French academic Dominique Reynié, between 3 January and 12 April 2003, 36 million people across the globe took part in almost 3,000 protests against the Iraq war.''

To this day we have no evidence of the existence of WMDs in that country. We also have no evidence of a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. The fact that the whole premise of this war has been discredited has not stopped its architects from continuing to tout their rationale for it. People like former Vice President Dick Cheney are publicly unrepentant about their support for this action which in the view of many has led to the destabilization of the whole region, and the proliferation of terrorist threats like those posed by ISIS. 

The movie 'American Sniper' purports to document the personal and professional dilemma of a soldier whose job it is to protect his fellow service members. Whether it is intended to or not, this Hollywood drama feeds the narrative of the "war hero". It exploits the emotional sensibilities of an uncritical public, while ignoring the deeper moral issues in the historical reality. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives were broken and lost in an action that remains difficult if not impossible to justify on any sound moral basis.  

The fundamental question that we must face is one that is being ignored in our hunger for the 'hero' in whose dilemma we can live out our existential insecurities. In the face of his insistence that he can justify every shot he took, we must ask the unanswered question: What should a people do when their homeland is unjustifiably invaded and occupied by a foreign force? America celebrates no British heroes in the War of Independence. Is the moral blithe in our culture so great that we can ignore the suffering we inflict on others through what was essentially an act that violated the norms of International Law?

I refuse to celebrate this 'sniper' as some kind of hero, not because I do not sympathize with his dilemma; but because I cannot find it in me to vilify his victims. I went with my wife to see the movie "Selma". That to me is a story worthy of celebration. In the end we cannot ignore the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King, a peace loving patriot, was murdered by an American sniper.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Jamaica is about to decriminalize marijuana

"The island nation most closely associated with marijuana in the popular mind is about to decriminalize it. The Jamaican cabinet Monday approved a bill that would do just that, as well as allow for the creation of medical marijuana and hemp industries.
The bill, the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act of 2015, goes to the Senate tomorrow and will be debated there next Friday.
It would decriminalize the possession of up to two ounces of ganja; allow its use for religious, medical, scientific, and therapeutic purposes; prohibit smoking it in public places; and provide for the granting of licenses for the development of a legal hemp and medical marijuana industry." (Read more at the link below)
Game change: Jamaica is about to decriminalize marijuana


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

3 Questions That Call Us To More Virtuous Values

"Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort? ...  Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?... Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another — or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?"Barack Obama -SOTU Speech - Jan.20, 2015
If you missed President Barack Obama's State of the Union Speech quoted from above you can find it on the Internet. Unlike in previous years, it was available an hour before it was to be delivered so you could read along as it was being delivered. Pretty cool. Such is the state of communication technology today. In this piece my focus is on three questions the President asked that I believe serve to call us to more virtuous values. Our values are the set of principles or standards of behavior that guide us as individuals and as nations. They are indications of our judgement about what is important in life, and therefore in our relationships with one another. The quality of our values go a long way in determining the extent of our prosperity, and the "levels" of security we can expect to prevail in our communities; and by extension - in our nations.

 Ralph Waldo Emerson, a profound American thinker, observed the following : "The essence of greatness is the perception that Virtue is enough". The word virtue suggests to some the preservation of one's virginity; it carries connotations of chastity. That is not what we are talking about. This President lost his political virginity long ago; and there is hardly any possibility of maintaining one's chastity in the rough and tumble world of political whores such as Washington has become. Indeed, the President is the first to admit his many flaws. But in this latest State of the Union Speech we were reminded of the Idealism that motivated Barack Obama to become the significant presence that he is in American political life. In this speech we get a glimpse of why he is so loved and respected on the stage of International politics. And to those who remain culturally uncomfortable with this Presidency, he gave a timely reminder as to why he was elected in a landslide... Twice!

We live in a world of growing inequality. The rich few continue to keep for themselves the vast majority of the World's resources; while the number of unfortunates grow, and are relegated to a life of constant economic, political, and social insecurity. This is the world in which we have the phenomenon of "the working poor" scrounging for a living among the "crumbs" that fall from the table of corporations and their CEOs. It is a world in which billions of dollars are set aside as corporate profits; while the average worker is left to struggle and beg for a livable wage. If this is a moral universe, then there is a judgement that awaits the architects of this Inequality that they have every reason to fear. The question that the President asks is one that we MUST address... "Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort? "

The inequality that abounds in our society and in our world is prominent among the main reasons for the many conflicts that proliferate among us even now. In North America, in Africa, in Latin America and the Caribbean, in Europe, in the Middle East, ... There is no corner of the Globe that is immune to the damaging impact of Greed and its subservient imperialism. We live in a vicious cycle created and maintained by any number of amoral operatives. The Conflicts that arise from the inequities bred by Greed are subsequently promoted as a means of profit-making by the merchants of death and destruction among us. The disadvantaged rise up against their oppressors, and the accountants of the unjust rich see these uprisings as just more opportunities for profit-making. And so they sell arms to both sides in all the conflicts that ensue. The war-for-profit industry then becomes the impetus for the promotion of fear and insecurity; and so the promotion of Fear and Insecurity becomes an industry of itself. Those with a vested interest in the conflicts around us send out their "terrorism experts" to tell us why we should continue to invade and occupy countries. American snipers in Iraq become heroes about whom Hollywood epics are made; while we relegate the people defending their country from our invaders as trash, and scum, and animals to be destroyed in the most vicious ways. All this while the producers of these vain epics fill their empty chairs with mostly sympathetic cheering empty heads... And the results...? Pockets filled with cash.

The question the President of the United States raises is a timely one, and one that we MUST answer: "Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing? Or will we lead wisely, using all elements of our power to defeat new threats and protect our planet?"  More succinctly, will we become partners with the World's disadvantaged in their struggles for Justice; or will we yield to the loud voices and the outrageous vices that call us and cause us to ignore the plight of the oppressed in exchange for our place at the Oppressors' table?

The conflicted nature of our society is reflected in the tragic dramas being played out in the world around us. We conveniently separate ourselves according to race and class and caste to promulgate our divide and conquer mentality. We suppress the demands of Justice because these demands beckon to us as inconvenient truths. Like the guilty Cain, when confronted by the facts of our immorality instead of taking responsibility we ask instead "Am I my brothers' keeper?". We cannot continue to corrupt our world and expect "peace and safety" instead of the destruction that waits in the wings... And that descends on us with its sudden fury. And so we must answer the question raised by the "Leader of the Free World": "Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another — or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled [our World] forward?". We must respond to this question with actions and words that affirm the life=enhancing qualities of a Peace founded in Justice... Or suffer the tragic consequences of our immorality.

Ultimately we are constantly being called to more virtuous values as a society and as a world. A set of shared principles that point us in the direction of a more just world is what will eventually save us from the terrible judgment that no amount of arms and ammunition can save us from. The essence of all greatness... The essence of the greatness inherent in the idealism we aspire to - is a real grasp of the truth that despite all the temptations of power - it is enough to be virtuous... To do to others as we would have them do to us. This, in the end, is the most basic demand of our humanity.  It is the great secret of any true prosperity. All else is vanity.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Lukewarm Thoughts (When Freedom of Speech Serves Toxic Ideas)

IF I were a careless candle
Waxing eloquent
From the flame
Of my own burning
I would set free
By my heated tongue
The liquefied rantings
Of my softened core
And for a fleeting moment
Touch with my vanishing heat
The exposed senses
Of those who seek my glow…
And just as my warmth were known
I would go cold
Returning to my hardened state…

If I were a careless candle
I would promise you light and warmth
And then go out and leave you
Cold…and dark…and hard.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Confronting The Fierce Urgency Of Now


  "We have... come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of ... justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of ... injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children."                                                                                                               ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


All of us are moved, in one way or another, by the power of Martin Luther King’s vision of life in our society and in the larger world. Some of us are inspired by Dr. King’s vision. That vision serves to motivate us to become better as individuals, as communities, and as nations. Some of us are threatened by it, because it shines a light on our complicity in the wrong-doing that creates chaos among us. It is the dual reality of the hope he inspired in many and the threat that he posed to some that led to his murder some 47 years ago. At 6:05 P.M. on Thursday, 4 April 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead while standing on a balcony outside his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The historian Howard Zinn notes that:

By the time King was assassinated in 1968, he had come to believe that our economic system was fundamentally unjust and needed radical transformation. He spoke of “the evils of capitalism” and asked for “a radical redistribution of economic and political power.”... Martin Luther King’s reaction to the buildup of military power had been the same as his reaction to the Vietnam war: “This madness must cease.” And: “. . . the evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism are all tied together. . . .

While many politicians are willing to recall King’s “dream” of racial equality, they are not as strident in embracing his vision of a society that rejects the violence proliferated by what  President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a speech in 1961 called the Military-Industrial Complex. Most of us can identify with the promise of an America, and indeed a World, in which the sacred space created by Justice is a reality. To make that world a reality we must continue to call attention to that oft ignored part of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision in which he declared against the madness inherent in the proliferation of wars for profit. The Iraq war and its consequences are a standing testament against the atrocious behavior of those among us who do not hesitate to shed blood to secure their “wealth”.

To be true to the totality of Dr. King's vision we must admit that it is not just Justice among us that we must be concerned about. We cannot continue to claim that we are created equal while we apportion disproportionate reasons for the corruption of our sacred space to “others”. There comes a moment when we must admit some fault, every single one of us, for the problems that continue to haunt us both locally and abroad. We must squarely face the issue of the absence of Justice within us. If our social environment is to get better ...WE must become better. Better men. Better women. Better parents. Better citizens. Better sons and daughters. Better neighbors. It is time to recognize the gravity of the moment that is NOW. Now is when we are called to be more than just spectators and compliant partners in the desecration of the hallowed ground that we inhabit together. From New York City to Baghdad, from Paris to Lagos, from Palestine to the remotest regions of Afghanistan; we are being called to account for the tragedies that typify our unwillingness to be each others' "keepers''.

President Obama, in a speech marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington made some in our community very uncomfortable when he said:

And then, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us, claiming to push for change, lost our way. The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots. Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior. Racial politics could cut both ways as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination. And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support, as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself. All of that history is how progress stalled. That's how hope was diverted. It's how our country remained divided.”

Pseudo-Liberals can scream at the President all they want. The change we need must begin with us... each one of us. The fierce urgency of NOW demands that we stop putting off the need for that change... Change in ourselves and in our society. It tells us in no uncertain terms that we must abandon all the convenient excuses that keep us mired in the barren complacency that haunts us. It demands that we end our addiction to "the tranquilizing drug of gradualism". Those who have become victims of the jaded spirit of our procrastination must now act out the instruction to "take up your bed and walk". The day of your new beginning has its dawn in the fierce urgency of NOW. It demands that we stop making ourselves available to the vices that corrupt our lives and the lives of our children. The change we hope for in our world, the change that proceeds from 'the transformative message of unity and brotherhood", happens when we all become more invested in the currency of Justice not just as a responsibility of others... But as an internalized dynamic of our individual lives.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Chain of Destruction

Hardened
Tempered
Steel…
Links joined together
By the interlocking
Of life’s furnace
And the deceitful fingers
Of experience’s ironsmith...
Wrapped uncomfortably
Around the soft tissue
Of my mind…
A picture of pain
A chain
Of destruction.

From my book " Of Paradised Despised..." . See more of my work at : www.FigtreeEnterprises.com

Friday, January 9, 2015

Of Hypocrites, and Wretches, and Looming Precipices

"How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.~~~ Attributed to Jesus of Nazareth 

Dictionary.com defines a Hypocrite as : "a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs."  The word hypocrite itself is derived from the Greek concept of the actor as a person who wears a mask designed to hide his or her real face while he or she pretends to be someone else. Remember that saying about "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me"? Well that does not apply here. Words have the power to stigmatize. They can hurt you. Hypocrite is an example of a word that can hurt. Despite the sentimental declarations of a well known song; words without love are still words with meanings. They can leave us with the feeling that something or someone has died, or is dying.

There is such a thing as the connotative and the denotative use of language. Words have literal meanings and they also carry cultural denotations. These are added meanings that evolve from how concepts are connected in our experiences. Consider the meaning of the word wretch as an example: literally meaning an unfortunate or unhappy person. The word can also be used to mean a despicable or contemptible person, as in "an ungrateful wretch". In this sense it has the same connotation as : scoundrel, villain, rogue, rascal, reprobate, criminal, or miscreant. 

We can all attest to the fact that words can be used to hurt us. We can't escape the damaging force of someone hurling the curse "Wretch!", or "Hypocrite!" at us. Like flying knives they bear sharp edges that can do real harm. Like the curses of old, we must either "duck" to escape their damaging effect or suffer the consequences. 

The Prophets spoke powerfully against the hypocritical tendencies in their society. Their words applied equally to individuals, and to groups, and to the nation. The inherent wisdom of the warnings in Jesus' message sound loud and clear to us today. As individuals and as groups and as institutions and as a nation, we are solemnly warned against our propensity to judge others by standards that we only pretend to adhere to ourselves. We should pay attention to that warning whenever we demand justice for ourselves, while we dispense injustice to our neighbors. We brutalize our fellowmen, and then complain about police brutality. We demand that other nations comply with the standards of international morality, while we commit crimes against humanity. Extremist Christians and extremist Muslims criticize each other for atrocities that both groups have been, and still are guilty of. We say our religions are based on Love; while we worship gods, and declare the infallibility of scriptures, that sanction genocide and other expressions of mass murder. We profess our love for, and our allegiance to a God we cannot see while we actively hate our fellow humans who we can see, and hear, and touch, and taste, and smell. We sanctimoniously declare the fatherhood of God while denying the implied brotherhood of man. What hypocrites we are! What wretches we have become!




As hypocrites we have gone from wearing masks to donning blindfolds. This is the crux of the matter regarding the existential threat we face. The "log" in our eyes has made the "speck" in the eyes of those we criticize redundant. Our hypocritical statements do not matter because the deficiency of vision that results will be a reason for the demise of us all.  It is an existential altruism that "where there is no vision the people perish". (The Book of Proverbs) The blind leading the blind will only result in them both falling into a ditch. That is just Commonsense. It is a fact of our common experience.

The inherent idiocy of walking around in the chaos of the dark night created from our hypocrisy and ignorance must be faced with humility. There is none so blind as those who celebrate the unwillingness to open their eyes to Commonsense and Truth. The precipice of mutual destruction is just a few steps away on the dreadful roads of our inhumanity toward one another. Those roads run through our civic lives wherever we may be. Roads in Ferguson, Missouri. Roads in New York, New mYork. Roads in Paris, France. Roads in Africa and the Middle East. Roads in Kingston, Jamaica. When the way to the City of Peace becomes instead a habitat of rogues, then what awaits us is the Valley of Destruction. We can all bet on that... bitches and their subservient, unreasonable belligerence not withstanding. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Rise Of The KKK

This article is from pbs.org


A KKK Member
Herb Peck
A KKK Member
At the time of Ulysses S. Grant's election to the presidency, white supremacists were conducting a reign of terror throughout the South. In outright defiance of the Republican-led federal government, Southern Democrats formed organizations that violently intimidated blacks and Republicans who tried to win political power.
The most prominent of these, the Ku Klux Klan, was formed in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1865. Originally founded as a social club for former Confederate soldiers, the Klan evolved into a terrorist organization. It would be responsible for thousands of deaths, and would help to weaken the political power of Southern blacks and Republicans.
Racist activity in the South often took the form of riots that targeted blacks and Republicans. In 1866, a quarrel between whites and black ex-soldiers erupted into a full-fledged riot in Memphis, Tennessee. White policemen assisted the mobs in their violent rampage through the black sections of town. By the time the violence ended, 46 people were dead, 70 more were wounded, and numerous churches and schools had been burned. Just two months later, on July 30, a similar outbreak of violence erupted in New Orleans. This time, a white mob attacked the attendees of a black suffrage convention, killing 37 blacks and three whites who allied with them.
In this violent atmosphere, the Ku Klux Klan grew in size and strength. By 1868, the Klan had evolved into a hooded terrorist organization that its members called "The Invisible Empire of the South." The reorganized Klan's first leader, or "Grand Wizard," was Nathan Bedford Forrest, who had been a Confederate general during the Civil War.
White Southerners from all classes of society joined the Klan's ranks. In the name of preserving law and order in a white-dominated society, Klansmen punished newly freed blacks for a variety of reasons, including behaving in an "impudent" manner toward whites. They whipped the teachers of freedmen's schools and burnt their schoolhouses. But first and foremost, the Klan sought to do away with Republican influence in the South by terrorizing and murdering its party leaders and all those who voted for it.
In the time leading up to the 1868 presidential election, the Klan's activities picked up in speed and brutality. The election, which pitted Republican Ulysses S. Grant against Democrat Horatio Seymour, was crucial. Republicans would continue programs that prevented Southern whites from gaining political control in their states. Klan members knew that given the chance, the blacks in their communities would vote Republican.
Across the South, the Klan and other terrorist groups used brutal violence to intimidate Republican voters. In Kansas, over 2,000 murders were committed in connection with the election. In Georgia, the number of threats and beatings was even higher. And in Louisiana, 1000 blacks were killed as the election neared. In those three states, Democrats won decisive victories at the polls.
Nevertheless, the Klan's violent actions proved to many Northerners that the South had not learned its lesson in the recent war. In this way, the Klan's activities actually backfired. People realized that harsher laws would have to be passed in order to stop the violence and protect Southern blacks. And those laws were soon in coming.
In the 1868 presidential election, Republican Ulysses S. Grant won the office with the slogan, "Let Us Have Peace." Republicans also won a majority in Congress. Many Northerners, disgusted by Klan violence, lent their support to the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave the vote to black men in every state, and the First Reconstruction Act of 1867, which placed harsher restrictions on the South and closely regulated the formation of their new governments.
Other legislation attacked the Klan more directly. Between 1870 and 1871, Congress passed the Enforcement Acts, which made it a crime to interfere with registration, voting, officeholding, or jury service of blacks. More than 5,000 people were indicted under these laws; a little more than 1,000 were convicted.
In 1871 Congress also passed the Ku Klux Klan Act, which allowed the government to act against terrorist organizations. Grant did not rigorously enforce these laws, although he did order the arrest of hundreds of Klan members. But with the overwhelming support of the Klan in the South, convictions proved difficult to obtain, and the financial panic of 1873 would distract the North from the problems of Southern racism. In 1882 the United States Supreme Court declared Ku Klux Klan Act unconstitutional.

Four Things We Can Agree On

No one is perfect... 
Stuff happens...
We can choose the life we want... 
We can all get better...
~ ~ ~ ~
Facades
There are events that we are in the habit of calling Truth, which have a way of simplifying our lives when they happen. Needless to say, that simplicity comes at a price. Truth has a way of wreaking havoc with all the structures that we spend a lifetime building in order to hide our fragile selves behind. There comes a time when we, in the interest of walking into an authentic existence, must have every wall that we hide behind torn down. What comes forth at these critical junctures is a kind of  life-reforming turbulence. Oh unhappy happy day! The fortresses that we resort to may shield us from uncomfortable revelations about our individual fragilities, but they cultivate in and around us the kind of avoidance that eliminates the possibility that we might actually build any real strength, including strength of character, that would serve us through life's inevitable challenges. And so we find ourselves building more, and higher, and more complicated structures to protect us in our vulnerable states. No one is perfect.

Who We Are
As inconvenient as they may be, there comes those moments when we should no longer and can no longer make the usual excuses for the dysfunctions that plague our existence. The root of our many problems have numerous variations. They are located in the varying experiences from which we come. We have had to deal with challenges which are not necessarily unique, but which have left their indelible stamp on our bodies and souls in ways that produce in us the many unfortunate idiosyncrasies that are evident in our lives and relationships. We can all trace our individual brokenness to some other essentially broken source. There is a reason for every reason that we come up with regarding what ails us. And so for the sake of our sanity there comes a point where we must name ourselves as the ultimate indicator of any meaningful break with a history that has so unmistakably left its mark on us. The personal redemption we long for must begin with an initiative that names us as the primary architect of the more empowered existence we long for. Stuff happens to all of us.

Who We Are Essentially
Our lives are essentially typified as a co-existence of opposites. Our many experiences go into the creation of these dynamics. On our journey through this life we become familiar with some goods and some evils. We experience some highs and some lows. We have wins, and we accrue losses. We become intimate with gaining and losing things... and people. Joy replaces pain... Sunshine after the rain. The varying qualities of the energies that motivate us provide that dynamic tension that we feel as a constant ebb and flow throughout our days. These tensions build and they produce in us a desire for change and growth that force us to become more accommodating of what should constitute our reality. They eventually demand that we establish and maintain the equilibrium that serves to keep us from falling over the precipice of momentarily predominant perceptions. They make us face the truth about who we must become if we are to enter that authentic space where a creative and sustainable life happens. A space in which we discover something called Happy. And we name that place accordingly. We can choose the life we want.

Who We Can Become
The place in our experience called Happy, has its own unique idiom. It's vocabulary is value specific. It's chords are forthright and distinct. It's presence in the galaxies of our universe is unmistakable; it's radiance makes it so. Concepts like humility and courage are well known and oft spoken for their efficacy. These words have their beginnings and their very foundation in the concept called Truth. The inhabitants of Happy become what they say. That is their intention. Their hope is that the words they speak and the desires of their hearts will become acceptable in the sight of their neighbors. Happy is a place created out of the turbulence and chaos of a dynamic called Change. That dynamic comes upon us when we are no longer able to resist the urge to rid ourselves of the convenient structures that hide us from the sun of Happy. We can all get better.