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Friday, February 26, 2016

Stop Bullying!


The small toe on my left foot sits at a weird angle in relation to the other digits on that foot. This disfigurement happened to me during my ninth grade year. Myself and some of my high school classmates were being pursued after school one day by a fearsome character who haunted our lives almost daily. As I dashed around the corner of one of the buildings in our schoolyard, I drove that toe hard into an obstacle in my path dislocating it. The pain was riveting. The toe was never reset. Thus the lasting disfigurement… the result of my attempt to survive the threats of a vile human being.
This predator would come to our school yard almost daily, armed with a ratchet knife which he kept in full view…swinging it by its ring on his right index finger. I still remember the sneer he wore on his face as he forced pain upon us through the following sick ritual. At the end of the school day he would sit close to a point where he knew we would exit. There he would stoop with a large, heavy stone in front of him. As we passed he demanded, as kind of a tribute to his cruelty, that we each lift this rough heavy rock to our chests and return it to the ground in front of him. With his ratchet knife swinging threateningly around that finger of his, he would dare us to disobey him.
One day a boy in my class, tired of the intimidation, refused to lift that stone. Tired of being bullied, he folded his arms across his chest and stood there in angry defiance. That character, without blinking, flashed open that stainless steel blade and slashed my classmate a bloody curve from the lower lobe of his left ear to the corner of his mouth. For a moment we stood frozen in wide-eyed horror and disbelief. Then we took off running for our lives. About two weeks later this evil menace was involved in a violent confrontation with the police who were investigating the incident. He was shot and killed. This brought an abrupt end to his reign of terror among us.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Wisdom To Be Masters Of Our Domain

Reflecting on the ordinary events and circumstances of our everyday lives can, with the right frames of reference, produce deeper insights into our existence. In fact, the extraordinary “revelations” produced by many of our sages are the results of a deeper analysis of events and circumstances that most of us bypass, or otherwise gloss over in the course of our own experiences. 

We can connect with our “deeper” selves by cultivating a more acute awareness of the implications of ordinary events and circumstances that occur daily in the various facets of our living. A deeper appreciation of the ordinary lays the foundation for better decision-making. It allows for extraordinary interventions on our part, when faced with critical situations.
Take for example the “wisdom of Solomon” as demonstrated in the case of two women who came before him in a dispute over a child. Both women had given birth to sons within a short time of each other. While they slept one of them overlaid her baby, resulting in his death. Now they were before the king, each claiming that the surviving child was hers. After considering the dilemma before him, the king proposes to split the surviving child in two with his sword and give each woman a half of the child. A horrendous proposition, but one readily approved of by the woman who was clearly not the child’s mother. 
What mother in her right mind would say yes to such a thing? In a culture where the definition of womanhood is tied to the ability to bear and raise children, some women become desperate about attaining and maintaining that status. But even in that desperation the bond engendered between a mother and child during the course of gestation remains more often than not, durable and unmistakable. 

A caring mother would never casually or otherwise agree to such a proposition to resolve this or any other crisis involving her child. The other woman, heartbroken and going out of her mind about the possibility of such a fate for her baby, begged the king to give the child to this other heartless person in order to save its life. This was a demonstration of that motherly affection which we know to be almost universal, and with which most of us can identify. The king, recognizing her motherly instinct, gave the child to this woman. She had, without doubt, authenticated her motherly claim by being willing to save her child’s life even if that meant she was going to lose custody to this desperate person. 
The king’s action was that of a wise judge. Solomon demonstrated the wisdom derived from an in-depth knowledge of his society’s norms, a real appreciation of the dynamics at work in the socio/cultural environment, and an intimate connection with the complex workings of the human mind and heart. No doubt the king was also helped by his ability and his willingness to be a patient and keen observer of the events unfolding in front of him. We rightly applaud his great judgement, but as we do so it is vital to realize that each of us can give ourselves the benefit of this kind critical ability. We do so by cultivating a dynamic openness of mind and heart which deepens our awareness of the world around us and its workings. 
To get a real grasp of the world outside the one we inhabit we must also become daring. We must be willing to delve beneath our own ingrained superficiality. This demands that we unlock the gates of our old familiar comfort zones, and venture into the uncomfortable realm of mindsets and experiences that are foreign to our own experiences. We must become willing to be unkind to our vulnerable sensibilities. Solomon cultivated this critical ability. To be a good king he had no choice. His was a wisdom wrought in the inconvenient, and at times agonizing business of governing. Venturing beyond our vulnerable sensibilities is a daunting challenge, but that is what it takes to be the masters of our domain.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia's Conservatism: Bombast and Bollocks



It is no secret that there are those in our government who, having lost two Presidential elections to Barack Hussein Obama and the Democrats, have resigned themselves to the prospects of doing everything they can to prevent the President from "Presidenting". Witness the reaction of Senator Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, to the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In a not unexpected but nevertheless stunning(sarcasm intended) development, these ardent defenders of the Constitution would now invent every political contrivance to prevent this President from executing his constitutional responsibility to nominate a replacement for the late Justice Scalia.

They are still cringing in their reactionary corners from the establishment of the Affordable Care Act as the law of the land. That is an achievement of this Presidency that has put a hot dagger through the political hearts of these reactionaries. Combine this with other recent rulings that raise the bar of Justice above the narrow economic and cultural interests of the American conservative establishment, and witness the blatant mental and political melt down of these hypocrites. When the usual verbiage of their semantic tool-sets came up short, they resorted to the store of their old cultural bag of shit... Bullshit that is.

Justice Scalia couldn't face the facts of his judicial/cultural ass-whooping in the matters of the standing up of the ACA and Marriage Equality, so in his pain and cultural anguish he resorted to his bag of cultural antiquities... "Giggery-pokery!" he screamed. The linguists among us reveal the meaning of this bit of antiquity as:  a manipulative or slyly dishonest act – synonyms include “trickery” or “hocus-pocus”. According to Merriam-Webster, the word is thought to stem from the Scottish phrase joukery-pawkery, jock being "cheat" or "dodge" and "pawk" being to "trick." In his vain originalism he reached beyond the contemporary verbiage available to him in order to mask his hyped-up disgust at progress that he and his kind are impotent to stop. 

Between the rulings on Fair Housing, Marriage, and Obamacare, Conservatives in Congress and their servants on the Supreme Court have had no constitutional place to hide from their own giggery-pokery.  For better or for worse we are a nation of laws. Not only that... We find ourselves in a cultural-political dynamic that continues to evolve in the direction of greater democracy. According to the Scalia doctrine, any standard of jurisprudence that rebuked his own facile, illegitimate backwardness... was to be considered "trickery".

Jeffrey Toobin in an article in The New Yorker has this to say about Scalia's perspective as a jurist: "... it was in his jurisprudence that Scalia most self-consciously looked to the past. He pioneered “originalism,” a theory holding that the Constitution should be interpreted in line with the beliefs of the white men, many of them slave owners, who ratified it in the late eighteenth century". The historical context observed in Toobin's critique is in and of itself obnoxious enough. Combine that with the fact that we still struggle against the moral short-comings of that period, and what we have is an inexcusable deficiency in Scalia's approach itself... one that we must refuse to continue to tolerate. 

The kind of perspective that a Justice like Scalia brings to his work is akin to that which informs the reasoning that is typical of the religious fundamentalists whose brand of "originalism" led them to believe that the earth is flat. This kind of ignorance not only sought to stand in the way of progress, it led to the tragic victimization of anyone who dared to bring a more scientific perspective to bear in their analysis of life and the world we share. It was this kind of unreasonableness that led to the oppression and torturous death of many who dared to expound and live out their own understanding of being in this world.

The backwardness that Justices like Scalia and Thomas represent is thankfully being left in the tragic past in which it functioned to deny equal access to the blessings of Liberty. The days when people were denied the Rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness... and when we could expect such a denial to be backed up by the guardians of Justice must, and are passing.  The moral "trickery" fueled by rhetorical bombast that passed for Justice in those days is being called by its real name... Bull excrement... Or, in the antiquity of Justice Scalia, ... Bollocks! The reality we wrestle with in our judicial system is that the barbs through which the likes of a Justice Scalia and a Justice Thomas voice their objections to progress, and the moral garb in which they clothe those objections, are terribly soiled by the historically putrid waste of Justice denied. 

The work of Justice for All continues among us. With the passing of Antonin Scalia we have good reasons to be enthusiastic about Hope and Change... Remember that? Bombast and bollocks aside, those who were heralds for the demise of this President's "legacy" spoke too soon. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Anodynes

Creative rhymes…
Potent anodynes…
Analgesic tones…
Somnifaciently affected sounds…
Words that heal…
In combinations we feel…
Anesthetic formulae
And stupefacient lies
Won’t change our need for realistic treatise…

Preachers and teachers
Singers and speakers…
Sermons and lessons
Songs and mass visions…
Come now before us
Sounding so spurious
Because they are devoid of real truths…
Thoughts obfuscated
On minds opiated
Will…finally…do us no good.

From: Roy Alexander Graham's ... “Of Scattered Seed and Broken Souls.”

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Toward A More Fertile Earth

The consciousness of the need for change in the social and economic conditions that generate great wealth for a few while keeping the many in poverty is growing. The contradictions inherent in the perpetuation of hope and despair in our social and economic relationships must be resolved... and soon. The societal dysfunctions bred by this pressing antagonism, which threatens to obliterate our commitment to civility, cannot be wished away.  That resolution must necessarily lead to a more just world in which the hopes of the privileged few do not breed despair in the lives of others. The vision of, and the longing for a more just society is what fuels the fires that burn in the hearts of displaced, dispossessed, exploited people everywhere. That vision, that longing, is the tip of the burning spear that threatens the old status quo in which the cultural and economic domination of the many by the few is accepted as fate.

An economic culture in which CEO compensation increases over nine hundred fold while the average worker barely sees a five percent pay increase must be critically evaluated and rehabilitated. A political culture that exists to perpetuate the cult of vampires who build and maintain their castles at the expense of the vital substance of exploited populations needs to be obliterated. It is time to expose this culture to the burning glare that is generated when people stop thinking of their lives in terms of the false benevolence of a lottery. The cultivation of enlightened self interest in our economic relationships must become a priority of everyone involved in the development of industry and the creation of wealth. We cannot, and must not continue to accommodate corporate greed while people are left to subsist on a less than livable wage.

The politicians who partner with economic vampires must be exposed. We must shine a light on those  who betray the public trust in order to satisfy their own greed. The militarization of the police to suppress the just protests of people against an unjust system must end. Subjecting people to the brutality of law enforcement in a society that is essentially rigged to keep many in poverty is a crime against humanity. The use of the police as enforcers for a parasitic economic and political culture as seen in places like Ferguson, Missouri and other such municipalities is a vile practice that must end. This kind of wickedness has consequences... The rage that we witness in oppressed communities, and which we conveniently define as criminal behavior is one such consequence. The injustices that find expression through racism, sexism, and genderism, and every other form of bigotry must be exposed for what they are… Injustices. We must no longer tolerate the white collar crime of economic victimization while we build jails for its victims.

The awareness of the prevailing contradictions that make true community impossible among us beckons us into a new and more responsibly liberated sense of ourselves. This awareness leads us to reject the state of victimhood into which we are lulled by the value system of an unjust society and its agents. It calls us to be the definitive architects of our destinies. As such we must reject the world imposed on us, and commit to the process of reconstruction that is necessary. We must claim with our every breath the responsibility to build something new with our own hands and hearts and minds… Something more in keeping with our shared needs and aspirations. Through education, organization, and a real commitment to industry; we must take responsibility for the future we want for ourselves and our children.

The work of building a more equitable world is not an assignment for "messiahs". This work must be accomplished by our own hands... Collectively. To prepare ourselves for the task in front of us we must first liberate ourselves from the stranglehold of  a value system designed to maintain the status quo. The renewal of the structures around which we build a more equitable society will require a rethinking of our perspectives and priorities. As the old wisdom advises... We cannot store new wine in old wine skins. To build a more just society, we must become more just people. As such we must desire for others what we want for ourselves. Shared work, shared reward... From each according to his/her ability, to each according to her/his needs. It is a classic trick of  those who service and maintain the old status quo to tell poor people to wait for a savior... a messiah. As part of that trick they point us to fictitious heavens where we will reap the blessings of prosperity that the rich few enjoy here and now. In a just society we should all enjoy the rewards of our work in the real world of our daily lives... Not in a presumed "hereafter".

As the prime movers in the new, more hope-filled world we desire, we look forward to that more fertile earth in which we can realize a greater rootedness. A more equitable society provides resources for the realization of our true potentials as human beings. When we resolve the contradictions inherent in the perpetuation of hope and despair we will desolve the existential fog that clouds the path to achieving our fullest potential. We realize that the more fertile earth we project must be a function of our collective efforts. And so we must all act to bring about the changes that will potentiate our just aspirations. Talk is cheap; and, as the old saying goes, ... "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride". It is time that we rise up in affirmation of our own fecundity; and against every dried out idea that would suppress our innate abundance.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Trump Phenom... More Than A Case Of Preemptive Rubbernecking

Rubbernecking: a human trait that is associated with morbid curiosity; a voyeuristic interest in someone else's business or affairs.

American media in particular, and the vast majority of the American public are waiting, impatiently now, for the political phenomenon called Donald Trump to crash and burn. While a few in the business of punditry now ruminate about the possibility of a Trump presidency, there is a general perception that candidate Donald is the antithesis of everything that we have come to expect of an aspirant to the highest office in the land. If the polls at this stage of the game are to be taken seriously, "The Donald" is  turning conventional wisdom on its head. The more he rises (in the polls), the greater the anticipation of a catastrophic end to what has been a most unlikely candidacy.

Instead of the kind of inspirational rhetoric that we have come to expect from any serious candidate for national office, Donald Trump has engaged in the kind of demagoguery that has blown up other campaigns in the past. The list of his transgressions are long, and continues to grow. He has alienated the fastest growing demographic in the country. Trump's unfavorables among Hispanics, according to Gallop, is the highest of any of his Republican rivals. He has insulted women in ways that would sink the candidacy of other aspirants to the Oval Office. Among women Trump has an unfavorability rating of over sixty percent. Among African Americans, that number is close to eighty percent.

Donald Trump has demonstrated no fluency in any of the issues that demand the attention of an American leader. What Trump is very fluent in are the gross insults and indecent aspersions that he carelessly discharges at anyone who dares to require him to speak intelligently to any issue. Instead of any effort to be a meaningfully articulate candidate, what we have in Donald Trump is a carnival barker... And he is the show to which he invites all those within reach of the bite of his rhetoric. It does not take a genius to see that this character has little or no chance of being elected to the Presidency. The Republican Party recognizes this, and they are duly fearful of the down-ticket implications of his candidacy for the future of the Grand Old Party.

It is easy to exploit the well cultivated frustrations that many constituents have toward the average politician. An abiding disdain for the way Washington operates is a fact of our National political experience. Any demagogue can establish a soapbox from which the sins of our political culture can be bellowed and exploited for gain. It does not take much to get loud agreement from a discontented public with the fact that idiocy, general incompetence, and wanton graft, are rampant features of our governing class. We are all aware of these obvious problems, but the idea that we should replace our political undesirables with a charlatan who presents his gross vanity as his only virtue is immeasurably untenable.

The Media's preoccupation with Trump was initially an exercise in preemptive rubbernecking. Some of those who sold this point of view are now backing off in what might be called sellers remorse. There is no doubt that this contender has benefitted from a GOP culture that can be likened to a rudderless ship. Despite this however, there still remains among the political class an expectation that he will at some point suffer a catastrophic failure. He is expected to either wear himself out via the unsustainable nonsense he espouses, or crash and burn on the low road he takes in his vile attack on others.

The anticipation of what is expected to be a spectacular descent into ignominy is part of what is fueling the feeding frenzy around what is essentially a circus of political bigotry. Trump's braggadocio is his indelible trademark. As a feature of some kind of political comic relief, it is excusable. This may all be a set-up for his next “reality show”... “Trump’s World”. As a quality of leadership this imitation of Nero has the seeds of a disaster sown all over it. The voyeurism that this character invites is repulsive. Like some before him, Trump is nothing more than a ruthless prospector mining away at the old underground of our nation's still present bigotry. The lesson he still has to learn is that his loot is nothing more than fools gold. That is the reward of those who mine hate.

This morbid fascination with Mr Trump must for the sake of a viable democracy ...come to an end. The sooner, the better.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Immortal

Forever
Like a wind traveling through time
Across many stages…
From everlasting till now…we are…
And will be still
Through all the ages…of time…

And forever
Like a raindrop moving through space…
Returning again to its origin as air…
Through heat and cold
Becoming water
Again…and again

Forever and forever
We are like the wind
Becoming clouds
That fall as rain
To return again
To its form as spirit…

We are the immortals…of the Immortal
Which was…
Who is…
That will be
Forever

From: Roy Alexander Graham's “In My Element.”

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Jesus of Nazareth is not the Christ of So-called Conservatives

Between invading and totally destabilizing Iraq, and carpet-bombing ISIL, and murdering anyone who did not comply with heterosexual ideals, and promoting the culture of violence being advanced by the gun lobby, and letting crony capitalism run rampant in our society... Jesus of Nazareth would have the shit beat out of him by our conservative religious and political leaders and their followers. Have any of these greedy, gun-wielding, war-mongering, hate-spreading charlatans read the New Testament?

By Their Deeds...

Trust no politician who invokes faith as a cornerstone of his or her political ambition. We are free to believe in whatever god appeals to our individual needs, but that is an aspect of our experience that should remain private. The aspiration to serve community should be founded in shared values that serve to enhance the lives of people regardless of religious conviction.

There are ideals that have universal appeal not because of the command of some deity, but because our common experience has taught us that we cannot thrive without them. To do to others as we would have them do to us makes sense even among those who have never heard of a god. As a cornerstone of community building it needs no mystical justification.

Anyone coming forward to serve must demonstrate the kind of principled approach to community life that transcends his or her individuality. To stand on a platform informed by the needs of one's own ego is to create a foundation on shifting sand. The demands of Justice must command the attention of every god, and every living person. Anyone who claims to serve an invisible God while rationing goodwill toward one's fellows ... is nothing but a damned liar.