DC shenanigans

ratLiving on planet earth makes it difficult to avoid the continual stream of bull crap coming out of that humming nest of discontent called Washington, D.C.  It stinks up our air waves, phone screens, civic meetings, and neighborhood chit-chats.  It presents itself as material of utmost importance even though most of it is nothing more than glorified, recycled, regurgitated, repurposed manure fit only for its final repose on the compost pile.  Unfortunately, even the worms and maggots (read between the lines and use whichever news services you find offensive) find difficulty digesting what is being presented as newsworthy and consequential.  And yet, we gorge on it like pigs at a feeding trough.  Yeah, me too.  Guilty as charged.

We, you and I, need to grow a pair.  You heard me right.  We (women included) need to show our cojones and refuse to allow this chapter of historical malcontent so much space in our brains.  It is, after all, just a brief blip on the radar screen in the history of mankind, just a grain of sand on the beach of humanity, just a fleeting moment in the nefarious schemes of world governments.  Is it worth the sleepless nights, the headaches, the heartburn, the ulcers, the broken relationships and the emotional anguish?  Is it?

I don’t know about you, but my time is more valuable.  I know what my political philosophy is, I know my priorities in relation to fellow man, I know whom I will vote for in our upcoming primary election and I definitely know whom I will not vote for in the 2020 general election in November.  It’s a settled, done deal.  Can’t get any easier than that.  There is no need to spend endless hours analyzing the talking heads on TV or wasting precious moments arguing with neighbors and friends who think my brand of politics is lunacy.

For me it’s all about time and how I choose to use it.  It’s about mental space and whether I choose to abuse it.  Tomorrow is never guaranteed and I will be seriously pissed off if I have spent my last day on earth fussing and fuming about a bunch of nincompoops sitting in the halls of government with their heads up their nether regions.  I am worthy of a more substantial, fulfilling day than that.  How about you?

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one, two, three, what are we fighting for?

Different generation, different side of the continent, more sophisticated weapons…but folks, it’s the same old bullshit.  Sending young men and women off to fight the war that lines the pockets of corporate greed and political corruption.  We have learned nothing, not a damned thing.

an easier, softer way

if you are sober today, give yourself and your God a hand

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“Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now….we thought we could find an easier, softer way.  But, we could not.” 

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS, chapter 5, How It Works

Wisdom from the BIG BOOK, the alcoholic’s bible, teaches us that there is no easy way to transformation and restoration.  We cannot hang on to old ideas, we cannot party with the old crowd, we cannot entertain previous bad habits and expect a sustained, peaceful sobriety.  Millions of successfully recovering alcoholics will testify to this assertion from HOW IT WORKS.  For us there is not an easier, softer way.

Those of us who profess a faith walk and try to follow earnestly the God of our understanding know this principle applies to all aspects of our lives.  Discernment is an integral part of daily living.  Not only recognizing a spiritual value, but following the direction of that moral compass becomes a driving force in our lives.  Talk the walk and then walk the talk.  We cannot conveniently turn on and off the spiritual connection which has returned us to sanity.

And so it is that when discussions of social, political and religious significance occur, we have a choice – wallow in the easier, softer way of complacency and submission to the status quo or advocate what could be infinitely more difficult, but principled.  Our guide?  It has to be that same moral compass, that discernment which we discovered through the grace of sobriety.  It has to be what was learned by giving up the easier, softer way.

I recently witnessed a conversation between two upstanding members of the community.  Debating politics, one offered an opinion that his Christian faith had no bearing on his choice in the upcoming 2020 Presidential election.  The moral character of his candidate had nothing to do with fitness for the office or ability to lead.  The booming economy and low unemployment rate were, by far, a more important barometer than any character faults and defects.  Maybe he is right.  Maybe it is okay during the election cycle to put away in a box the faith and values which have transformed our lives.  Maybe the economy, stock markets and retirement accounts are more important than the life and work of Jesus manifesting through us.  Maybe.  What do you think?

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BPI – Bard Prison Initiative

Several of my fellow Citrus County residents advocate the theory that educating incarcerated men and women only results in smarter criminals upon release from prison. The money spent, they say, could be put to better use in other programs and government projects. However, statistics following release from prison support the advantages of providing educational opportunities to inmates. We must recognize the need of communities to welcome back those who have served the time for the crime and honor their rights as restored citizens to pursue that which provides a fulfilling life. A recent amendment to our state’s Constitution supported the overwhelming will of Florida voters to reinstate voting rights to those who have served their sentences, yet the Legislature led by partisan politics is attempting to circumvent this amendment.

I am a strong advocate for education for everyone.   A high school diploma is not enough. Only continued technical or college instruction will provide the tools necessary to gainful employment and competitive skills in the labor market. The failure to provide an affordable education to all young people has resulted in stunning statistics showing the United States trailing other industrialized nations of the world in areas of societal stability, happiness, and productivity. We, the wealthiest nation on earth, cannot provide for our citizens a healthy lifestyle free from the fear of unemployment or neighborhood violence. Our nation is depleting the future of its young people due to its unwillingness to spend a mere modicum of its wealth on education enabling economic advancement for the socially or economically disadvantaged.

That would include prison inmates who have made mistakes, erred on judgement. Due to an unfair for-profit prison system, the USA has highest rate of incarcerated men and women in the industrialized world. A controversial approach has been undertaken by the state of New York, a state which has 53,400 inmates. BPI (Bard Prison Initiative) has 300 of these inmates enrolled in a program funded by private donations to provide college degrees. Of its graduates only 4% return to prison after parole compared to a 50% rate overall. Opponents cite the expense to taxpayers, but this is not government-funded. Opponents claim educated convicts will become smarter criminals; this also is proving to be untrue. PBS has aired a 4 part documentary, ‘COLLEGE BEHIND BARS”, addressing a novel solution. We have a choice – spend the money on education or spend the money on prisons.

 WASHINGTON POST

separation of church and state

Living as a Democrat in rural, Republican Florida challenges one’s sense of inclusiveness and social propriety.  A recent controversy in local politics regarding funding our library’s request to make the New York Times available online to library cardholders is a case in point. My friend at BY HOOK OR BY BOOK has shared a great post regarding this issue.  It is indicative of a population which refuses to leave the 1950s.

On Florida’s horizon is a bill filed by a State Senator which would require courses be made available in our public schools at taxpayers’ expense providing studies of the Bible.  The following is the letter which I have submitted to our local newspaper.

State Senator Dennis Baxley, a Republican representing the Ocala region, has filed SB 746 to be considered during the 2020 legislative session. The bill would require courses providing studies of the Bible’s Old and New Testaments in public schools. According to the sponsors of the bill, “all state and federal laws and guidelines maintaining religious neutrality” would be maintained.

One can easily favor this endeavor to educate students regarding religious doctrine because the writers of SB 746 guarantee that such studies would not “endorse, favor, or promote or disfavor or show hostility toward a particular religion, religious perspective, or nonreligious faith.”

Certainly it would be educational and advantageous for students to learn about man’s trek across the numerous religious philosophies created throughout history by holy men, theologians and scholars to instruct, comfort and control the masses. However, knowing the history of our state’s policy-makers, can we be assured that their explicit guarantee of neutrality will be followed? It sounds reassuring today, but, what will our teachers, students, and public schools face 5 or 10 years from now? Would it not be wiser to focus this Christian educational effort in the hands of the experts in religious education – our county’s esteemed parochial schools where children are educated in an atmosphere conducive to their family’s beliefs?

Of course, should these religious studies include all the major faiths of our world including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam among others worthy of study, then, perhaps this bill could provide a well-rounded education to young people regarding various man-created philosophies of religious belief.

The key word in SB 746 is public – public education system. It is our duty to oversee and maintain this public system serving the diversity of religions, races, creeds, and lifestyles which make us a strong melting-pot nation. E Pluribus Unum, on the Great Seal of the United States, was a motto included on the seal in 1782. It means “out of many, one.” That is who we are. We are one people, one nation worshipping or not worshipping as conscience dictates. We are church people and synagogue people and mosque people and temple people. I applaud our legislators’ work to introduce religious studies into our public schools, but let’s include all faiths as worthy of study, not just Christianity and Judaism. I would enjoy a course in Buddhism, my neighbor favors Islam. Red-blooded American citizens, we are E PLURIBUS UNUM.

a better way

Fr. Richard Rohr, in the mission statement for the CENTER FOR ACTION AND richard rohrCONTEMPLATION, shares the following:

“The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better. Oppositional energy only creates more of the same.”

It’s all about energy, isn’t it?  Physical exertion, emotional expenditure, spiritual contemplation – it all revolves about the issues that are present in our lives.  Where we spend our time and energy determines who we are, what we advocate and ultimately the state of mind we enjoy in peace or endure in turmoil.  Therefore, next time I am tempted to jump into the mud with the other mud wrestlers (or whatever else hangs out in the slime), perhaps I should remember the exhortation of Fr. Rohr.

…and they all chimed in, “Yeah, Larry, and we’re going to nominate you for sainthood.”

Y’all ought to know by now that I live by the principle of progress rather than perfection, that lofty ideals are meant to be pursued, not attained.  It’s the journey, not the destination that constitutes a successful life.  Striving for a world dedicated to non-violence begins in me with every action, thought and prayer offered to the cause of personal earthly peace – “oppositional energy only creates more of the same.” 

That’s difficult to digest.  Does it mean that I should not be concerned about the injustice and hypocrisy which permeates the world?  Should I just throw my arms up in frustrated surrender over the racism and intolerance infecting American society? Should I sit in my quiet place with my beads and prayer shawl praying away the hatred and bigotry?

No, certainly not.  I should continue to see with dismay the horrors of social injustice, I should continue to speak out against the racism in my neighborhood, I should continue to protest by whatever resources I have the denigration of brothers and sisters of another race or creed or nationality.  But, I should not jump into the mud and lather up in my own  hypocrisy, intolerance and bigotry.  Justifying my disagreement and winning a victory over another’s viewpoints is not the goal of non-violence.  Proving the insanity of national politics will not make ours a better country.

I refer often to the wisdom of the ancients.  The thoughts, the words, and the sayings which have survived the test of time have done so because they are – wisdom.  In my opinion (and yes, I have many) the one nugget of wisdom erringly ignored by religious leaders and politicians alike is lead by example.

What examples are we choosing to lead us and guide us through an extremely violent period of world history?  Whom do we choose to inform us and thereby sway our opinions?  To what and to whom do we listen?  What do we read and view on media screens?  Where are we expending physical, emotional and spiritual energy?  Is it oppositional or is it conducive to understanding and peaceful solution?

Hillary (yeah, don’t allow the name to betray your religion) famously said in her campaign, “When he takes the low road, we take the high road.”

Doesn’t really matter whether she meant it or actually lived it.  The advice is great wisdom.  Let’s not get mired in the mud (or sewage) which poses as moral guidance or political leadership.  Observe it, digest it, and then continue to follow the compass which points true north.  Let our criticism of the bad be tempered by practice of the better.

Center for Action and Contemplation

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Alice’s Restaurant

social media

Why do we call it social media?  It’s not at all socially responsible and it is certainly not socially civil.  Its users will blast you with profanity if they disagree with your viewpoint and castigate your intelligence when you don’t march in step with their thinking.  So, instead of ‘social media’ let’s name Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. ad nauseum THE SCOURGE.

The Scourge is our punishment for relinquishing the ability to think and behave responsibly.  Undoubtedly, 95% of those folks, the ones who prolifically pound their keyboards cussing you and me with various impossible acts which we should perform upon ourselves, they would not have an ounce of courage in an up-front, face-to-face encounter.  So there, I’ve said it.  You just take your FB, Twitter, Instagram and assorted other forms of self expression and stick them where the “sun don’t shine.”  Hah! How’s that make you feel? Got a problem with that?  Here’s my address, I’ll be waiting out front at sunup.

You might ask, “Larry, what’s got you so riled this morning?”

Thanks for asking.  I woke up at 1 o’clock AM humming a few bars from ALICE’S RESTAURANT.  Trust me.  Strains from Moonlight Sonata or Frank Sinatra are welcomed music wafting through my head at 1 AM, but not Alice’s Restaurant.  Just like me in the 1960s, Arlo Guthrie also had a hair up his butt about society, particularly the government, the military and the Vietnam War.  I’m over all that 1960s crap, but I still like humming ALICE’S RESTAURANT –

“And can you imagine fifty people a day? I said FIFTY people a day
Walkin’ in, singing a bar of ALICE’S RESTAURANT and walkin’ out? Friends,
They may think it’s a Movement, and that’s what it is, THE Alice’s
Restaurant anti-massacre movement! And all you gotta do to join is to
Sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar”

The anti-massacre movement Arlo wrote about was the resistance to our government’s military draft which was expediting young American men to the jungles of Vietnam. During those years, the journalists whom we trusted to present factual, unbiased news reporting included names such as Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley & Chet Huntley, and Edward R. Murrow.  They gave to us straight-up news – no hype, no entertainment, no bullshit.  We listened to the newscast for half an hour or sometimes an hour and we were then informed citizens able to form rational opinions.

We could have a draft again in America’s future if the current Administration, believing it can institute anything deemed necessary to achieve its military ends, conscripts our young warriors to the sand jungles of the Middle East.  Sadly, today we don’t have much professional journalism to inform us truthfully of world events and political shenanigans.  Instead, we have a proliferation of ‘social media’, most of it posing as newsworthy journalism.

But, thank God I still have at 1 o’clock AM a place to go, a song to sing.  Join me?

“You can get anything you want at Alice’s restaurant
You can get anything you want at Alice’s restaurant
Walk right in, it’s around the back
Just half a mile from the railroad track
You can get anything you want at Alice’s restaurant”

🎶🎶😴

It has never been about Alice or her restaurant.  It was and always is about taking the protest to the streets, to the leaders in DC, speaking truth to power.  Some things never change – the inherent corruption of unbridled power is one.

Pete Seeger knew that, Bob Dylan sang it, Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie had messages that I still hear today.  Times really haven’t changed a whole lot since 1968 and Vietnam.  You can still get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.

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I will not!

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.  But those that will not break it kills.  It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially.  If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” ERNEST HEMINGWAY

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The very good and the very gentle and the very brave – let’s focus on those words.  The world system seems to despise those who have a moral compass, those who are peacemakers, those who have the courage to march to a different drummer.  Governments, religions, and financial systems do not honor a man/woman who answers their demands with “no, I will not live that way.”

We are labeled ‘unpatriotic’ if we do not toe the current disgrace posing as a legitimate government.  When we kneel in obeisance to compassion and tolerance rather than stand pledging  allegiance to the cloth symbol of a nation, we are castigated as revolutionary and disrespectful.  Well, maybe we are.  All great accomplishments in governing have been manifested by protest.  No, I cannot be silent when brothers and sisters of a different color or creed do not equally enjoy the fruits of the nation they have served in battle and embraced as home.

I will not profess the creeds of religions which deny even the most basic human understanding that all creatures are made in the image of the One whom they profess as God and Savior while simultaneously endorsing locked cages of children on our border and a war in the Gulf which threatens the citizens of Yemen with epic, catastrophic starvation.  No, I will not.

I will not participate in the corporate destruction of our sacred ecosystem for the sake of increased profits of corporations which have abdicated ecological responsibility in lieu of financial extravagance.  While much of the world’s population  lives without the basic comforts of adequate food and clean water, placating the luxuriant appetites of the privileged at the expense of the marginalized poor cannot possibly advance the survival of our species materially or spiritually.

Enough is enough.  Enough corruption, enough hatred, enough greed, enough racism, enough killing.  Where will we choose to stand as our country approaches the threshold of despotic, authoritarian leadership?  As the earth’s ecosystem is screaming “enough” where will our allegiance be placed?  The answer for each of us is within.  When that quiet voice of protest within becomes a scream reverberating throughout the universe, then, perhaps, we can be assured that we have done enough.

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