26 June 2016

The "big man," or Counsel

One of the effects of chemotherapy I find, is a feeling of general weakness. This probably explains both the infrequency, and brevity of my posts over the last 3 of so months. Add in the time the cancer took to develop and manifest, and we are back quite a ways. A writer, any writer, needs to feel well. During the time I was ill, America has changed as the primary and caucus season has played out.

There is a well known albeit perhaps fictional story of the day the Founders announced the proposed new Constitution of the United States. A lady in the crowd is said to have asked Ben Franklin, "What sort of government have you given us, a monarchy, a confederation?" Franklin is said to have replied, "A republic madam, if you can keep it." A true story or not, it is apt, and Franklin seems to have told it himself in later years.

Lincoln at Gettysburg, framed the issue this way. "Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure.1" Keeping a republic is neither simple task nor one with assured success.

Republics can be lost. Republics have enemies.

There are reasons why republics have enemies. Republics have citizens: period. When a republic has a set of citizens who stand above or outside its equality, the society seeks to correct the situation, sometimes violently. So we have the Terror in France, the many European revolutions of 1848, the American Civil War, and the Revolutions of what became the Soviet Union. Sometimes the republic fails, as it did in Germany and the Soviet Union. As the fate of the "Third Reich" shows, such losses can be fleeting. There is in the story of Germany a cautionary tale for Mr. Putin.

Enemies of republics have to offer an alternative vision of the world. One is the great man fraud. The Romans lost their republic because they fell into the idea of the Counsel / Dictator. This was great man who could in time of great need dictate outcomes and rule, temporarily. When the Republic ran into a man named Caesar and named him Counsel, its life was over. When Germany decided it needed a Fuhrer, destruction and fire were its fate. But none-the-less, the idea of the great man persists. It is especially persistent among those who think they because of some trait, should be the upper class and are clearly not.

Beginning in Iowa, we Americans have been in the process of selecting a new president. At its best, when the selection process is working as a part of the republic, the contests are between competing visions of how government should be focused. A republic in fact requires competition between ideas, what a former president famously once called, "the vision thing." It is precisely in what Jefferson called, after the French, "the marketplace of ideas."

On one side, the democrats, that has been a description of the contest. As the race has progressed, Mrs. Clinton, who has won, has moved towards the progressive side of the street, as the marketplace has worked its function. While Sen. Sanders for whom I voted, did not win, his ideas have changed the focus and raised serious issues.

The other major party has been engaged not in a contest of ideas and visions, but in a sorting process. The question not what the vision is, but rather who was the great leader. Somehow, and no I do not understand how, Mr. Trump blustered and bullied himself through the sorting. The GOP is much too fractured to offer a vision of the future. "Repeal Obama-care" is neither a vision nor a program. Mr. Trump's horrible wall idea is not either.

We face the coming conventions knowing the outcomes. The main interest in the conventions will be how progressive the Sanders effect will drive the Democrat platform on the one hand, and what of Mr. Trump's ideas (consider the "wall") will be in the Republican platform.

After the conventions, here is what I think will happen. Consider before you count on this however, that as a predictor, I thought Mr. Trump would be gone before my cancer. In any event, I think Mr. Trump will have something of a tough time finding a vice-presidential, "running mate." I think he will cap out at about 40% of the electorate, with some very odd looking polls. This because I think those who have bought into the great leader idea will project onto him their own ideas. I expect Mr. Trump's support to be shallow, much broader than deep. At the end of the day, I think Mrs. Clinton will win.

I hope this set of projections is closer than my repeated expectation that Republican voters might come to their senses. If we fall into the false hope of the great leader, the republic Franklin gave us to keep will be in grave danger.

1 The Gettysburg Address, A. Lincoln

17 June 2016

Orlando, first of several

Probably every blogger, essayist, columnist, politician and every preacher has been thinking about the right words to offer after the Orlando murders this week. Of course, there are always exceptions, this week Mr. Trump who uniquely among Americans should be thinking about the right things to say, seems unwilling to think at all.

I have read or heard quit a sampling of the commentaries, and as Sunday approaces it is depressingly likely we will hear, or read more. So, joining the chorus, herewith some reflections.

2016 is an election year. So, we inevitably have to deal with the politicial fallout. But first, I think we need to deal with some theological items. The politics, like STD's, war, and poverty will be there when we are ready

Christians fall into several broad categories. One, which is where I live and pray, is Christianity that sees itself called to live into the kingdom of God. That is, Jesus began the kingdom, and we are called to make it real and present in the life of all. This means that it is not, “charity” it is our calling to bring the abundance of God's creation to all. Our mission then is living the reconciling love of God. We do not seek conversions, or fund missionaries to increase our Average Sunday Attendance, but rather to bring the world a bit closer to its reconciled vision.

In that context, what do we say about Orlando?

First and foremost we say that God loves each and every person the murderer shot. Their sexual identity does not moderate or reduce God's love. For those recovering from the shootings, that means offering whatever assistance we can. To those families dealing with religious bigotry towards their loved ones, it may mean offering funeral liturgies. What it does not mean is judging the victims, living or dead.

Second, it means naming the evil. These killings and woundings are the logical end of homophobia. This was terrible, but not terrorism. The killer may have attempted to wrap his evil in some sort of Islamic fanaticism, but his homophobia drove him, and that evil needs to be named.

Third, it means defending Christianity from guilt by association. When a faux Christian like Pat Robertson discovers that “Islamic terrorism” and American liberals share a “pro-gay” agenda, and that somehow that means we should not object if the kill each other, that is NOT Christianity. Actually, I have never heard or read something he said that is Christianity. We need to make that distinction clear.

Finally, at least for this post, it means rationally considering the state of our laws. Most guns used in crimes begin their journey legally purchased. The guns are legally purchased, and either stolen or unlawfully trafficked. Living in Illinois as I do, I cannot go to a retail store and pick up an assault weapon. I have to have a Firearms Owners Identity Card (I do have one) and the retailer and I have to observe a waiting period after I pay for the gun. We think this law saves lives several ways:
  1. The classic crime of passion is sometimes avoided as passions and anger diffuse over time.
  2. Background checks can be conducted if the seller has concerns.
  3. We effectively close the, “gun show loophole.”
It is my view that a national version of the FOID makes sense. I also agree with the idea that if a person is on the, “no fly”list, they should automatically fail a required background check. Of course, due process means that they have a right to challenge the listing, but that is not about guns, it is about fairness.

So those are my political ideas. I am interested in yours.

09 May 2016


Revised and updated a bit.

I saw David Brooks, on Charlie Rose, observe that, “I am a Whig.” I suspect I may be one too. Brooks suggested that there are not two trends conservative and liberal in America. Rather there are three: liberal which seeks to use government to increase equity, conservative which seeks to limit government to increase freedom, and a third way, call it “Whig” which seeks to use liberal and yet vibrant government to increase love, relationship and mutual growth.

I am trying to think about how that triad works in terms of national policies. I have been recalling President and Mrs. Kennedy who defined his career as, “politician” and hers as, “politics.” They understood that they probably possessed at best partial truth, and that the opposition might have some part too. So, to quote another president,Ronald Reagan, “It is better to have a piece of the pie, than no pie at all.” About the same time, the Senate had two leaders, Ev Dirksen for the Republicans, and Lyndon Johnson for the Democrats. They were famous for being two of the three leaders – the third being the Jack Daniels Whiskey they shared after each session. We were the most centrist country around, and the most successful.

These few people met, debated, argued, discussed, and then brought their members into the coalition. For decades, they effectively ran the country. We were better for them. They agreed with President Kennedy that, “politician” was an honorable title, with Eisenhower that politics and compromise were how the country was designed to work.

So the question, what is wrong with us now? I think the,”tea party” movements (they are legion) have grown out of the social media phenomena. It is observable, and many have, that we now have a mix of anonymity and access that allows us to be horribly rude. We can express horrible ideas about each other, never know one another, dispise compromise, and avoid the reactions and responses with a key stroke. With humanity's unerring guidance system engaged we have managed to take the magnificent benefits of our technology and turn it to sin.

Add in our propensity to be about ourselves first, call it racism, homophobia, or Trump, and we have a perfect storm. We do not do compromises any more. We do not do politics. We instead, “primary” any one who does. And in the most sinful way, we claim this is virtue. After all, when we refuse to see the other person's view, we are "pure."

It is clear to me that the fault lies on both sides. Angry “conservatives” are no worse than smug “liberals." Both fail precisely because, of their legalistic puritanism. I cannot make you a progressive, nor should I seek to do so. But at the same moment, I should not dismiss you if you are not. I am not correct, I possess a portion of the same truths you share.

We need to learn politics again. We need to consider the possibility that some of us have a point, eve if we do not like it much. We need to bring collegiality back to our institutions.

Maybe we need to start with Jack Daniels. I have no idea if Mrs. Clinton whom I hope will be our next president drinks, nor do I know if Speaker Ryan does. But I do know that if they, and half a dozen others do, and get together to consider how to move government and society forward, on a regular basis, we will be a better, safer nation. There is something to be said for freedom, but also for commonwealth.

There are evil ideas abroad. Anything Ayn Rand wrote or said comes under that rubric in my view. Misuse of social media so it becomes almost anti-social media, privacy taken to an idolatrous level, attempting to enforce inclusion and diversity on people, all of these are evil. We need politics, a chance to be ourselves and grow together instead of becoming an ever more self-segregating collection of ideologues.

Ideology, at the end of the day is almost always sinful. Liberal ideologues are not better, conservative ideologues are not better. Compromise is better. I guess I am a Whig. Who knew?

29 April 2016


My friend and No Anglican Covenant Coalition colleague June recently posted this part of Leviticus on Facebook.
"When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:33-34)

That made me recall similar verses especially this.
for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8 Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered Isaiah 65:7-8

So where do we go from here? The easy thing for a liberal, progressive, democrat (moi) is to point out how far God is from the "wall" and the immigration policies various GOP candidates espouse. In fact, it is too easy.
http://www.wrhammons.com/IL14_113.jpg Yes, Mr. Trump's slander of Mexicans, his Islamophobia, his anti-immigrant stand generally, is an easy, and appropriate target. Most of the national voices in the Republican party are not far from Mr. Trump. So, easy targets.

But ask yourself, how do we alleged progressives have to boast about. It is democrats who run the ghetto cities, Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington, and especially New York. It is so-called progressives who are mayors in most of these cities. Those cities are a major part of the democrat's vote totals in general elections.

In plain language none of us pink white people, none of us, "natives" should preen. We all live in a world where the alien is either excluded, INS works for us, or is exploited, or both. Most of of the fast food chains, where let's be honest, we all eat from time to time, rely on undocumented aliens for back of of the house labor. Living on the run, the undocumented never have time to claim the benefits they earn. Guess who keeps the money!

Very little has changed since Woody wrote this. Shame America, we can do better.

27 March 2016

Pascha 2016

Pascha is perhaps the more common name for Easter, the feast of the resurrection of Jesus. This is the last day of the Christian Triduum, the three days that begin with the execution on Calvary, and culminate with the women coming to the empty tomb. For Christians, this is the moment of triumph for Jesus and the beginning of the reconciliation of God with creation. For liturgical devouts, Anglicans, Lutherans, Moravians, Orthodox, and Roman Catholics, the Great Vigil that moves from Holy Saturday to the announcement, "Alleluia He Is Risen" is the crowning moment of all liturgy.

So today is not merely special, it is pivotal. As St. Paul said, "If Christ be not risen, then our faith is in vain." But we believe, indeed it is central, that the resurrection happened. So too, did Patti. This day, on which we in the West celebrate resurecction, Patti joined the celebration. This is so hard, and hard for Pam, her kids, Patti's cousins, and those of us who loved her and Brian.

Ah but for Patti this is the day of resurrection! For her this is the day of reunion with Brian, her folks, her uncles and aunts, and so many others. And I suspect she will be seeing Mary and St. Teresa. For her this is joy and triumph. At noon, roughly, in Denver, she departed this life, and became one of the cloud of witnesses who surround the faithful. For those of us who love her, there are tears and a deep sense of loss. For her there is joy and connection with her many friends, loves, and puppies. Yes, I believe the pups will be there. Others are less inclined to my view, we shall all see. As of yesterday, Patti sees clearly.

Rest in peace and rise in glory Patti. Let your joy overflow.

28 February 2016


How does one do this? How to say thanks for something this profound?

I finished my first chemotherapy session. I am still here, and functioning, but I gather it was not cut and dried. I reacted so badly to the initial dose of drugs that the doctors were forced to suspend the injection process. The special crash team dosed me with large (relatively) amounts of benadryl, while my doctor sat with my brother, until my reactions calmed down and the injection could go on.

 Or so I hear. I was of course there, but I was equally not. What I do know is the reaction to the chemotherapy has to have been somewhere near 10 on the pain scale.  Because I have almost no memory of it. A few disconnected flashes of searing hurt, and nothing. OK, some of that is really good doctoring. I could not have contributed anything, so why not let me stay unconscious? So some of this I know second hand.

Sue-z went to take care of grandkids thinking not much would happen. So except for caring, wonderful nursing, and medical staff it was just me when the chemo began. Except my brother Tom was there. I hear my brother Rick would be later. They stayed by me, without getting in the staff's way, until the danger had passed, and I was merely sleeping.

Sometimes siblings have difficult relationships. But also sometimes we recall that mom wanted us to have each other precisely so we could love each other -- and it works. So thank you both! You answered the call: A new command I give you, that you love one another.

I am blessed with a huge array of friends and family who love me, and a healing team that cares deeply about its patients. And always, till death do us part, there is Sue-z. Sue-z who keeps things going, refuses to tolerate my fears, and always affirms my eventual salvation. Cancer has little chance!

26 January 2016

Canterbury 2016

So Archbishop Welby decided to bring the primates (that is first or leading bishops) together to talk and pray. Given the inability of the arch-misleaders to agree on much, we have issues with the first affirmation of the church, "Jesus is Lord" in unison,I thought he was quite optimistic.

The Americans cannot manage to say the Nicene Creed together. I won't say the "et filioque" the statement that the Holy Spirit is begotten of the Father and the Son. I think it is an error. People have been excommunicated for holding both my view and its opposite. While Americans are not prone to excommunication, the history is still there.

Modern, "Conservatives," so called, are much fonder of limiting church membership. So much so that the context of gatherings sometimes eludes them. This appears to be such a time.

His Grace of Canterbury did not call a, "Primate's Meeting" into session. He can, with His Grace of York do that. They didn't, probably in fear of exactly what happened. This "gathering" for "conversation" turned into a let's-slap the-Americans session. Clearly, the intent and agenda of His Grace were ignored. His Grace wanted a discussion leading to a plan which allowed both the liberal North and the ultra-Conservative South to share a space, and both talk and pray together. Uganda, and its friends came looking for a path to exclude those who have the temerity to believe something they don't. The excluders seem to have taken over and imposed their hate-filed views on at least the final communique.

So, did the right-wing, "win?" No. TEC is still itself. ACCanada is still itself. CoE remains the established and moving church in England, (They seated the first female in Lords today!) TEC Scotland has not suddenly become conservative, nor has the Church of Wales. The actual governing body of the Communion, the ACC has no reason to obey or further the communique, in fact institutionally, it has reasons to ignore the primates. Unlike the ad hoc gathering, it has constitutional status. Paying attention to the primates would arguably reduce its status.

So keeping the second meaning of primates (monkeys) before us, we can look at the gathering as a swarm making noise, but signifying nothing. In that sense it is sort of like a Republican debate....
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