05 July 2019

And the bands played on



At the 2016 Republican Convention Donald Trump delivered what I consider is the worst acceptance speech in American history.  I suppose he may tonight (4 July 2019) sink even below his established level.

The simple fact that he is speaking lowers the cultural content of the country. The excessive military presence he has ordered makes the exercise not merely dark, but also menacing.

As I type, I do not know where this all ends. When I hear this idiot claim he should receive an extended term because he has been the of a successful investigations, and seriously suggests delaying the constitutionally mandated census; my notorious optimism falters.

The republic with all its flaws, especially racism, and slavery, has never been perfect. But it has been an evolving experiment in Western Liberal Democracy. We perhaps have not always gotten it right, but we have kept trying. Winston Churchill famously said that, "America can always be counted on to do the right thing; after trying everything else." Historical, the republic sometimes takes a while, consider the distance between Plessy and Brown.

But now the really hate filled are increasingly emboldened. The white supremacists are so willing to be public that the newspaper of the klan has endorsed Trump for the 2020 election.

So this 4th of July I am not feeling celebratory: I am afraid. Perhaps the institutions will hold, I hope so, but the one clear reality is the attack.

03 May 2019

Transformation

Easter 2018


This is the season the church Catholic celebrates those first shown the empty tomb and the risen Christ. Most prominent are the three Marys. Three woman, walked to the tomb, concerned as the tale goes, about the large stone blocking access. Carrying myrrh, spices and oil, they planned to anoint the body of Jesus. Things did not exactly work out.

When they saw the tomb entrance, the guards were gone, and the stone was moved aside. Looking into the tomb, they saw empty space. Two ran back to tell the disciples. But Magdalene stayed, weeping and trying to understand what had happened. Through her tears, she saw a man approaching, and assumed he was one who tended the area. She begged him to tell her where the body of Jesus was laid. The dialog which follows is remarkable.
  • Magdalene: Sir please tell me where he was laid.
  • Jesus: Mary
  • Magdalene: Teacher!

The dialog continues but this is key. Magdalene, who followed Jesus for years, who was close enough to him to be included in the embalming party, who sobed at his grave site, that Mary did not recognize him until he said her name. Either she was blind, not competent, or he had changed, a lot. What happened here?

I have heard some really bad teaching suggesting that her tears blinded her. But what is our experience? Sobbing is something many can relate to but a single blink clears vision at least enough to identify a beloved leader and teacher! I think we must look elsewhere for an answer.

In the collection we refer to as First Corinthians, St. Paul attempts to explain resurreccion. His audience is converted Jews and former pagan Greeks. A good pharisee, he teaches by analogy. I must note I have been dismissed or denigrate for sharing this teaching style, most recently by a priest in my parish, but Paul here, succeeds: brilliantly. He says we will have different, spiritual, and beautiful bodies. So what is a spiritual body? His answer ia an analogy. Flower seeds are buried, The plant dies. But in Spring, the seed puts forth new,life, a beautified flower that is the former plant, beautiful, and sometimes even more beautiful.

Here Paul teaches is the Gospel, the good news, Jesus came back, transformed, we will come back transformed. The earth, when Jesus comes again and we are raised, will be transformed. Corinthians, written before Mark is in my view, the first Gospel. Paul is announcing resurrection. But this is first century parable teaching. Paul is doing more. He is calling those who will be seeds to be flowers NOW. We are called to be new blooms in this world.

Paul doesn't tell his readers how to transform the world by magic. He calls them to lives of heroic love, virtue, and proclamation.

So here our challenge: how are we doing? In the face of rising fascism, anti-semitism, violence, and racism, how are we doing? Like Paul, I do not have an answer, only questions.

01 March 2019

Property rights v. Safety


So the mope who killed five co-workers and wounded four police officers, briefly had an Illinois Firearms Owner ID (FOID for short.) His FOID was revoked when he submitted finger prints in an application for a Concealed Carry Permit (CCP.) In Illinois, we recognize that some people might want to own or use firearms but not carry a weapon in our clothes, purse, etc, so the two, ownership and concealed carry, are separated.

In investigating the CCP application, the State Police found a felony conviction. When he was rejected for the CCP he also was told his FOID was revoked.

Now when a revocation issues, the person is told they have a short period: 48 hours, to dispose of any firearms they own, and return the card to the State Police. The letter notes that they cannot transfer guns to someone who does not have a FOID, and that they may take unloaded firearms to a police station to surrender them.

The DuPage County Sheriff's office has announced they will be enforcing the 48 hour rule. What could possibly go wrong? Lots! First, I am not the only FOID holder who does not own a firearm. There can be any number of reasons for this. I rent guns for range shooting, it is simply easier that transporting guns, storing them in a safe and secure way, and having them around the house. So I can easily see some wasted effort for deputies chasing guns that simply do not exist. Beyond that, a revoked gun owner has some options, selling them to a friend, family member, or putting them on consignment in a gun shop are all possibilities. And as the putative guns are the revoked owner's property, I can see again a lot of wasted chasing. When a person owns a gun and does not obey the law, the deputies may be in some danger.

I am not suggesting here the law should not be enforced. I am saying that some caution and preparedness might be a good idea. This needs to be handled carefully; especially as a person whose FOID has been revoked may have anger issues. I want the law enforced, but I do not want any injured deputies. As the king said in the King and I: it is a puzzlement.
t

20 February 2019

43!


As the terrible events in Aurora, five employees killed and four police officers shot, another injured, became ever clearer, some news items crossed my view. One in particular really stuck. If one uses the definition offered by an activist group, five or more gunshot deaths constitutes a mass killing.

By that standard, the Pratt plant in Aurora, IL. was the forty-third mass killing in the United States in 2019! 2019 is a young year. Last week when the five murders and the five attempted murders took place in Aurora, only six weeks in 2019 had been counted.

At this point, the math is disturbingly simple: 43 * 5 = 215. 215 dead Americans, to which we should add most of the forty-three offenders. Police quite correctly, "neutralize" the shooters. But I don't know how many died, or how many broke through the 5 killed minimum. Remember that is the minimum to qualify as a, "mass shooting." I also do not know how many complete failures only killed three.

Meanwhile the president thinks a 43 year low in unlawful border crossings is a, "national emergency." I would never accuse the president of significant reasoning ability, but given another number, illegals commit crimes at about half the rate of our upstanding citizens, it would be interesting to hear how he explains what he thinks constitutes a crises. I think I know the answer, if he wants something and does not get it; that is a crises.

At least two hundred and fifteen dead Americans, and what do we do? We send our thoughts and prayers. I am a prayerful person, a self-described lay mystic. But I am embarrassed to think that, "thoughts and prayers" are what we think we can apply to this disaster.

Please understand that regardless of what the chronically stupid scream (most recently ending a Christmas event in my family) I am not anti-gun ownership. I have a valid Illinois FOID card. That is under Illinois law I can legally own firearms. I periodically rent a booth at a local gun range and enjoy target shooting. I hope to hunt again someday if my damaged back heals. I have even considered taking the class for the concealed carry permit, if for no other reason because it facilitates moving a gun from one place to another.

None-the-less, this has to stop. We have to decide that in America, gun ownership is valid when and only when the citizen is trained and vetted. Either that, or we have to disarm everyone except law enforcement staffs. We need an honest (excludes the NRA) conversation on what vetting standards should apply. The idiot NRA to the contrary, we simply cannot kill ourselves at a rate over 100 month in mass shootings, and claim to be civilized. 8,000 gun deaths a year excluding suicides and police action. That is what we do. We must stop.

01 October 2018

Heeeeeeeeeeee's back



Ok, so it has been a while. The last post on this little blog was in March. After March, I went through what I am now calling the Summer from Hell. I had three(!) hospital admissions, two of them emergencies, two surgeries, one major back surgery, and a host of ongoing challenges. Sue-z had one emergency admission. My granddaughter had another.

I think my expectations of the back surgery were a bit off. I did not realize how long the recovery can be. I am healing, in one of the emergency situations the alternative is death, so I am glad this is so. Both Sue-z and Pearl are healing. But to say the least, I was not writing for a while.

I think the sheer pressure of the ever shifting political scene has created a desire for simple quiet. Americans are used to demagogues. But we have generally declined to elect them. Now that one of the most blatant facist demagogues in our history in the White House. Chaos reigns.

I wonder where your willingness to pay attention is now? I am almost forcing myself to watch TV news. For decades, back to the 1950's I have been a political junkie. I never have wanted less information, until now. I subscribed to two daily papers, but not now. (Well no one subscribes to papers anymore, but I have been reducing my access to similar media.)

Tonight, after the confirmation hearings, the courage and integrity of Dr. Ford has cut through the chaos. I completely believe her, she was indeed victimized. No woman forgets the face of the attacker on top of her. He did it.

That is my reaction to the news. What is yours?

01 March 2018

Freedom, Americans and the First Amendment



Recently, Facebook has been restricting the content of some political posts. If you hit on the "wrong" topic, Facebook will not only kill the post, you will receive a rather sharp note suggesting that if you persist, your subscription and access will be either limited or ended. Lately, Twitter has taken a similar view.

Ok, so here we have some issues. Facebook and Twitter are private enterprises. As such, they are not constrained by the First Amendment. That is, the rule against censorship requires that governments not interfere with free speech. Corporations and individuals are not government. They are governed by their contracts with their clients, you know the stuff you never read when you join a service like Facebook.

The contracts do two things. First the set out all the reasons the service is not a common carrier. There is a good reason for that, a common carrier is subject to price limits, and they have to "carry" any and all legal traffic. Unless the traffic violates law eg. child porn, you have to allow it. Not where the Internet services want to be. And because they have great attorneys, no one reads the agreement, they avoid common carrier status.

The other thing the agreements do is permit the company to be the sole arbiter of what is acceptable content. Yup that is in there. And that, not the First Amendment is relevant when they remove content.

In a sense this is case closed. Facebook can censor, as can Twitter. But(!) when either does, a stream of messages complain about discrimination and censorship. The First Amendment and Freedom of Speech are almost always mentioned. Which proves again that most folks do not read the agreement.

Herein the problem. Americans expect the freedom of speech to extend everywhere. And we react angrily when it doesn't. And therefore a balancing act. FB and Twitter have to read trillions of words, and decide if the negative publicity is worth the maintenance of the standard. And given the sheer volume of posts, they simply must use software. There is no way humans can be the arbiters of acceptable.

So what to do if you are censored and think it was unfair? Well, you can have a blog, they are free and generally a more open place. You can contact the company and protest, but they do NOT make that easy. This constraint of free speech is a part of our electronic age. I really do not think much is likely to change. Welcome to the future.

12 January 2018

Epiphany



The is the easy holiday is to miss. It comes with a bunch of names: "Feast of the three kings," "Epiphany," "The wise men," and "twelfth day of Christmas." I am sure there are more. In the secular world it is the day that villages and homeowners associations can require the removal of Christmas lights. All the names clearly suggests some confusion. So what is it really?

The liturgical name is Epiphany. It derives from a Greek word. An epiphany is a moment of understanding. I know a priest who calls it, "an ah ha!" moment.

So what is the church suggesting? Did the institution suddenly understanding when the mages came, or when the story was read? Did the mages have a sudden moment of understanding? Did Herod, Mary, Joseph, or someone else?

None of those possible explanations work. Especially when as I think we should, we pay attention to the related lessons. Sunday was the First Sunday After Epiphany. The Gospel lesson, which is also the lesson for Morning Prayer on Monday is the Christographic opening of the Gospel of John. John begins not with a birth narrative like Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Rather, verses 1 through 14 are a Christology: a statement of who Christ was through all eternity. Jesus was, in John's understanding, the Christ, the Word of God.

So finally, then what we are supposed to understand? The Church has told us a virgin had a baby, that angels sang, that Herod was a murderer, that mages came to see, that this baby became a boy, and then a preacher who did miracles, that he enunciated a radical new view of God, (or fulfilled ancient prophecies,) was falsely charged with sedition, murdered, buried, and yet now lives. That is a lot for an ah ha moment. But that is precisely what the readings say.

If all that does not make sense to you, you are not alone. Paul called it a foolishness and a stumbling block. I probably cannot convince you, especially as I wrestle with it. But perhaps, just perhaps if you investigate a Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, or Episcopal parish near you, you may find people who while wrestling with the foolishness are loving each other and reaching out to help those in need within and without their communion. Perhaps they can bring you to an "Ah Ha!" moment.

St Laika's

Click to view my Personality Profile page