The Blazing Barn

The farm is on fire.  Smoke rises from the fields; sparks alight on the house; and the barn is ablaze.  Some people carry buckets of water.  Others try to free animals trapped behind walls.  Still others gather valuables from the house to prevent destruction.  The remainder stand frozen, not knowing what to do, and fearing that nothing they do will make a difference.

Since the election of the current President, our nation has burned with the fires of hate, greed, privilege, cruelty, and selfishness.  Our social justice organizations exhaust every bit of money, time, and energy available and nothing seems helpful.  Many of us experience depression and trauma over our inability to stop the destruction and help those most in peril.

What is the solution?  First, we must all agree that the barn is indeed ablaze.  We no longer possess the luxury of time to develop legislation and to nudge along the slow machinery of social evolution.  We must agree that change must happen now and that we all have roles to play.

Second, we must not allow the flames to divide our forces.  If one group tries to save the corn, another the tractor, another the horses, and another the building itself, we will all fail.  No one group possesses the needed resources to eliminate the threats before it.  We must work together to save the entire farm, or we will all perish in its ashes.

Third, we must embrace new forms of firefighting.  As we struggle to extinguish the flames and rescue threatened resources, we must also attack the root cause of the flames.  What good is putting out this fire if our farm remains vulnerable?

Our nation is on fire.  As Unitarian Universalists, what can we do to respond to the danger?  First, we must embrace education about issues and quickly move toward accepting our complicity in the current situation.  Reading the right books no longer suffices for church members to successfully engage in social justice work.  We must acknowledge the roles we and our ancestors played in creating our present country, accept those facts, and then change ourselves into better people of faith.

As a religious community, we must unite in our common ideals to fight all injustice together as one.  Love can only defeat bigotry and violence when people join together in an army of compassion.  Every issue facing us as a people today affects us all.  If we allow marginalized people to suffer, we too will suffer.

And we must set aside traditional boundaries and create new structures to address the array of intersectional issues troubling the waters today.  We must share resources, let go of outmoded titles and organization, and embrace the strength of more organic, more responsive structures of social justice.

When we transform ourselves, and unite in new models of cooperation, we will lay the groundwork for a fireproof farm.  We will plant the seeds of Beloved Community that can repel the pestilence of tyrants and oligarchs.  And we will rebuild our faith in each other as brothers and sisters , one family, regardless of skin color, gender identity, ability, age, or belief.

Justice and the Future Church

During the past 50 years, membership in nearly every American religious denomination has been in decline.  Pundits argue many causes, but I see one primary reason from which all others derive – relevance.

Our military-industrial complex has kept America at war my entire life.  Growing up on movies about World War II, these wars have lacked clear concepts outlining why we were at war, who the enemy actually was, and what would constitute victory.  Generations of military men and women returned home with no clear sense of purpose, suffering horrific injuries and emotional trauma.  Unlike WWII veterans, these men and women received no ticker tape parades, and none of the well-earned rewards of past patriots serving their country.

Our nation faced other problems – institutionalized racism, homophobia, and gender inequality; unchecked capitalism causing unstable markets and recessions; and the near complete erosion of any public confidence that their government works honestly and ethically in their best interest, among other things.  And through it all, the church has stood largely mute.

Today, America remains embroiled in multiple senseless wars; the rights of our citizens face constant attack; and government officials seem to have lost any sense of right and wrong, or what constitutes moral leadership.  Why, then, should we be surprised that today’s young adults stay away from churches, looking elsewhere for relevance in a country that has lost its moral bearings?

That is why a Justice Center at our church matters.  As people of faith, we must reclaim the moral high ground on which the founders built this nation.  They were imperfect, but their vision was bold and unique.  And they recognized the value of a free church, independent of government control or influence, as a guardian of the spiritual values of the nation.

The time has come for us to show the people that we have not abandoned that responsibility.  Our churches must once again become relevant institutions challenging oppression, bigotry, violence – any barrier to the supreme commandment of every faith tradition – love your neighbor.

I look forward to helping build that Justice Center here in Louisville and showing the people in our community that our church still stands for freedom and equality, democracy and compassion.

New Beginnings

The inevitability of change affords us frequent opportunities for new beginnings.  The past year was an exhausting journey through the world of protest, advocacy, and agitation.  Living in a state capitol, I found myself at public events nearly every week, allowing me little time for reflection and writing.  As I start my new position here at the Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church in Louisville KY, I am committing to more online engagement as I build partnerships with local organizations and help the church achieve its dream of creating a Justice Center.

To that end, let me state clearly that I believe Unitarian Universalism will thrive as a relevant religion in this nation only if we embrace our Living Tradition of direct action to make a difference in the world.  We will always be a haven for freethinkers and the growing number of Americans who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.”  But as people of faith, we must aspire to be more than truth seekers — we must be justice makers.

I believe the most important reason for the existence of the church is to build a community where we can become more together than we can when isolated and alone.  That is true whether one talks about worship, pastoral care, social activities, or education.  And it is especially true when it comes to fighting oppression and defending our innate human freedoms.

Changing Our Gun Culture

I spoke today at a vigil for those killed and injured during the act of domestic terrorism last Sunday in Las Vegas.  The spokesperson from Moms Demand Action said something during her introduction that I found curious.  She said that the group is not against guns; rather, the group opposes against gun violence.  A quick internet search found this sentiment expressed by a number of activists associated with Moms Demand Action.

I support the work of all the organizations advocating for legislation that will stem the gun epidemic in this country.  This approach seems to me, however, timid and lacking in the grounding necessary to effect any real change.

I am against guns.  I am against the Ruger AR-556 Takedown semiautomatic tactical rifle, the Bushmaster QRC Quick Response Carbine semiautomatic tactical rifle with mini red dot, the Colt LE6920 semiautomatic tactical rifle, and the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport II semiautomatic tactical rifle (each of these weapons is available for purchase from Cabela’s Outfitters).  I see no reason why these weapons should exist outside of the military and law enforcement – and only in very special cases for the latter.  The threat these weapons pose to the safety, health, and well-being of this nation far exceeds any possible benefit that can be derived from their private ownership.

I don’t give a damn about curtailing the profits of the manufacturers, imposing onerous regulations on gun shops, or any individual’s claim to the inalienable right to buy these weapons.  We routinely ban products deemed unsafe for consumers and even prevent products predicted to be unsafe from ever being marketed.  These guns serve no purpose but the expeditious killing of people from a distance.  Therefore, they should be banned.

There is only one more vigil I want to officiate – the memorial for the death of semiautomatic rifles.

Out with Facts

America’s gradual decline into kakistocracy (government by the most incompetent) continues.  Our national security teeters atop the Washington Monument waiting for our man-child President to lose his temper.  Corporations are persons, and people are disposable commodities existing only to fill the coffers of the wealthy and influential.  Our children graduate from college deep in debt with evaporating career opportunities.  And our headlong rush to destroy the environment continues in spite of a Himalayan pile of evidence from experts.

The Age of Facts is dead.  We now live in the Age of Unenlightenment.  Nowhere is this more apparent than the clinical insanity of our gun culture.  There was a time when the events in Las Vegas might have been a tipping point for reason and common sense.  But the hundreds of victims of Stephen Paddock’s arsenal will soon be forgotten, along with the children of Sandy Hook and thousands of other victims of our slavish dependence on firearms.

So, I offer no facts.  Facts make no difference to Second Amendment fanatics.  I only offer moral observations based on my personal ethics.

  • Only one reason exists to own an automatic rifle – the desire to kill masses of people as quickly as possible.  Possession of such a weapon is sufficient evidence of mental illness and a criminal danger to society.
  • Any politician who denies the American people the right to open hearings on gun control legislation is a whore of the NRA and should be impeached.
  • Anyone profiting from stock sales of Sturm Ruger or Smith and Wesson in recent days represents the most vile and soulless human attributes.  I pray that you somehow acquire a heart to fill the current cavern in your chest.
  • Wayne LaPierre does more to damage this nation and its people than Edward Snowden ever will.  His religious mantra of entitlement and sacrificing the blood of innocents on the altar of violence violates any sane interpretation of the writings of our Founders.
  • The media is complicit in America’s institutionalized racism and xenophobia.  By refusing to call these murders terrorism, the media feeds the agenda of white supremacists, Christian extremists, and anti-immigrant radicals.  Mass murder is by definition an act of terrorism, whether it is committed by a young, brown-skinned Muslim or an elderly, well-off white man.

The time is long overdue to take to the streets and bring an end to this madness.  We must hold the gun lobbyists and their puppet politicians responsible.

Out of Sadness

I am out of sadness. I am numb, having used up all of my sorrow for idiotic and preventable gun-related deaths in this country.

I wish I felt surprise, even shock at the loss of life and the massive injuries inflicted by one man. But, since Columbine my shock tolerance has steadily increased.

I want to speak with the calm voice of reason. But the bile rises in my throat with the acid burn of rage. I want to look NRA backers in the face and tell them that they helped make this slaughter possible. By resisting even limitations on weapons of mass killing, opponents of gun control legislation helped Stephen Paddock pull that trigger.

I have no calm, no compassion to share with Second Amendment radicals today. I don’t care whether you think that is fair. Fair would have been Mr. Paddock failing a background check and being referred to mental health treatment before buying one of his many automatic weapons. Fair would be living in a world where civilians could not get their hands on guns that could fire hundreds of bullets in a matter of minutes.

So yes, I am filled with anger, with rage, with white-hot fury. Sitting here at my desk, I find myself incapable of thinking about anything but my revulsion at a government unwilling to collect statistics about gun violence, let alone talk about gun control.

But, at the same time, a sliver of my being still holds onto the emotion that will save me – the only emotion capable of saving us all. As the hours pass, the Love returns, pushing out the directionless rage, the unfocused fury. Love-fueled passion slowly displaces even the anger.

This is not the love of the healer and teacher, but the love of the agitator, the love of those who know that we must change our paradigms or die. This love tells me that we must enter the temple and overturn the tables again. We must chase the money lenders from our sacred spaces and reclaim the soul of the nation. We must stand up to the Pharisees who preach the status quo, as they line their pockets with bribes of gold and power.

A classroom full of school children wasn’t enough. A sitting congresswoman wasn’t enough. Is Las Vegas going to be the tipping point?

Capitalizing on Grief

I waited all week since our new President’s address to the joint session of Congress to see the reaction to the only truly memorable moment of his otherwise vague and unrealistic speech.  I waited for people to express outrage at the way Mr. Trump used Carryn Owens as a shameless public relations tool.  This woman lost her husband in Trump’s first military action as President, a disaster that also took the lives of dozens of innocent women and children. while the Commander-in-Chief could not even be bothered to attend in the Situation Room.

But, no outrage emerged.

I presume that most Americans correctly chose to honor her loss in silence – an appropriate response.

However, I could not help but recall a similar situation at the end of 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut.  In the months following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, so-called “truthers” in the alt-right movement called the shooting a government conspiracy aimed at opening the way for stricter gun control laws.  They decried liberals’ “use” of the victims of Newtown as shameless propaganda.  Many of these same people, such as Alex Jones and others, are ardent supporters of our new President.

I cannot help but relive the sadness of every senseless loss of life from our gun culture when hypocrites take advantage of grieving family members for political gain.

Change is Coming

There is in the land today a sense of restlessness. Women across the nation have arisen. They march in celebration of diversity and civil rights. They call and write elected officials advocating for compassion and reason. We have entered an era in which women will no longer accept the patronizing platitudes of men who preach smaller government, but use their power to promote misogyny, racism, homophobia, ablism, and xenophobia.

Young and old, those with years of activist experience and those who have never marched before, are sharing their feelings and joining in a glorious sisterhood of resistance. The movement grows with each new harm inflicted on the American people, with each new lie from Washington, with each patriarchal tantrum from our child President. For men, the time has come to join our mothers, sjsters, and daughters and help them foment a long overdue change in this country.

shifrapuahb1Women have resisted the tyranny of men before. The Book of Exodus tells the story of two women defying the will of mighty Pharoah. The growing population of Jewish slaves in Egypt worried the ruler, so he called Shiphrah and Puah – midwives to the Hebrews – before him. He warned them that they must kill any newborn Hebrew boy at birth. He explained to them how they must do this horrible act and sent them forth to implement his demand.

But the women persisted in delivering every Hebrew child safely. One of the babies saved by these midwives was Moses, who would eventually lead the people from their cruel bondage.

Shiphrah and Puah were summoned once again before Pharoah. He demanded to know why boys were still being born to the Jews. Standing before this man who held their lives in his hands, they told him that the Jewish women were more vigorous than Egyptian women. They even used Pharaoh’s own bigotry against him, comparing the Hebrew slaves to the beasts of the field who gave birth without assistance. Their ruse worked, and the midwives saved a generation of Jewish boys from execution by a paranoid tyrant.

The Bible cites few women by name. But the Torah proclaims the identities of these women who defied a king and saved a people. Whatever your religious belief, this story inspires action, resistance to those who would oppress others, and opposition to those who use fear and intimidation to justify ignorance and injustice.

Last week, men warned Senator Elizabeth Warren to stop speaking. They explained the consequences if she continued to share the thoughts of one of our most highly-regarded civil rights leaders. And she persisted until these men silenced her. They submitted to the will of a Pharoah and abrogated their responsibility to the American people to confirm qualified and competent individuals to high positions.

Men, the time of male rule in the United States draws to a close. The kakistocracy of Donald Trump will signal an era of women leaders that will fundamentally change the demeanor and spirit of our nation. I for one welcome such a change. Groups like WOMAN (Women of Michigan Action Network) are quickly changing the landscape of participation in the political process. We can join with them as allies, or be brushed aside into the ash pile of historical irrelevance.

Hiding in Plain Sight

We must no longer dismiss the threat posed to American democracy by recent changes in the White House. We face a very real circumstance that the United States will change radically for the worse, not just in years or even months, but perhaps in weeks or days. Some have suggested that we are looking at a repeat of 1933 Germany.

picture1Trump and Hitler. Donald Trump bears no resemblance to Adolf Hitler. Hitler grew up in low middle class status and received no help pursuing his dream of becoming an artist. Hitler served in combat in World War I and returned to a nation offering few prospects for employment. He rose quickly in the ranks of the tiny National Socialist German Workers’ Party. And while in prison for inciting open rebellion against the government, Hitler wrote his own magnum opus Mein Kampf without the benefit of ghost writers.

One can certainly not debate the vast difference in polished delivery and presentation between the leaders; nor the fanatical love held by millions toward Hitler, especially as his leadership lifted Germany like a phoenix from the ashes of the Great Depression and from the emasculation of the Treaty of Versailles.

Republican Party and the Nazi Party. The Republican Party possesses a long history of shared political control in America, as one of the two undisputed leaders of our two-party system for most of the past two centuries. Third parties come and go – and the Republicans certainly changed – but the Republican Party survived and remains a major American political party. The Nazi Party, on the other hand, was born out of the defeat in World War I. The movement attracted returning soldiers with its nationalist message and represented an utterly insignificant force in German politics.

The two parties do, however, share dominant principles – anti-Communism and populist appeal. Both parties also share a willingness to espouse racist, homophobic, misogynist, ablist, and anti-immigrant positions. And yet, from its inception Nazism was a people’s movement of the lower classes and the disenfranchised. Republicanism has, at various times, attracted populist support, but perhaps more accurately reflects a party catering to the agenda of the wealthy and of middle class conservatives.

Nazism and “Trumpism.” Both Hitler and Trump reached out to a similar base – the disenfranchised majority. Many Germans felt victimized by foreign influences that threatened the health and well being of the German people. Many also held groups within Germany accountable for some of their hardships – most particularly, the Jews. Germans wearied of the Weimar Republic and the rules of enforced democracy that ran counter to traditional German values. They welcomed a call to return to a better, purer time of the German volk, proud of its traditions and unafraid to flex its muscles on the global stage.

Trump largely spoke to white, lower middle class Americans who felt unrewarded for their hard work and unappreciated for their “traditional” American values. Many supporters of Trumpism hold a wide variety of minority groups to blame for the ills facing our nation. Specifically, however, Trump supporters direct the greatest animosity towards immigrants, and most particularly toward Mexican and Muslim immigrants. Regardless of their infeasibility and almost certain illegality, the wall on the Mexican border and the Muslim ban stoked the fires of Trumpism and now lead the way in Trump’s executive actions. Trump supporters hearken back to a time when America was “great,” before creeping liberalism eroded core Constitutional freedoms and historically religious (read “Christian”) moral standards.

Whether this comparison holds true will depend on whether Trump follows through on his promises. Even then, the comparison is strained. Nazism saved a nation with a decimated economy stripped of its military and facing crippling reparations. Despite Trump’s claims to the contrary, America’s economy is healthy and its people maintain a high standard of living.

So, Trump is no Hitler. The Grand Old Party is not the Nazis. And while Trumpism bears disturbing similarities to Nazism, Trumpism seems far too chaotic and incompetent to accomplish its grandiose goals. Also, the American people are not so desperately compelled to completely discard the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That leaves one last comparison.

Democracy or Fascism? Author Robert Paxton provides this definition of Fascism.

Fascism is a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.

Any sane and rational person, upon reading this definition and observing Trump’s rhetoric and first actions as President, would be justified in feeling true terror.

Could this really happen? The United States makes mistakes just like any other nation. But for more than two centuries, this nation carried the banners of freedom and democracy and stood as a model form of government in defense of rights and liberty. Are we seriously discussing some dystopian future America capable of the kinds of unspeakable cruelty we associate with the world’s worst tyrants? Surely such a vision cannot possibly come to pass here in the 21st century.

picture2Why not? The recent Women’s March wasn’t the first assemblage of thousands of people on our nation’s capital. In the 1920’s, fifty thousand Klansmen proudly and unashamedly paraded on the same ground. Trump is not the first American to envision himself as Führer. In 1939, 22,000 Nazi Americans filled Madison Square Garden in New York City to hear Fritz Julius Kuhn, the Bundesführer of the German American Bund. The German people possessed no monopoly on wrongly incarcerating enemies during wartime, or exterminating undesirables who stood in their way of nationalist expansion. In point of fact, Hitler praised America’s genocide of indigenous peoples, citing it as a model for similar cleansings.

So let’s dispel any illusions that Americans are somehow immune to the behaviors normalized while Fascism ruled Germany. In normal times, when presented against strong political options, Fascism seems too extreme, too radical a choice for most populations. But when the existing parties show weakness, room exists for Fascism to seem not only possible, but even desirable. American history shows us that whenever the mainstream parties fail to reach the majority of people, extremist movements will arise to fill the void.

Imagine the history books 50 years from now. Researchers will talk about the birth of the Tea Party movement, with its radical rhetoric and simplistic message of patriotism and libertarianism. In less than a decade (much like the National Socialist German Workers’ Party), this fringe element went from wearing ridiculous tri-corner hats to completely dismantling the mainstream Republican Party. The Tea Party blew open a hole wide enough to allow consideration of a Presidential candidate who, in saner times, would never have emerged from the starting blocks. Our grandchildren will read accounts of the rise of Trumpism and the impact his political philosophy had on America.

Or, perhaps not. Instead, our grandchildren will about a great resistance movement that stood up against Fascist forces and restored America to its true greatness. And in the center of this resistance will reside people of faith, like the Unitarian Universalists whom I serve. Present at every rally, challenging every assault on the democratic process, hounding unprincipled politicians, we will proclaim proudly and publicly our commitment to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person, whether that person is Muslim, immigrant, LGBTQIA, or female, regardless of their ability, age, or socioeconomic status.

Why do I believe this? Because there is another common element shared by successful Fascist regimes – the lack of people of faith willing to fight and sacrifice for what is morally right. Fascism thrives when churches fail to shelter the oppressed, to stand beside the persecuted, to act with conscience, and to protect our planet. Whether you attend a church, mosque, or synagogue; whether you follow Buddhist, Hindu, or Pagan teachings; if you reserve your faith for the wonders of the unknown universe, then you can be part of this faith movement. Few other institutions can successfully resist Fascist regimes, such as academia, labor, and the press. When those institutions falter, the movement of the faithful must be willing to call the truth the truth and to call alternative facts lies.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from a Nazi prison, “Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness?” I say, yes. So long as we affirm our principles of justice, equity, and compassion in human relations, we will find the strength to resist. So long as we commit to the free and responsible search for truth and meaning, we will find the will to be remorselessly honest. And so long as we recognize and respect truth and protest lies, we will reclaim the simple and straightforward American ideal of freedom and liberty for all.

The Elephant

Americans marched last week. Across the country, millions expressed fear of a neo-Fascist in the White House, and solidarity in seeking change in our political system.

ct-womens-march-national-pg-20170121People marched for many reasons. They marched for equal rights for women, People of Color, immigrants, LGBTQIA individuals, and others. They marched for our planet, recognizing that human action harms our global climate. They marched for a fair and just society that truly offers complete access to the American Dream for all.

And many marched for reproductive freedom – the issue that represents the key lynch pin to every political discussion in this nation. People will vote against their own self-interest when it comes to taxes, jobs, immigration, schools, the environment, even national security. But the one issue on which most voters will not compromise is abortion. Any candidate claiming to be “pro-life” running against another candidate labeled as “pro-choice” can count on thousands of committed votes regardless of any other political stand they take.

The majority of white American women just voted for a President who believes women are property to be mauled, who mocks the disabled, who opposes living wages, and who casually banters about nuclear war. But, he claimed to be pro-life, and he now sits in the White House.

“Pro-Choice” is a myth

In my experience, women who support reproductive freedom do not simply support abortion on demand. In fact, many would like to see the need for elective abortions reduced to zero. However, our laws and social systems remain heavily anti-woman. Abuse of women remains at shockingly high levels. The objectification of women in the media trains girls and boys from an early age that striving toward an unachievable norm of beauty defines a woman’s worth. The continued acceptance of our rape culture leaves women living in constant, daily fear of discrimination, molestation, assault, and worse.

American men take little responsibility for sexual relations. We routinely expect women to control the use of contraception and yet men often overrule women to suit their desire for sexual gratification. Birth control is expensive, hard to access, and has many side effects. We label men who bed many women as virile and desirable role models. We label sexually active women as promiscuous sluts and whores unworthy of marriage and motherhood.

planned-parenthood-about-us-who-we-are-mission-1920x1080Even when women take every possible precaution, this pernicious double standard too often produces pregnancies where the men bail out and leave the woman alone to bear a life-long responsibility with little if any support. The legal system does little to hold men accountable as equal partners in procreation, but hurdles mountains to control a woman’s body and medical choices.

Pro-choice does not equate to pro-abortion. Many women – and I believe most women – see abortion as a tragic last step necessary only because our country lacks proper education and affordable access to birth control. Most women accept the necessity of abortion only because our commitment as a nation to the rights of men over the dignity and worth of women leaves women without viable alternatives.

In a perfect world, elective abortions would disappear because the circumstances that lead to unwanted pregnancies would not exist. What would this world look like?

  • No man would ever dream of forcing himself on a woman.
  • Women and men would be true equals from birth through school to the workplace and into retirement.
  • Beauty would be defined by one’s character, goodness, authenticity, and conviction – not body shape.
  • Every child would know the facts of human reproduction, and learn the complexities of loving relationships.
  • Government would play no role in determining what any person chooses to do with their body.
  • Individuals’ personal religious beliefs regarding personhood would be respected, but no one would be permitted to discriminate against others on the basis of those personal beliefs.

So, “pro-choice” does not mean pro-elective abortion at will. Pro-choice means supporting a society with reproductive justice – the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.

“Pro-Life” is a myth

ireland17For years, Congressman John Moolenaar has staunchly defended what he calls the “sanctity of life.” This week, Harvard researchers revealed that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement program will result in 44,000 unnecessary deaths each year. It is irrefutable fact that more than 20 million Americans will lose their health insurance if Republicans repeal and do not replace the ACA, an action Moolenaar voted to approve.

Can a person legitimately call themselves pro-life if they only apply their moral standards of sanctity of life to fetuses? No. In fact, voting to repeal the ACA without a replacement represents an “anti-life” action. Other anti-life attitudes include:

  • Sending men and women into combat, but fail to provide them world-class mental and physical medical treatment once they return from the trauma of war;
  • Using drones that indiscriminately kill innocent men, women, and children in search of a possible enemy target;
  • Murdering prisoners convicted of crimes, given the inordinate number of mistakes that have been made in capital punishment sentencing, its inherent racism and classism, and the cruel processes used to take those lives;
  • Cutting funds for food stamps, school lunch programs, early childhood education initiatives, and public education of equally high quality for all, when more than enough is available in our bloated federal military budget to easily meet these needs;
  • Passing into law the most intrusive and medically unnecessary invasion of a woman’s body, while offering young people little realistic education about sex and obstructing their access to birth control;
  • Denying victims of incest, rape, and medical complications threatening the life of the mother with means to terminate those pregnancies;
  • Failing to speak out in opposition to “slap on the wrist” punishments for rapists and those committing domestic violence and sexual assaults on women, and excusing the behavior of beasts for violating a woman by blaming her for the crime; and
  • Failing to be repulsed that this nation has done absolutely nothing to create mandatory background checks for all gun purchases, or to limit access to weapons whose sole purpose is the mass murder of humans — and not pressuring you legislators to do so.

If these apply to you, then stop calling yourself pro-life. You are not pro-life – you are pro-birth and anti-woman.

Reclaiming American citizenship

The seeds of America spread wide through the soil of injustice and tyranny. Our ancestors fought for a host of freedoms and civil rights. They proclaimed those rights publicly in documents central to our national core. For the Founders, being American meant supporting the full American agenda, a social system unmatched in history.

How long would America last if citizens based their vote solely on a single issue? That kind of thinking led to a bloody civil war that decimated our nation. That kind of thinking condoned the genocide of millions of indigenous peoples whose descendants still suffer our oppression. That kind of thinking normalized the incarceration of thousands of Americans of Japanese descent, along with the theft of their property and livelihoods. That kind of thinking supported segregation, lynching, Sundown Towns, and continues supporting a racist criminal justice system.

Make no mistake; Donald Trump is unfit to serve as President of the United States. If you voted for him because Hillary Clinton supports a woman’s right to choose, then you have contributed to the possible decline of our nation and our way of life. I understand your feelings about the unborn. Most people do. But electing a President already committed to destroying our environment, eliminating key safety net programs for the poor, taking health care away from millions, and dismantling industry regulations is an act of social suicide.

If you marched last Saturday, I implore you to reach out to those who oppose abortion. Engage in dialogue with them on the realities of conception, fertilization, fetal anomalies, and religious belief. Help those seeking to defend the rights of the unborn understand that you agree with their cause as part of a larger package of social programs that defend the right of all persons to life.

2013-02-08-perezIf you opposed the march last Saturday, I implore you to look at the broad picture of what it means to be an American citizen. Standing up for the rights of those who cannot defend themselves is courageous, noble work. But the defenseless include not only fetuses, but refugees, children of undocumented parents, innocent people dead due to excessive police violence, and victims of institutionalized racism, gender bias, homophobia, and other forms of bigotry.

Whether you consider yourself pro-choice or pro-life, you are an American. Our American principles demand of us a high standard of citizen participation. We are called to resist authoritarian rule and defend the civil rights of all. We are called to expose acts of foreign agents seeking to undermine our most precious liberties. We are called to hold our elected officials accountable when they lie, obstruct the search for truth, hide pertinent information, and behave in foolish and reckless ways.

Resist those who would divide and conquer us. Refute the false dichotomy of pro-life/pro-choice. Replace stereotypes and unfounded generalizations with facts and grounded beliefs acceptable to all. Let us unite as Americans, agreeing to disagree when needed, but in solidarity regarding the values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.