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.

One World

Kenneth Patton was one of my ministerial heroes. At the core of his theology lay the idea that all people share a common body of symbols and concepts. These shared icons, often articulated through art, unite us in purpose and community.

16145160_10211987048219858_1759818400_oWhen people seek to divide us, they treat those symbols as inviolate.  In reality, however, art is art and the symbols all represent the same human feelings and behaviors: Love each other; Do no harm; Respect the world; Honor the gifts each of us brings.

On this eve of leadership transition in the United States, the forces of disunity seem strong, almost insurmountable.  Our President Elect seeks unity through fear, acceptance through intimidation, and equality through benevolent despotism.  The challenge looms large.  We are justifiably frightened for the future.  The course of events leaves us bewildered – how did this happen?

Our new President happened because we allowed fear to cloud our reason. We failed to take a stand when oppressed neighbors suffered intimidation.  We confused volume with truth and celebrity with competence.

And so, we march.  Tomorrow, I join hundreds of thousands on a pilgrimage to our nation’s capital.  We march to take back the symbols of universal humanity from those who would desecrate them for profit and sustained privilege. We march for love, for kindness, for respect, and to honor our inherent worth and dignity.

Patton asked the question, “What is equality?”  He answered that nothing is equal since every creature is unique and unmatchable.  At the same time, everything is equal because every creature is equally unique and unmatchable.

America is already great.  Our wondrous diversity makes us strong.  Our commitment to democracy, freedom, and equality leads the world.  And our journey toward Beloved Community and a religion for one world offer everyone hope for tomorrow in spite of any setbacks.

Dear Mr. Trump

Congratulations on your upcoming inauguration. Many of us voted for you despite your lack of experience holding public office. So, on behalf of the hundreds of millions of us you now serve, I want to take this opportunity and offer you some advice as you enter the Oval Office. Please forgive us if some of these suggestions sound simplistic, even obvious. Given your public discourse to date, however, we have confidence that you will find value in them.

trump-meryl1. Think. Our mothers taught us, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, then don’t say anything at all.” We Americans can be obnoxious, even rude. But, we look up to the Office of the President largely because it stands for the highest level of decorum and class in our society. Our President should be better than us, and should model for us the best human behavior. We all understand the satisfaction derived from beating someone in a war of words. But, we need our President to rise above personal pettiness and insulting retorts in response to criticism.

2. Listen. Like many of us, you have decades of life experience. But, you can now access thousands of people with unbelievable knowledge about every topic imaginable at a moment’s notice. You are smarter than most of us – otherwise you would never have succeeded in the election. You are still a human being, however, and we do not expect you to know everything. Please listen to people the way you expect us to listen to you.

3. Review. We admire your spontaneity. In a complex world, however, every word spoken by our President matters. When you tweet without subjecting your words to careful review…you frighten us. We don’t see grammatical mistakes, factual errors, and statements revealing a lack of knowledge of basic governmental functions as amusing signs of a delightfully quirky leadership style. They scare us. They scare us because they are mistakes that we would make – but we are not President. We fear the consequences of your unedited statements, and need to see that you understand our feelings and the power your words wield.

4. Respect. We respect the Office of the President like no other position in the world. Likewise, we need the person filling that office to respect us. We elected you. So, we logically expect you to respect our intelligence and wisdom. When we feel disregarded by our President, we can delude ourselves with false hopes; we begin forming unrealistic expectations of a nation already responsible for unprecedented historical achievements; and we allow our fears to override our reason. The American people will follow your example. We need you to display the respect for us that you expect from us in return.

5. Awaken. Citizen Trump owned every privilege available. Unlike most of us, you were born a white, straight, male, Christian, healthy and wealthy American citizen. But we need President Trump to represent people of color and women; gay and transgender people; Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and Atheists; and people suffering from physical and mental illnesses. We need our President to serve all the people, whether they live in mansions, houses, apartments, or packing crates. Whether we work as executives or lawyers, nurses or plumbers, cashiers or migrant farmers, we must feel that you empathize with our lives and acknowledge our inherent worth and dignity.

6. Mature. To be honest, many of us voted for you because you acted like us. You said things we might say and acted in ways we might act. But we know that we don’t always say the right things, or act in the right ways. Candidate Trump was an adolescent – a malignant narcissist and expert self-promoter. And many of us loved that persona. We now need President Trump to heed the lesson we learned on TV from that great philosopher Spock of Vulcan, who said, “Having is not nearly so pleasing a thing as wanting.”

You wanted our ultimate position of celebrity and we gave it to you. But with ownership comes tremendous responsibility. Billions of lives across the world now depend on you owning every attribute of a great leader, qualities such as wisdom, integrity, and humility. Perhaps most important, we need you to show the courage to make decisions that might make you unpopular, but that are morally correct choices. Sadly, there isn’t a kinder, more gentle way to say this. Now that we have entrusted you with the most important office in our nation, we need you to grow up.

In his first letter to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote, “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Every one of your constituents – regardless of skin color, gender identity, sexual orientation, theological persuasion, ability, or legal, social and economic status – can agree with these sentiments.

His letter continued. “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

7. Love. Mr. Trump, on the morning of January 20, you will gaze into that golden mirror you caress so often. Our nation, all of us living and yet to be born, and the planet Earth that sustains us need you to see the full reflection of a President. We need that mirror to reflect a thoughtful, considerate, careful, respectful, aware adult. We desperately need that mirror to project an image of love. We know you love yourself and your family. We know you love your fans and supporters. As President Trump, we need you to share that love with every person equally.

trump-reporterWe need you to love every Black man looking in the rear view mirror at the flashing lights of a police car; the woman entering the Planned Parenthood office for a cancer screening because her insurance won’t pay for her to go to the local hospital anymore; the young gay man cast out of his parent’s home because of who he loves; the woman wearing the hijab being berated for her religious beliefs; the man publicly mocked for his congenital disability; the mother living in her car because her employers pay poverty wages; and the hard-working, courageous man seeking the same American dream for his children that our own ancestors sought.

We Americans can love deeply. But we will emulate our President. If our President displays impatience, arrogance, rudeness, and resentment, we will do the same. So, Mr. Trump, please model that love for us, for our nation, and for our planet as you become President Trump.

The Need for Resolve

2016 was a tough year on many of us. It remains to be seen how the events of this past year will influence 2017.

I view this coming year as providing us with two opportunities. First, we should look on the past year not with sorrow and regret, but with a renewed sense of resolve. I realize the temptation to hunker down and ride out the almost certain coming storm appeals strongly. I also realize that the events of 2016 have left many of us emotionally shaken and intellectually bewildered.

Take the time to mourn, to lick your wounds, and to regroup. But, don’t linger in a state of hopeless victimhood for long. We must adopt a long-range strategy to pace ourselves for what might be an extended period of immoral actions and senseless attacks on logic and common sense. This means that we must get up, brush ourselves off, and get back in the game.

Related imageThe second opportunity before us in 2017 is the invaluable gift of passionate engagement. The past year left no one untouched. Some gains in equality and justice now stand on the brink of a reactionary chasm of patriarchy, privilege, and power abuse. Not for decades has the challenge to freedom and democracy been so strong in this country.

Robert A. Heinlein’s characters often use the phrase TANSTAFL – there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. In 2017, we must pick up the tab for a Trump presidency. The task won’t be easy, but I am confident that people of faith and vision have the resolve, with enough left over for a good tip.

 

Christmas Message for Modern Times

Billions across the earth celebrate the birth of a child. Some doubt the accuracy of factual details of the event. Others question on the nature of the child and the circumstances of his conception. Centuries of scholarship and spiritual contemplation failed to resolve different interpretations of the child’s purpose and of his eventual actions as an adult.

Nearly everyone can agree, however, on one thing. Whether you are a Christian, Muslim, or Jew, whether you follow Buddhist, Hindu, or no religious teachings at all, we can all agree on this specific aspect of the life of the man known as Jesus.

Early in his ministry, this wandering rabbi preached a message to the people. He preached from the hilltops and from the valleys. His message resonated with every person largely because other prophets had preached the same wisdom throughout the centuries. And in 21st century America, this message rings especially true.

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

Jesus lived in a world where the privileged held reign over the oppressed. He foresaw a time when all their wealth, power, and military might could not prevent their eventual downfall.

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.

Jesus called out the hypocrites, the policy makers who dined in fine style while the poor made do with the scraps. He preached fairness and equity for all the people.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

The arrogant leaders, distant from the faith and dedication of the people, thought they controlled the truth. Jesus did not mock or threaten others to serve as an inspirational leader.

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

Truth is not whatever reality most benefits you. Truth is truth. Jesus showed that true leadership consists of honesty, openness, and candor regardless of the consequences.

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Jesus spoke truth to power, never backing away from the challenges of scribes and Pharisees. He never sold his principles for comfort, advantage, or influence.

Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

The Golden Rule is the single most universal ethical belief of humanity. Jesus lived this ethic and taught others to do the same.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.

Hold people accountable, but always do so with love and understanding. Jesus held malice in his heart for no one and yet stood on the side of love opposed to all oppressive authority.

castingoutmoneychangersNear the end of his ministry, Jesus demonstrated that we cannot achieve justice passively, and that we must sometimes meet oppression with active resistance.  Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying…he said, “My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.”

After his active resistance to the corrupt bankers and priests, Jesus taught in the temple and healed those who came to him seeking cures. He told the crowds that the scribes and Pharisees tie up heavy, hard to bear burdens and lay them on the shoulders of others to carry. They exalt themselves, claiming great deeds and the best seats in the synagogue. Jesus called them blind guides and fools, for they valued the gold and not the sanctuary that made the gold sacred. Instead of tithing, Jesus called on the self-indulgent and greedy to practice justice, mercy, and faith.

Prophecy. Christmas celebrates a world-changing event in the past. But Christmas also commemorates the spirit of the man born under that star. Christmas proclaims the message of brotherhood and sisterhood among all people, and compassion for every person, whether poor or sick, hungry or hated.

So, honor the wonder of birth this Christmas season. May you see in every child the promise of a great life of service, a great love of others. Honor the child – wherever and whenever born – as the symbol of hope for billions born into poverty and oppression. Then, honor the person that child then grew and now grows to be; the one who then taught and will now teach the beatitudes of unconditional love; and who will always sacrifice everything to show us the meaning of justice, of mercy, and of faith. May we honor those teachings every day of the year and find the courage to stand up publicly for those principles.