Might


To view the original art, please travel to Might

copyright © 2008.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

On November 8, 2004, Artist and Political Essayist Andrew Wahl, penned his thoughts on “Might.” Then, the current war in Iraq may have been on his mind.  Fiscal policies that ruled in favor of the wealthy could have evoked his visual essay.  Way back then, religious factions, each of which was ready to deem the others wrong, were engaged in combat.  That thought, coupled with the rest, may have brought this toon to be.  Today, all these realities remain true.

Four and five years ago, bombs blasted abroad.  Bullets whizzed past the heads of innocent mothers, fathers, sons, and Iraqi daughters.  The same is true today.  Had the acclaimed Andrew Wahl sketched the same political cartoon in 1996, it would have been no less accurate.  

Then, a Democrat reigned in the White House.  Nonetheless, innocent Iraqis were victims of the American Superpower.  Sanctions were put in place.  The “mighty” United States government gave no money or aid to children who starved in the streets of the Middle Eastern nation.  Americans offered no medicine to the ill or injured young ones who would ultimately die in their homeland, Iraq.  It seemed the sentiment of sanguine Americans was, “Might makes right.”  

In the 1990s, then Secretary of State, Madeline Albright spoke to this truth on 60 Minutes.  When Reporter Lesley Stahl asked of the more than half-million Arab children left to die in Iraq, the American Ambassador declared; “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”  

Worth can be a woeful venture.  There was a time, when the rich certainly thought, what they may do to increase their income was right.  The affluent had the might.  Profits, made persons more powerful.

Years ago, the Puget Sound Business Journal published an article titled, As the rich prosper, low-income jobs multiply. In April 2008, Peter Gillespie, a Toronto Star Journalist opined, Rich prosper, as society suffers.  Yet, while that was true then, ultimately many learned, when money is seen as the “might” many fall.  

More recently, as the economy crumbled worldwide more realized, the rich lose more. Surely dollars do not deliver the might countless believed they would.

Perhaps, devotion to a deity is the source of greater supremacy.  Pious persons often deem they or those who follow the will of the Lord are the mightiest.  Moral ethics can be the only omnipotent guide.  However, Oliver “Buzz” Thomas, a minister, lawyer, and author cautions religions may be killing us.  For the writer Thomas, the proverb, “Be fruitful and multiply,” from the book of Genesis, has caused the planet much harm.  Three hundred (300) million individuals in the United States and more than 6 billion abroad, he says, may be our global doom.

Cleric Thomas sites scientific reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as reason for grave concerns.  He notes, the might of virtuous copulation has created a population too vast to be supported by natural resources.

Other observers of the holiest warn religious war may be our disastrous destiny.  These battles raged when Artist Andrew Wahl wrote of might, just as they did centuries ago.  Religious Wars never resolve the question, who is the mightiest.  Today, the tide has not turned.  The seas have yet to part.  Peace, anywhere in the world is still threatened by religious differences.  One only needs to consider the Middle East.  In 2008, Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, reflect as he might today.  There must be a The Smart Way Out of a Foolish War, or the many foolish fights for control.

Might each of share and care rather than rule militarily.  Might mankind realize money is not the power.  Might we ponder moral efficacy does not eliminate Earthly resources; nor do the ethical kill their brethren?  Might is more than dominance.  The mightiest live, let live and love.

References for right, might, and reason . . .

The Wolf Barack Obama Feeds



Pt 1 – National Cathedral Message – Story of The Two Wolves

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

It was 11:22 Ante Meridian, on January 21, 2009.  I did as I rarely do.  I stood silently and watched television.  As one who listens to what is aired, and does so from another room, this was an unusual occurrence.  However, the Cherokee wisdom of wolves, an illustration that represents the internal strife within every human being beckoned me.  

Then, at the very same hour on the very next day, again I was compelled to do what is odd for me.  I did not say a word as I glared at humanitarian actions took place on the screen.  President Barack Obama proclaimed, by Executive Order, the United States would not torture.  Nor would we, as a nation, detain presumed “combatants” without a just trial.  On each occasion, I was in awe as I gazed upon what I had not imagined would come to pass.  Upon reflection, the two events seem to be related.

On Wednesday, the voice of the speaker was unfamiliar to me.  The narrative, she share was extremely familiar.  Perchance that is why I was drawn into the calm drama as it unfolded before me.  Reverend Doctor Sharon E. Watkins, in her candid manner, in the Inaugural Prayer, brought the Chief Executive of the United States to task.  With knowledge of The Obama Administration’s agenda, a plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan, Doctor   Reverend Sharon E. Watkins shared a allegory and directly addressed the analogy.  The President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) spoke to the President of the United States with intent.  Her prayer was meant to be more than a homily, easily left in the home of the Lord.  The passionate cleric conceded, the circumstances that exist today are dire.

What you are entering now, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, will tend to draw you away from your ethical center.  But we, the nation that you serve, need you to hold the ground of your deepest values, of our deepest values.

Beyond this moment of high hopes, we need you to stay focused on our shared hopes, so that

we can continue to hope, too.

We will follow your lead.

There is a story attributed to Cherokee wisdom:

One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces.

“There are two wolves struggling inside each of us,” the old man said.

“One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self?pity, fear . . .

“The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love . . .”

The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: “Which wolf wins, Grandfather?”

His grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”

The congregation was spellbound.  The camera showed a meditative Barack Obama.  The President, with his head in his hand, seemed to consider the parable.  He looked as if he might ponder the parallel.  Minister Watkins continued.

The frank Theologian furthered the thought when she said, “There are crises banging on the door right now, pawing at us, trying to draw us off our ethical center – crises that tempt us to feed the wolf of vengefulness and fear.”  

President Obama, from his facial expressions, understood.  He knew the weight placed on his shoulders.  As he oft expressed, the decision to serve the public was his, and he would do so to the best of abilities.  Yet, Barack Obama often proclaimed, he could not do the nation’s work alone.  Indeed, he would need help from the public.  The Reverend was ready to lend a hand to the Commander-In-Chief.  In service to her country, and perchance, more significantly to the Almighty and the people, planet-wide Sharon E. Watkins submitted.

We need you, Mr. President, to hold your ground.  We need you, leaders of this nation, to stay centered on the values that have guided us in the past; values that empowered to move us through the perils of earlier times and can guide us now into a future of renewed promise.

We need you to feed the good wolf within you, to listen to the better angels of your nature, and by your example encourage us to do the same.

In the hours before the erudite religious leader spoke, much laid in the balance.  Doctor Watkins likely heard the whispers; President Obama might not close Guantanamo Bay Prison as quickly as he had promised.  When asked of the possible release of detainees Barack Obama was hesitant.  He discussed what logistically would be difficult.  

Doctor Sharon E. Watkins seemed to inquire as an ABC News interviewer had not.  Mister President; which path will you choose?  How will ethical principles shape your policies President Obama?  

She too may have marveled at the statement a pious man offered just prior to the inauguration.  On “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos, Barack Obama stated, homeland security is his top priority.  The “need” to fight back when terrorists threaten would be prominent features in an Obama Administration.  “We are going to have to stay vigilant, and that’s something that doesn’t change from administration to administration,” the then President Elect said.

Hence, in her homily Sharon E. Watkins invited the newly installed President Obama to obey the sacred principles he had oft professed to believe.

On Thursday, perhaps he did honor the ethical traditions.  As I again, listened to the television from afar, the baritone sounds that echoed in the next room were recognizable.  Barack Obama addressed a small audience of onlookers, each anxious to see him sign three Executive Orders.  Indeed, Commander-In-Chief Obama decreed that this country act on the “some” of the ethical standards the Minister spoke of only twenty-four hours earlier.

President Obama signed directives that authorize a Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities.  A Review of Detention Policy Options, and he approved an order that would Ensure Lawful Interrogations.

However, what the President has yet to act on the poignant matters that affect every American, in truth all human beings every day.  War.  As I situated myself before the screen to watch the invocation, I saw a pensive man.  Barack Obama, unlike most in the National Cathedral congregation seemed to study Reverend Doctor Sharon E. Watkins’ every word.  

The Commander-In-Chief appeared to recognize the depth of the sermon Reverend Watkins delivered. Indeed, that is what captured my attention.  While Doctor Watkins had command of her language, she commanded the person who is perhaps, the most powerful human being in the world.  This articulate Minister stood before the President, and eloquently presented parables and scriptures that spoke to the less than honorable and moral issue of vengeance.  

This uncommon; yet commoner, cleric addressed a reverent Barack Obama.  She welcomed reflections on stark realities in a manner that few might.  Doctor Reverend Sharon E. Watkins essentially confronted the new Commander and asked him to evaluate his ethics.  

Solemnly she said, “In international hard times, our instinct is to fight – to pick up the sword, to seek out enemies, to build walls against the other and why not?  They just might be out to get us.  We’ve got plenty of evidence to that effect.  Someone has to keep watch and be ready to defend, and Mr. President – Tag!  You’re it!”

The congregation laughed.  The air for them was light.  However, for Doctor Sharon E. Watkins, there was no humor in her words.  

G-d’s representative spoke of the change she, and I could, believe in.

While most Americans delighted in the news of today’s Executive Orders, I wonder if Reverend Doctor Watkins worried as I do.  Later, on Thursday afternoon, at 3:10 Post Meridian, when once again, I stood frozen in front of the “tube.”  I felt the futility of fight would be America’s fate.

The baritone, Barack Obama boomed, as if defiant of the deities.  “The world needs to understand that America will be unyielding in its protection of its security and relentless in its pursuit of those who would carry out terrorism or threaten the United States.”

I wondered.  Had Reverend Doctor Watkins heard the statement?  Does she now know as I do, which wolf Barack Obama will feed.

Update . . .

Two U.S. missile strikes kill 17 in Pakistan, sources say,

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — Seventeen people were killed Friday evening in two U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region, said one government and two military officials.

They are the first such strikes since President Obama took office Tuesday.

Both hits were near the Afghan border, said local political official Nasim Dawar. The Pakistani military sources asked not to be named because they are not authorized to release such information.

The first strike, which killed 10 people, occurred about 5:15 p.m. (7:15 a.m. ET) in a village near Mir Ali in North Waziristan, the officials said. Seven people died in the second hit at 7:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. ET) near Wana, the major town in South Waziristan, 17 miles (27 kilometers) from Afghanistan, they said.

References for realities, real, and those imagined by vengeful, fearful, humans . . .

Peace; Not a silent prophecy



Martin Luther King, “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam”

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

On this, the anniversary of Martin Luther King Junior’s birth, January 15, war is in the wind.  In cyberspace communities, and on the streets of Israel, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, even on the supposedly serene avenues in America, people are engaged in brutal battles.  Be the clashes verbal or written, the combat is cruel.  The punishment is not proportional.  This truth is not unusual.  Sadly, it is the convention, steeped in tradition.  There is abundant conflict in every corner of the globe, contrary to the Civil Rights Leader, and nonviolent activist would want.  Certainly, these crusades are not as G-d would grant just.  

The command, “an eye for an eye” is used to justify vengeance.  Retaliation is said to be the way of the Almighty, Allah, and the son, Jesus.  Yet, theologians would admonish such interpretations of sacred text.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

~ Martin Luther King Junior

Martin Luther King Junior offers his veracity, which may speak to those who have faith in any of the teachings of holy passages.  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, are not silent on the subject of peace.  Please peruse, ponder, and perhaps, walk in peace . . .  

Parashat Mishpatim  [God’s Judgment and Human Judges]

written by Rabbi David Hoffman, Senior Rabbinic Fellow, JTS

God’s liberation of the Israelites had further implications. It served as the formative paradigm for the construction of an equitable vision of society.

One command in this week’s parashah stands out for me. It expresses the larger social vision that, I believe, all the commandments of the Torah must serve: “Do not oppress the stranger, for you know the feelings of a stranger since you yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).

With this command God tells the Israelites, “You too know what it is like to be powerless – a stranger, at the mercy of the powerful, and this experience must cultivate within you a special sensitivity.” The “mishpatim,” the laws of our tradition, are there to create people and communities that are deeply sensitive to the experience of those without power and the disenfranchised.

This vision is manifested in a unique way in our parashah, without parallel in any Ancient Near Eastern law codes.

The law of Lex Talionis is presented in chapter twenty-one. Biblical law stipulates that if a person inflicts physical damage on another human being, the victim is entitled to restitution.  Based on the language and context of this law, Biblical scholars believe that the principle – “An eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth” – (Talion) – mandated monetary compensation for bodily injury and did not call for literal physical retribution in retaliation for the physical injury suffered.

As Professors Moshe Greenberg, Tikvah Frymer-Kensky, and Nahum Sarna have all observed, the Torah’s articulation of Talion sought to limit retaliation to the exact measure of the injury and to reject the larger Near Eastern practice of vicarious punishment against family members. They also present extended arguments against a literal understanding of Talion and instead argue for an understanding of Talion as monetary reparation.

Most importantly for our discussion, Tikvah Frymer-Kensky, in her study on this law in the context of Ancient Near Eastern literature, observes that while the laws of Hammurabi distinguish between the social classes for the application of the law of Talion, the Pentateuch does not. Frymer-Kensky elaborates: “The laws of Hammurabi distinguish between the social classes of awilum and muskenum: physical attacks against the awilum are treated as crimes, while attacks against the muskenum (whose exact status is still unclear) are still treated as torts (lesser offenses).

While in the Bible, where there is no class distinction among free men, all physical assaults are treated as crimes.” (See Tikvah Frymer-Kensky, “Tit for Tat: The Principle of Equal Retribution in Near Eastern and Biblical Law,” BA 43[1980]: 230-234, p. 233.) In biblical law, slaves, not only free Israelites, are entitled to monetary compensation for bodily damage inflicted by their masters. (See Exodus 21:26-27.) Sarna claims that this law is “without parallel in other ancient Near Eastern legislation” in its commitment to equal justice for all citizens. (See Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus, p. 127.)

The general principle of the equality of all in the eyes of the court, stranger and citizen alike, is made explicit in the iteration of the law of Talion in Leviticus 24:17-22:

The Preference of Peace, Wherever Possible and its Encouragement

A Muslim only fights when forced to, and after exhausting all peaceful means of reconciliation. If any opportunity of peace arises, then Islam makes it compulsory for the Muslims to take it. A Muslim is also required to extinguish the flame of war whenever and wherever he can. The Qur’an says:

‘But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and (put your) trust in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.’

(Surat-al-Anfal (8), ayah 61)

Jesus and the Law of Retaliation (Lex Talionis)

By James Davis, Associate Professor, Capital Bible Seminary

To bring the issue a little closer to home, one night my family and I were sitting at the dinner table. My daughter Keilah asked a thought-provoking question. She said, “If my brother hits me, is it okay if I hit him back?” Of course, our answer was that she come to appropriate authorities on the matter – Mom or Dad.

Too much of the world’s ethic is to: 1) strike back; 2) get even; 3) do unto others like they do to you. Many times the justification for retaliation is that ancient law, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”188 I have to admit that this retaliatory ethic to right an injustice is appealing to part of me, especially initially when I feel I have been wronged.

But Jesus says “No” to using “an eye for an eye” as justification for personal revenge. Instead, He says “turn the other cheek,” “go the extra mile,” “turn over two garments if sued for one,” and “give to the one who asks from you.” Jesus’ teaching is not merely legal and technical, but extends deeply and profoundly into the practical situations of conflict, oppression, and the needs of everyday life.

Matthew 5:38-42 reads:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”

These verses have been described by many in the following ways:

1. The hard sayings of Jesus

2. The most difficult verses in the Bible

3. Hyperbole and impossible

4. Commands for another world

Jesus’ teaching here is confronting the popular misuse and abuse of the Old Testament law, known as the law of retaliation, in Latin, “the Lex Talionis.” The law of “life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth,” etc. . . .

III. The Law of Eye for Eye in the Old Testament.

So let’s start with looking at this law in the Old Testament.

Imagine yourself for a moment in an ancient situation where you and your family lived in a place with no police force, no courts, no local, state, or federal government – no king or other authority ruling over you or the people around you. Then one day as you are going about your business, you are shocked with the news that one of your neighbors had intentionally and maliciously hit your daughter so hard that four of her teeth are permanently knocked out. What would you do? There is no authority to report it to – to seek justice.

What if the situation was worse, and your child was intentionally killed? You would probably want to take the matter into your own hands and seek retribution, maybe even to the point of blood revenge. Perhaps you would try to impose the same type of injury on the attacker that he imposed. Maybe you would even want to punish him in greater degree than his offense. After you take revenge, the attacker’s family may feel that they have been mistreated and may want to respond, setting up a cycle of retaliation and revenge between you and them – the Hatfields and the McCoys so to speak.

Genesis 34 records an actual incident like this between Jacob’s family and the family of Shechem. After Jacob’s daughter Dinah is physically abused, Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levi, seek revenge by first deceiving Shechem’s family into getting men circumcised, and then they take the retaliatory action of killing all the males. Of course, it is clear from later in Genesis 49:5-7 that God did not approve of this action.

So the institution of the lex talionis into the Mosaic law for the nation of Israel and the ruling authorities was, I believe, a real advancement for the cause of justice designed to prevent personal actions of retaliation and revenge. The injured person or relative of the injured person could go to the governing judicial authority in Israel to seek justice. But what should the appropriate punishment be in the case of murder or maiming? This is where the law comes into play: “a life for a life,” “an eye for an eye,” “a tooth for a tooth.” The punishment must fit the crime – no more than the crime but also no less.

It was strict but fair. It was also designed to prevent and deter such crimes. It was there to remove punitive actions for crimes from the hands of the victim and his family and put them into the hands of the governing judicial system. It was designed as a principle of proportional justice. It was also designed to appropriately punish the offender.

This is the irony and abuse of how people misunderstand this law. It is misunderstood now the same way it was misunderstood at the time of Jesus. A law that was designed to prevent actions of personal retaliatory revenge is used to justify it!

The misunderstanding of the law would say if someone slaps you on the cheek, slap him back (after all “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”). If someone sues you, sue him back. If you are forced to go a mile by a Roman soldier, resist and fight back. Jesus is trying to confront that type of teaching and mindset.

Let me be clear that God wants us to take actions of personal revenge out of our hands. We can turn them over to the governmental authorities if appropriate, and even if that doesn’t work, we need to turn them over to God Himself.

May G-d grant us peace and prosperity for all.  May man remember retaliation and revenge, are not as he, she, or those who trust only in themselves, would choose.  The Lord Almighty, Allah bestowed upon his offspring free will.  He created us in his image.  The divine, be he or she an entity or merely an enigma, endorses peace.  May mankind also embrace tranquility.

The Qualified Quest for Justice



Jews, Christians and Muslims Unite Against Evildoers

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Just days ago, throughout the globe, people celebrated religious holidays.  Peace on Earth and good will to all men was the palpable feeling that filled the air.  Everywhere anyone turned expressions of fondness for our fellow beings could be heard.  People were filled with glee.  Then, suddenly, the sound that is the silent hum of joyous laughter was broken.  Everything changed.  Yet, indeed nothing did.  The cycle of violence that has perpetually existed on this planet began again.  The qualified quest for justice was once more the people’s agenda.  In Israel and Gaza, bombs blasted.  Bullets whizzed by the heads of frantic, frightened people who sought shelter from another Mediterranean storm.  Some died.  Hamas was blamed for the initial attacks, this time.  As had occurred on other occasions, Israel, in the name of self-defense, fought back.  The roles might have been reversed and have been.

Each believes the other is at fault.  One force characterizes the antagonist as an occupier.  Late in 2008, the people who are said to have been the provocateurs are tagged as terrorists.  The monikers are interchangeable and have been for centuries.

This recent barrage of words and weapons was not the first on sacred terrain.  No one expects it will be the last.  Apparently, today, as has been true for eons, people have accepted peace as a temporal occurrence.  It is always followed by war.  

Pious people only pretend to honor the hallowed Commandment found in every faith, “Thou shalt not kill.”  In truth, on some principle not evident in scriptures, the Bible, the Qur’an, or other religious teaching, humans conclude all men and Not created equal.

For the wise, the worthy, the wondrous creatures who believe all beings are created equally, and in G-d’s image, the concept of fairness and empathy for all others are only ones of convenience.  These can be, and by all means should be, ignored, when a country, clan, chap, or cute daughter of Eve feels there is reason for self-defense.  When the quest for conquest is greater than the desire for tranquility, justice is found in a series of deadly explosions!

Rational persons become self-righteous when they feel attacked or wish to assault another.  Whatever excuses an ethical individual, or a respectable region, can find to intellectualize war will serve a being who wishes to be brutal.  One need only reflect upon the writings of a few to understand why warfare never ends.

In what would become a foundation for America, within the Declaration of Independence, the words of Thomas Jefferson appear, “All me are created equal.”  This thought was meant to remind citizens of this country of a tenet adopted in ancient times, by not just one, but by many religions.  

A Jewish theologian, Torah scholar, Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld reflects on a historical reality rarely honored by modern man.  “(A)ll men are created equal” (women too for that matter), and, as eloquently as Thomas Jefferson put it, this comes directly from our own Torah.  Maimonides (Mishne Torah, Hil’ Teshuva 5:2) writes that unlike the belief of foolish Gentiles and unlearned Jews that each person is predestined to good or evil, it is within the ability of each person to determine his or her own fate.”

Rabbi Rosenfeld then further elucidates each of us can be virtuous or iniquitous.  As individuals, apart from our intellectual measure, personal milieu, history, monetary means, or influence we have the capacity to choose what we wish to do and who we yearn to be.

The scholar and teacher of Torah, Dovid Rosenfeld shares the observations of another, devout academician, Dean of Aish HaTorah International, Rabbi Noach Weinberg (www.aish.com), “We are certainly not equal when it comes to talents, predilections, or natural abilities.  But in this one regard we are all equal: we all possess souls.  We have the potential to develop ourselves, whether in goodness or wickedness, and we possess the free will to determine which path we will follow.  Goodness and closeness to G-d are not reserved for the intellectual, the scholarly, or the well-pedigreed.  It is the inherent right of all mankind and the simple fact of our humanity.”

While many amongst the Jewish faithful quote the wisdom of each of these devout devotees of the Almighty, the significance of the statements is void in action.  The same is true in Islamic tradition.  Several fervent followers find solace in the scriptures; indeed, “The Glorious Qur’an mentions, with commendation, Prophet Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as it does to Prophet Moses (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him),” others who purport to believe in teachings of Islam, Hamas amid these, ignore the splendor found in the religious text.

Islam aims at eliminating all aspects of racism and dislikes prejudiced-oriented party gatherings.  Islam, equally, disapproves all acts leading to disputes, fights, among individuals and peoples.  Islam requires its followers to believe in the Divine Messages and Scriptures of all previous nations [community] in order to eliminate any hatred or biased feelings.  Islam considers such an act as one of the essential tenants of faith.

While the most boisterous today, and for centuries, have beat the battle drums, murdered, caused mayhem, massacred, and engaged in the most dire deeds, all in the name of justice, a very few participate in another, more harmonic quest.  

These individuals believe in sacrosanct traditions too.  The truly peaceful propose actions must reflect religious and rational reason.  Those who work towards universal serenity walk with the Lord on holy days and during the most mundane of times.  Advocates of amicable exchanges and equality for all, aspire to a stable serenity, as is referenced in theological text.  

“Pacifists,”, do not adopt the vicious edicts of those who think war will bring about peace, albeit, the warriors admit, provisionally.  The tranquil people have faith that all men, women, and children can choose how they wish to respond to conflict.  People are free to engage in good or evil.

Those on a quest for nonviolent justice, one without qualifiers that restrict the significance of religious commandments, talk without the accompaniment of a big stick.  They walk with a sincere sense of awe for kindnesses.  They also type articles that advocate for empathy and avoid the argument of self-defense.

Thus, on November 10, 2000, Deborah Ducrocq, then Managing Editor of the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, a devout Jew in her own right, published an article, she received.  The missive penned by another Judaic faithful, Judith Stone, is titled, “The Quest for Justice.” The tone and transcript were considered controversial by the clannish amongst the American Jews.  Indeed, after the missive appeared, the Ms Ducrocq was promptly dismissed by her ?superiors.

Yet, as much as the words offended the Jewish employers, for persons who struggle with a spiritual history, Jew, Gentile, and Islamist who yearn for authentic and lasting global harmony, the wisdom Judith Stone inscribed, and Deborah Ducrocq delivered, resonates.

While some might say this early essay is no longer politically pertinent, others trust, the sentiment expressed is as valid today as it was then, and will be tomorrow.  


“Quest for Justice”

By Judith Stone

I am a Jew.  I was a participant in the Rally for the Right of Return to Palestine.  It was the right thing to do.  I’ve heard about the European holocaust against the Jews since I was a small child.  I’ve visited the memorials in Washington, DC and Jerusalem dedicated to Jewish lives lost and I’ve cried at the recognition to what level of atrocity mankind is capable of sinking.

Where are the Jews of conscience?  No righteous malice can be held against the survivors of Hitler’s holocaust.  These fragments of humanity were in no position to make choices beyond that of personal survival.  We must not forget that being a survivor or a co-religionist of the victims of the European Holocaust does not grant dispensation from abiding by the rules of humanity.

“Never again” as a motto, rings hollow when it means “never again to us alone.”  My generation was raised being led to believe that the biblical land was a vast desert inhabited by a handful of impoverished Palestinians living with their camels and eking out a living in the sand.  The arrival of the Jews was touted as a tremendous benefit to these desert dwellers.  Golda Mier even assured us that there “is no Palestinian problem.”

We know now this picture wasn’t as it was painted.  Palestine was a land filled with people who called it home.  There were thriving towns and villages, schools and hospitals.  There were Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  In fact, prior to the occupation, Jews represented a mere 7 percent of the population and owned 3 percent of the land.

Taking the blinders off for a moment, I see a second atrocity perpetuated by the very people who should be exquisitely sensitive to the suffering of others.  These people knew what it felt like to be ordered out of your home at gun point and forced to march into the night to unknown destinations or face execution on the spot.  The people who displaced the Palestinians knew first hand what it means to watch your home in flames, to surrender everything dear to your heart at a moment’s notice.  Bulldozers leveled hundreds of villages, along with the remains of the village inhabitants, the old, and the young.  This was nothing new to the world.

Poland is a vast graveyard of the Jews of Europe.  Israel is the final resting place of the massacred Palestinian people.  A short distance from the memorial to the Jewish children lost to the holocaust in Europe there is a leveled parking lot.  Under this parking lot is what’s left of a once flourishing village and the bodies of men, women, and children whose only crime was taking up needed space and not leaving graciously.  This particular burial marker reads: “Public Parking.”

I’ve talked with Palestinians.  I have yet to meet a Palestinian who hasn’t lost a member of their family to the Israeli Shoah, nor a Palestinian who cannot name a relative or friend languishing under inhumane conditions in an Israeli prison.  Time and time again, Israel is cited for human rights violations to no avail.  On a recent trip to Israel, I visited the refugee camps inhabited by a people who have waited 52 years in these ‘temporary’ camps to go home.  Every Palestinian grandparent can tell you the name of their village, their street, and where the olive trees were planted.

Their grandchildren may never have been home, but they can tell you where their great-grandfather lies buried and where the village well stood.  The press has fostered the portrait of the Palestinian terrorist.  But, the victims who rose up against human indignity in the Warsaw Ghetto are called heroes.  Those who lost their lives are called martyrs.  The Palestinian who tosses a rock in desperation is a terrorist.

Two years ago I drove through Palestine and watched intricate sprinkler systems watering lush green lawns of Zionist settlers in their new condominium complexes, surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire in the midst of a Palestinian community where there was not adequate water to drink and the surrounding fields were sandy and dry.  University professor Moshe Zimmerman reported in the Jerusalem Post (April 30, 1995), “The [Jewish] children of Hebron are just like Hitler’s youth.”

We Jews are suing for restitution, lost wages, compensation for homes, land, slave labor and back wages in Europe.  Am I a traitor of a Jew for supporting the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their birthplace and compensation for what was taken that cannot be returned?

The Jewish dead cannot be brought back to life and neither can the Palestinian massacred be resurrected.  David Ben Gurion said, “Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves… politically, we are the aggressors and they defend themselves…The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country…”

Palestine is a land that has been occupied and emptied of its people.  It’s cultural and physical landmarks have been obliterated and replaced by tidy Hebrew signs.  The history of a people was the first thing eradicated by the occupiers.  The history of the indigenous people has been all but eradicated as though they never existed.  And all this has been hailed by the world as a miraculous act of G-d.  We must recognize that Israel’s existence is not even a question of legality so much as it is an illegal fait accompli realized through the use of force while supported by the Western powers.  The UN missions directed at Israel in attempting to correct its violations of have thus far been futile.

In Hertzl’s “The Jewish State,” the father of Zionism said, “…We must investigate and take possession of the new Jewish country by means of every modern expedient.”  I guess I agree with Ehud Barak (3 June 1998) when he said, “If I were a Palestinian, I’d also join a terror group.”  I’d go a step further perhaps.  Rather than throwing little stones in desperation, I’d hurtle a boulder.

Hopefully, somewhere deep inside, every Jew of conscience knows that this was no war; that this was not G-d’s restitution of the holy land to it’s rightful owners.  We know that a human atrocity was and continues to be perpetuated against an innocent people who couldn’t come up with the arms and money to defend themselves against the western powers bent upon their demise as a people.

We cannot continue to say, “But what were we to do?”  Zionism is not synonymous with Judaism.  I wholly support the rally of the right of return of the Palestinian people.

Indeed, what is to be done amidst the bombs and bullets.  Those who have faith in talk, treatises that remain forever intact and tranquility can only bemoan the truth when they witness calm, compassionate, persons, who say they care for all mankind, become clannish when they chatter about political agendas in the Middle East.  

What can anyone do when people preach peace and practice violence in the name of the Lord, Allah, or the Almighty, or even atheist theories.   When the pious come to blows, fist to cuffs, as they fight for freedom and justice for all, or at least all who look or live as they do, what do the quieter “others” do?

The peace lover takes no comfort in the obvious; canons are practiced inconsistently.  Even the religious are ready to attack.  Excuses are made.  Each nation and its inhabitants offer validation for vicious, vindictive, imprudent assaults.  Nor does the antiwar wish to ask questions that are never truly answered.  Is it ethical, inevitable, eternal, and when, or how will it ever end.  Conscientious objector to combat acknowledge the mantra will likely be reactive.  Attack; inquire of ethics anon.

This is why peaceful persons might try not to actively engage in discussions of the affairs in the Mediterranean, ever.  They know.  While warriors wish to answer such inquiries with another, “What would you do if your home were blasted, would you retaliate?”  The peaceful can only ponder, what is this strange quest for justice?  Revenge?

“Don’t take vengeance and don’t bear a grudge against the members of your nation; love your neighbor as yourself”. (Leviticus 19:18.)

~ Torah

“Those who spend in ease as well as in adversity and those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men.”

~ Qur’an

Religious References . . .

“Right of Conscience” Protections; Be Patient

PrLf

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

She said, “If one is to pass, it will have to be my sister.”  Jennifer would not allow a baby to die.  Although the newborn had yet to take a single breath, and was still safely tucked away in her mother’s belly, Jenn decided the infant must live.  Had she been an employee of one of more than 584,000 health-care organizations her word would have been considered a “right of conscience.” Jenn would not be held responsible if she refused to treat the soon-to-be Mom who was also her sibling.

A Bush Administration rule would protect physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other employees who decline to participate in care they think ethically, morally or religiously objectionable, from any repercussions.

Medication, information, or any other assistance need not be given to someone a medical staffer considers immoral.  If the Bush Bill is allowed to stand, those who take the Hippocratic Oath and those who work with Doctors need not do a deed they believe violates personal beliefs.  On December 18, 2008, the White House decreed it would protect all Health Care Workers.  This provision is thought to be a gift from G-d for those who are as Jennifer was, pious believers.

As a devoutly religious soul, when confronted with the choice of who might live or who would die, Jennifer decided the relative she knew and loved for all her life could go.  Jenn announced, “Babs had been a beautiful child, terrific as a teen.  As an adult, Barbara was the best.  Her existence on Earth had been short.”  “Yet,” Jennifer cried with tears in her eyes, “Now, it is time for the baby to realize the joy of an Earthly existence.”  Jennifer had faith.  ‘G-d knows’ were the words she oft uttered.  It is not ours to question why.  “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed me the name of the Lord,” was the sentiment secure in the heart of one who saw herself as mere mortal.

However, hurt by the thought that their beloved Barbara might pass, and Jenn would embrace such an event, relatives attempted to reason with the woman who would refuse her own sister’s life.  Jennifer, certain of her “Right to Conscience,” made it clear she knew.  The baby-to-be must have the same chance to evolve that Barbara had.  She or he, since at that moment the sex of the fetus was unknown, must survive and thrive just as G-d planned.”  Jennifer reminded her relatives, “Barbara was in her twenties,” at the time of this crisis.  Jenn was near thirty, old enough to have experienced life, and established enough to be considered for her wisdom.  The religious woman recognized, she too had rights. Now, under the new Bush Administration imposed rule. Jennifer, or hospital staffs of today, will have more power to exercise their conscience then they had in the past.

Leavitt [Mike Leavitt, Secretary of the Department Health and Human Services, which issued the novel rule] initially said the regulation was intended primarily to protect workers who object to abortion. The final rule, however, affects a far broader array of services, protecting workers who do not wish to dispense birth control pills, Plan B emergency contraceptives and other forms of contraception they consider equivalent to abortion, or to inform patients where they might obtain such care. The rule could also protect workers who object to certain types of end-of-life care or to withdrawing care, or even perhaps providing care to unmarried people or gay men and lesbians.

While primarily aimed at doctors and nurses, it offers protection to anyone with a “reasonable” connection to objectionable care — including ultrasound technicians, nurses aides, secretaries and even janitors who might have to clean equipment used in procedures they deem objectionable.

However, in that moment, , the family was aghast.  They could not come to terms with what Jenn believed best.  Thankfully, Jennifer did not have the authority to choose what would be done, as medical workers might if the “Right to Conscience” is made law.  Family, and the patient herself, had the power to select what for them seemed the best treatment.

Apprehensive, as she contemplated assessments that seemed purely emotional, Jennifer, worked to put her personal feelings aside.  She trusted human sensibilities could not be her priority.    G-d would show her the way.

Her faith in the Almighty, and Jenn’s belief that a new life cannot be aborted, were her only considerations.  She had no animosity towards Barbara, not then, or ever.  Indeed, she loved her sister’s sensational soul.  Even in the moment she declared, it is better that Barbara’s life be sacrificed, Jenn thought of her young sibling as a close friend.  Yet, no matter how she felt about the person who was so real to her, Jennifer was sure G-d would want the newborn to survive.  “He” had given Babs a good life.  Now it was time for her to go home, to be with her savior once more.

It hurt Jenn’s heart to think of her sister’s departure.  When Babs was but a tot, Jennifer, the older sister, served as a second Mom to the sweet little bambina.  She was as fond of Barbara throughout their younger years, just as she was on that day. However, her affection for the woman who now held an infant in her womb could not negate what Jennifer thought G-d had decreed. A new life must not be killed.  

During that turbulent time, Jennifer might have said as Deirdre A. McQuade of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declared when news of the “Right of Conscience” proposal was released. “Individuals and institutions committed to healing should not be required to take the very human life that they are dedicated to protecting.”

This moral, ethical, Christian woman trusted as many do today; people enter this world and then, when they have completed their mission, the Lord invites them to return home to the heavens.  We all must depart when it is our time, Jennifer intellectualized, or justified what she thought to be true.  Had this conversation taken place in late December 2008 any hospital employee, even a hospital custodian could refuse Barbara care.  All those years ago, Jenn was certain she would have let her sister die.  

David Stevens of the Christian Medical Association would concur.  As the “Right of Conscience” becomes reality, a leader of the faithful reminds opponents, “We will do all in our power to ensure that health-care professionals have the same civil rights enjoyed by all Americans. These regulations are needed, do not change the law, but simply stop religious discrimination.”

Jenn did not think she needed to be a victim of circumstance.  She too would wish to invoke her “Right of Conscience.”   She did not share her family’s sense of fairness.  Favoritism for the born seemed principled to one so dutiful.  Jenn thought it essential to honor the divine, and not discriminate against her for the values she held dear.

An allowance for a mother did not make sense to Jenn when she was but a young lovely.  Nor does the unexpected exodus of a baby seem reasonable to the more mature Jennifer.  Nonetheless, the daughter of Eve, who today maintains her faith in Jesus wonders whether a medical professional should have the power to chose what is right for another human being.  At this time in her life, Jennifer fears what would have been had the “protection” for someone such as her been in place.  Today, she inquires; what of the patient.

As she aged, Jennifer experienced what she could not have imagined all those years earlier.  Barbara, who lived, gave birth to one, then another bouncing beautiful baby.  As an Aunt, Jenn learned to love these children as if they were her own.  Upon reflection, she felt sorrow when she thought of what she might have missed had her sister passed.  Time with her treasured sibling Babs had truly been a treasure.

Jennifer also realized she was the Aunt to a lesbian woman.  No, the niece was not Barbara’s daughter.  Jenn’s sister Kathy had two children.  Susan, born before Babs was ever pregnant, developed into an intelligent, insightful, inspirational female whose gender preference was also female.

Years ago the religious person she is would have perhaps rejected and other relative.  However, she could not.  It was never a thought in her mind.  Jennifer helped raise the younger lady, now classified as gay.  Oh, how she was.  Susan was and is a bundle of joy.  Yet, a hospital worker may think her gender preference alone is despicable.  Jenn wondered of the care her loved one might not receive in a time of need.  She knew that a “Right of Conscience” provision might protect a physician, a nurse, a pharmacist or a janitor, but what would become of Susan if she were to be hospitalized or even enter a clinic for emergency care,

Then there was Susan’ significant other to consider.  The two became Mom’s, twice.  Susan carried each child to term.  Their children, conceived through artificial insemination, were the apples of Jenn’s eye.   What might have been were a medical worker to invoke her or his “right of Conscience” when Susan was a patient.  Great Aunt Jennifer shudders to think.  Instead, she takes pleasure in the time she spends with the littlest ones.  She frequently volunteers to baby-sit for children who, had a health care worker snubbed Susan, might not exist.  

Jenn has come to realize she feels no obligation to be there for her family, gay or straight.  She no longer ponders protections from what the Almighty did not prevent.  Her conscience is not troubled by the circumstances.  Jennifer had grown to see G-d, and all life in a different light.  Perchance Jenn thinks, she had become more enlightened.  However, no one could have told her then, when Babs first baby was born, that one day her beliefs might change.

Often, over the years Jenn had to grapple with her truth.  She remained forever faithful to the Lord and his teachings.  Tradition, for her was paramount.  She did not think herself omnipotent; yet, earlier in her life she was certain of what was right.  Her scruples dictated her decisions, and Jenn, of then, was decisive.

Today, as she is confronted with novel truths, she wonders of what might have been the error of her ways.  More than one physician has advised Jenn to seek relief for feminine problems.  Although, she is considered a middle age woman, Jennifer has only engaged in intimate sexual contact with one man, and even then, for only one year of her life.  Near celibate, it has been a score since Jennifer might have thought to use a contraceptive to avoid pregnancy.  Today, however, she is urged to ingest the birth control pill.  Were it not for the pain she experiences without the medication, Jenn would simply say “No!”

After much personal conflict, trials, and tribulations, Jennifer decided she would succumb. Yet, as she attempts to fill her prescription she is confronted with what was once her truth.  Might this believer in G-d repeat, “We reap what we sow.”  Jenn who teaches in a Catholic institution cannot obtain medicine that might prevent fertilization of an egg.  That she has no eggs to fertilize is for her Insurer and employer a moot point.  The Bush Administration thinks the regulations that restrict Jenn are just.

The rule comes at a time of increasingly frequent reports of conflicts between health-care workers and patients. Pharmacists have turned away women seeking birth control and morning-after emergency contraception pills. Fertility doctors have refused to help unmarried women and lesbians conceive by artificial insemination. Catholic hospitals refuse to provide the morning-after pill and to perform abortions and sterilizations.

Experts predict the issue could escalate sharply if a broad array of therapies becomes available using embryonic stem cells, which are controversial because they are obtained by destroying very early embryos. Obama is poised to lift the Bush administration’s restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

“Doctors and other health-care providers should not be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience,” said Mike Leavitt, Secretary of the Department Health and Human Services.

As Jennifer reflects, she knows not whether to laugh or cry.  She has rights; she has a conscience.  Yet, she has discovered one may not preclude the other.  She wonders how many will realize as she has before it is too late.  How many might die at the hands of professionals who think themselves principled.

References for Rights and Conscience . . .

Does It Matter?




To view the original art, please travel to “Does It Matter?”

Art; copyright © 2006.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

Article; copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Today, just as every Saturday, at a local intersection, I stood vigil for war veterans, civilians and soldiers.  As I held a sign which reads “Love.  Not War.  Love,” I contemplated the combat overseas, the recent tragedy in Mumbai, India, the protracted wars in Iraq, Afghanistan.  The situations in Israel and Iran, were not far from my consciousness.  Threats and acts of terrorism, nations in turmoil; thoughts of a desired global tranquility filled my mind.  I imagined, as I do daily, a transition, and a hopeful worldwide transformation towards peace.

As I pondered the profound, a man in a very large Sports Utility Vehicle stopped near me. He rolled down his car window. The gent was perhaps in his forties, well-groomed, and thankfully polite.  Calmly, concerned, and a bit critical of what he seemed to think my naivety. this anonymous chap announced, “What would you do if they came on to our shores and attacked us.”  

Without a thought I said, “Violence begets violence.”  He repeated his query and expanded the thought.  “Would you not fight back?” I reflected on what I observe to be true.  People kill other people in the name of peace.  Christians, Muslims, Jews proclaim a love of the Lord and all mankind, except when they define another as the enemy.  I stated, “I would wonder of their reasons. Might they believe we had done them harm.”  Agitated, the stranger shrieked, “Do you mean to say that we, Americans are to blame?” Without hesitation I responded, “No.”  I than shared, “I believe as my grandfather taught me, ‘Two wrongs do not make a right.'”  Seemingly in a huff, the man quickly sped away.

As an afterthought, I realized I might have asked as Andrew Wahl had more than two years ago; “Does It Matter?” (Archive No. 0626a)  Does it matter who assaulted whom first or last.  For me, it does not. Jew, Muslim, Christian, no matter the race or creed; a life is a life.  

I thank you Andrew for the illustration that speaks more than a thousand words might.

Teach Not Preach; the Prerequisite to Peace



Teaching Tolerance

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Imagine a world where all inhabitants did not fear strangers for everyone was familiar with the other.   When races and religions are integrated, not solely by means of a physical proximity, but also through empathy, tranquility is inevitable.  If we teach and do not preach, we may achieve world peace.  

Instruction is possibly the prerequisite to unity.

In my own life, in High School, a course in World Religions was offered.  The exploration was an elective.  I enrolled.  As I sat and studied each philosophical, theological principle, I marveled.  Our foundations are similar. No matter what any of us believes, basically we share standards.  Even an agnostic or an atheist honors ethics that mirror the values the most pious among us venerates.

I had not considered what occurred to me in my youth until I reflected on this CBS report, Teaching Not Preaching In California Bible Belt.  Perhaps my own education was edifying.  Illumination may have swept over me within the concrete confines of a classroom.  Perchance, as I gathered information and insights on religious rituals and realities, I realized we are one.   People in every country were and are connected.  The principles that we hold dear are common.  Possibly, this is why I have always believed peace is possible.  I learned the lesson.  We, worldwide, are alike.

For me, war has never been an option. G-d, Allah, the Lord, Jesus, Jehovah, the Almighty, Mohammad, Buddha, the forces that control the universe, chaos, and Thou embrace love.  When we identify with the other, we feel deep fondness.  Knowledge empowers, enlightens, and gives birth to beautiful bonds.  May harmony be with us all, brothers and sisters. Let us follow the lead of educators in Modesto, California.  Teach tolerance, better yet,  facilitate acceptance.  May we each help our neighbor, honor the principle understanding begets understanding.

For those unable to access the audio-visual presentation, I offer a sense of the serenity that can be. . .

(CBS)  Modesto is known as the bible belt of California. It has deep conservative roots in farmland and a vocal Evangelical community.

But increasingly, some less familiar notes are echoing through California’s Central Valley, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports.

Like many other places, Modesto is becoming more religiously diverse.

But unlike any other place, religion is a required course in high school here.

“We can’t preach, but we can teach,” teacher Yvonne Taylor said . . .

“And now we’re going to be looking at Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” Taylor said to her class.

Most schools studiously avoid religion. In fact, Modesto is the only public school district in America where students have to study all major religions to graduate.

“The United States is one of the most religious countries on Earth. And yet Americans know almost nothing about religion,” said Stephen Prothero, author of a new book, “Religious Literacy.”

Prothero believes Modesto should be a model for the country, because America is paying a price for knowing so little about the world’s religions.

“Religious illiteracy imperils our Democracy at home and it puts to a huge test our ability to conduct foreign policy overseas,” Prothero said . . .

But in Modesto, the lessons aren’t about distant cultures, so much as about the student at the next desk.

“So the only religion that actually requires the wearing of the turban would be what faith?” Taylor asked her students.

“Sikhs,” students answered.

Jaskirat Brar, a devout member of Modesto’s Sikh community, may stand out at Johansen High. But thanks to the world religions course he also fits in.

“Kids get to learn what I am and clear up misconceptions they have about me,” he said.

“Because we have the world religions course, the students are aware of what’s happening in our community and that certainly is something to celebrate,” Taylor said.

“Probably the best thing that I learned [is] how to respect the cultures and the religions and what they believe,” one student said.

“I was really glad that people are learning who I am and what I’m about,” said Doria Hohenlavuth, a Buddhist.

The city’s religious leaders have embraced the course . . .

At the city’s Sikh temple, Ravinder Singh Brar said: “The more we know about each other, the more friendly we are going to be.”

While there are many religions here, the goal is to create one community where everyone is accepted.

Issue Number One; Economic Insecurity Breeds Bigotry, Bias and Bitterness



Fear Itself

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

He was a beautiful bouncing baby boy.  He was born to two parents that love him dearly.  Even before his birth, indeed, prior to conception, this little fellow was the apple of his parent’s eyes.  His biological beginning was carefully calculated.  As the seeds of life developed into a bright-eyed baby, the people he now knows as Mom and Dad thought of little else but Maxwell.  The soon to be proud Papa and Momma anxiously anticipated the day they could hold this bundle of joy.  Each of his parents was eager to meet and greet the small, sweet face of the guy that they would call Max.  Maximum value, supreme significance, marvelously magnificent, all this was and would be their son.  After Max was delivered and during any political season, such as this, Mom and Dad feel certain Max is issue number one.

The guardians look over their angel.  They plan for his future, and they are apprehensive, just as their parents and grandparents were before them.  For generations the realities of daily life have shaped parental priorities.  First and foremost, families want to survive, to feel safe and secure.  Yet, much that accounts for stability is beyond the control of a parent or any single person.  Moms and Dads agonize, as do all individuals.  Economic, educational, environmental concerns have an effect on caregivers and all citizens.  Military engagements also affect households, even if only one lives within the domicile.  Mothers, fathers, and babies, boys or girls learn to fear.

Ultimately, in the course of a life, each individual will ask, how does any matter affect me, my family, and friends of mine?  Countless citizens sense we have loss the sense that within a society, each individual works for the commonweal.  The words of Thomas Paine On the Origin and Design of Government in General are principles from the past.  In America today, the common folk feel they can no longer trust the government.  In recent years, people profess too many promises were broken; lies were told.  Intelligence was not wise.  Still, Americans sense there is an enemy.

In the minds of most Americans, the foe exists outside self.  Few have fully internalized the truth of the words uttered by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  As people do, citizens in this country trust themselves.  People know their faith will guide them.  The Almighty will not disappoint them.  Proud of their personal strength and all they survived throughout the course of their lives, the American public, no matter their economic station believes their family will be fine.  All Americans trust in their ability to fight the opposition.  Residents in the United States are not afraid to take up arms if they need to protect themselves from evil forces.

Nevertheless, Americans are “bitter.”  People in the cities, the suburbs, and in the countryside, resent the precarious position their leaders have placed them in.  In the “Land of the free and home of the brave” the public is “looking for strong leadership from Washington.”  Individuals and communities recognize they cannot go it alone.  Sadly, those previously entrusted with Executive privileges have not served the common folk within the United States well.  Citizens have expressed their ample concern for quite a while and no one seems to hear the cries.  While some of the Presidential aspirants wish to believe Americans are not indignant . . .

Poll: 80% of Americans Dissatisfied

By Associate Press.

Time Magazine

April 4, 2008

(New York) – More than 80 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, the highest such number since the early 1990s, according to a new survey.

The CBS News-New York Times poll released Thursday showed 81 percent of respondents said they believed “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.”  That was up from 69 percent a year ago, and 35 percent in early 2002.

The survey comes as housing turmoil has rocked Wall Street amid an economic downturn.  The economy has surpassed the war in Iraq as the dominating issue of the U.S. presidential race, and there is now nearly a national consensus that the United States faces significant problems, the poll found.

A majority of Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school say the United States is headed in the wrong direction, according to the survey, which was published on The New York Times’ Web site.

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was doing better . . .

The poll also found that Americans blame government officials for the housing crisis more than banks or homebuyers and other borrowers. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers.

Americans favored help for people but not for financial institutions in assessing possible responses to the mortgage crisis.  A clear majority said they did not want the government to lend a hand to banks, even if the measures would help limit the depth of a recession.

Intellectually astute, each individual understands to his or her core, a country must work well as a whole.  If we act independently of others, with little regard for those who reside in our nation, we all will realize a reason to feel insecure.  No family can survive alone. Maxwell’s parents can plan and work to provide, but if the country suffers from a crisis, be it fiscal, a protracted feud, the cost of food, or fuel, the family will also find themselves in situation critical.

In a society, we are our neighbors’ keeper, for what affects those in adjacent abodes will influence us.  If one person is poor, so too is his brother.

The tenet is true in the abstract; it is also viable concretely.  We need only consider what occurs when one domicile on the block is in disrepair or foreclosure flourishes in an enclave.  Property values for all homes in the area plummet.  A family functions best as a unit.  A nation fares well when we are one.

Our most conservative estimates indicate that each conventional foreclosure within an eighth of a mile (essentially a city block) of a single-family home results in a 0.9 percent decline in value.  Cumulatively, this means that, for the entire city of Chicago, the 3,750 foreclosures in 1997 and 1998 are estimated to reduce nearby property values by more than $598 million, for an average cumulative single-family property value effect of $159,000 per foreclosure. This does not include effects on the values of condominiums, larger multifamily rental properties, and commercial buildings.

Less conservative estimates suggest that each conventional foreclosure within an eighth of a mile of a property results in a 1.136 percent decline in that property’s value and that each foreclosure from one-eighth to one-quarter mile away results in a 0.325 percent decline in value.  This less conservative finding corresponds to a city-wide loss in single-family property values of just over $1.39 billion. This corresponds to an average cumulative property value effect of more than $371,000 per foreclosure

In 2008, this consideration consumes millions of persons who thought they were safe and secure.  As the subprime debacle ripples through every community, people realize their very survival is at risk.  Everyone, even some of the elite now experience a profound sense of insecurity.  Again, people ask who or what might they trust.  The average American has faith only in what is familiar.  Max, Mom, and Dad, families turn to what is tried and true.  Whatever has protected them in the past, they hope, will save them from what is an uncertain future.

Certainly, people have no confidence in government.  Many are frustrated.  They resent those who placed them in such a precarious situation.  Mothers, fathers, sons such as Max, and daughters are reminded, without regulations only the few profit.  Dreams die.  Witness the subprime debacle.

Mortgage companies and banks, such as Wells Fargo, have twisted the average prime mortgage loan into something much more incapable of paying by the recipient, but profitable to the company. Subprime loans, as “adjustable rate mortgages,” are packed with deceiving modifications that have low “teaser” rates that expand in interest exponentially after an initial low pay period.  Families that have received Subprime loans have bit into a bitter center of the sugar-coated American dream.

Citizens in this once prosperous country wonder whether they will ever again be able to trust that they can aspire to greater heights.  Homes are no longer worth what they were at the time of purchase.  Payments on adjusted rate mortgages [ARM] are exorbitant and balloon expenditures are now due.  Americans feel pinched.  Businesses are also affected by a slowed economy and bad investments.  Bankruptcy is an option, although brutal.  As the cost of fuel and food rises, financial fears become more real.  Existence takes a toll.  As Americans assess the circumstances within their home region, they realize there is reason to hold on tightly to what they know and love.  

Perchance G-d and country are all citizens can believe in, and maybe there is no longer reason to believe either of these will save them.  Certainly, Administrations in the recent past and present have not protected us well.  After all, our Presidents, Congress, and the Federal Reserve were responsible for the Demise of Glass-Steagall Act.  This law once regulated banks and limited the conflicts of interest created when commercial depositories were permitted to underwrite stocks or bonds.  Without such oversight, Americans lost their security.  Survival no longer seems possible.  The American Dream is a nightmare.

The Next Slum?

By Christopher B. Leinberger

Atlantic Monthly

March 2008

Strange days are upon the residents of many a suburban cul-de-sac. Once-tidy yards have become overgrown, as the houses, they front have gone vacant. Signs of physical and social disorder are spreading.

At Windy Ridge, a recently built starter-home development seven miles northwest of Charlotte, North Carolina, 81 of the community’s 132 small, vinyl-sided houses were in foreclosure as of late last year. Vandals have kicked in doors and stripped the copper wire from vacant houses; drug users and homeless people have furtively moved in.  In December, after a stray bullet blasted through her son’s bedroom and into her own, Laurie Talbot, who’d moved to Windy Ridge from New York in 2005, told The Charlotte Observer, “I thought I’d bought a home in Pleasantville.  I never imagined in my wildest dreams that stuff like this would happen.”

In the Franklin Reserve neighborhood of Elk Grove, California, south of Sacramento, the houses are nicer than those at Windy Ridge-many once sold for well over $500,000-but the phenomenon is the same.  At the height of the boom, 10,000 new homes were built there in just four years. Now many are empty; renters of dubious character occupy others.  Graffiti, broken windows, and other markers of decay have multiplied.  Susan McDonald, president of the local residents’ association and an executive at a local bank, told the Associated Press, “There’s been gang activity.  Things have really been changing, the last few years.”

In the first half of last year, residential burglaries rose by 35 percent and robberies by 58 percent in suburban Lee County, Florida, where one in four houses stands empty. Charlotte’s crime rates have stayed flat overall in recent years-but from 2003 to 2006, in the 10 suburbs of the city that have experienced the highest foreclosure rates, crime rose 33 percent. Civic organizations in some suburbs have begun to mow the lawns around empty houses to keep up the appearance of stability. Police departments are mapping foreclosures in an effort to identify emerging criminal hot spots.

The decline of places like Windy Ridge and Franklin Reserve is usually attributed to the subprime-mortgage crisis, with its wave of foreclosures.  And the crisis has indeed catalyzed or intensified social problems in many communities. But the story of vacant suburban homes and declining suburban neighborhoods did not begin with the crisis, and will not end with it. A structural change is under way in the housing market-a major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work.  It has shaped the current downturn, steering some of the worst problems away from the cities and toward the suburban fringes.  And its effects will be felt more strongly, and more broadly, as the years pass. Its ultimate impact on the suburbs, and the cities, will be profound.

Perchance, more weighty than the influence of a social degradation on a community is the impression such dire circumstances leave on a little lad such as Maxwell. Young Max will learn, just as his parents had.  Likely, he too will come to believe that he can only depend on himself.  An older and wiser Max will not fully grasp how extraordinary he is, or perhaps he will know all to well that no matter how glorious he is, someone might jeopardize his stability.  No matter how well he lives his life, another force, power, person, or authority might cause his dreams to go awry.  

Maxwell sees how hard life is for his parents.  He comes to understand that he too will always and forever, need to prove his worth.  How else might he hold onto his job, his home, his money, or his sense of self?  For Maxwell, as for us, anyone, innocent as they may be, might seem a threat.  His Mom and Dad, fearful that they might lose their livelihood, health care benefits, the family home, and their ability to provide, let alone survive, teach their young son trepidation.

Mom and Dad look around the neighborhood and they see society is shifting.  People of other races, colors, and creeds are destined to overtake the white majority.  This can be nothing but trouble, or so they think.  Maxwell trusts this sentiment to be true.  The parents wonder; might immigration and  Free Trade deprive them of their life style?  In the United States, Anglo Americans react more to what they muse might be so.  However, ample evidence affirms the contrary.  A 2006 study, by the Pew Hispanic Center avows, the sudden rise in the foreign-born population does not negatively effect the employment of native-born workers.

Growth in the Foreign-Born Workforce and Employment of the Native Born

By Rakesh Kochhar, Associate Director for Research

Pew Hispanic Center

August 10, 2006

Rapid increases in the foreign-born population at the state level are not associated with negative effects on the employment of native-born workers, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center that examines data during the boom years of the 1990s and the downturn and recovery since 2000.

An analysis of the relationship between growth in the foreign-born population and the employment outcomes of native-born workers revealed wide variations across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. No consistent pattern emerges to show that native-born workers suffered or benefited from increased numbers of foreign-born workers . . .

The size of the foreign-born workforce is also unrelated to the employment prospects for native-born workers.  The relative youth and low levels of education among foreign workers also appear to have no bearing on the employment outcomes of native-born workers of similar schooling and age.

Nevertheless, people continue to fear what is less than familiar.  Maxwell’s mother and father often speak of the immigrants.  The words voiced are unkind.  Assessments often are unrealistic.  In this country, on this globe, our apprehensions, our insecurity, the fear that we might not survive divides us.  Self-surety is issue number one.  

When individuals do not feel as though all is fine, when distressed, emotional reactions may be exaggerated. Many persons prefer to deny that they feel distraught.  The press, the powerful, and persons who wish to be more prominent understand this.  Each is expert in the art of persuasion.  Tell us that we are doing well, that we are strong, that they will help bring certainty, security, and safety to our lives, and to our country, and we will croon along with them.

Anxious Americans, at home and abroad, such as the parents of young Maxwell attack.  Anyone can be considered the enemy.  Bankers, big business, bureaucrats, billionaire oil magnates, migrants, and of course, mutineers of Middle Eastern descent.  Our fellow citizens are easily terrorized, if not by the persons who they think might destroy the neighborhood, or take their job, the people who crashed a plane into the Twin Towers must be a target.  Since September 11, 2001, Maxwell parents have thought it wise to protect United States shores.

Some Americans say we must stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan.  These persons may fear terrorists from the Persian Gulf.  There is great consternation when people do not think they are physically safe.  

Citizens feel a greater concern when they discover the reasons we went to war are invalid.  Again, the people in this country recognize the adversary is the American Administration.  Lie by lie, the Iraq War Timeline reveals greater reason for antipathy.

Those who cite security and survival as the primary concern proclaim, “It is the economy.”  They say, this is the number one issue Americans must address.  Too many persons, today, cannot even live paycheck to paycheck.  Disposable income, discretionary spending, savings to fall back on are luxuries of the past.  People dream of the cushion they hope to create.  Yet, in the back of their minds, they fear.  Again,  foreclosures are in the forefront in people’s minds.  Many are mired in debt.  In February 2008, another sixty percent (60%) of Americans concluded they could no longer pay the mortgage.  Mortgage Woes Boost Credit Card Debt. Balances on charge cards cannot be reconciled.

Plastic Card Tricks

The New York Times

March 29, 2008

Americans are struggling with a very rocky economy while they are also holding almost $1 trillion in credit card debt. In most cases, those cards provide a little flexibility with the monthly bills. But an increasing number of people are defaulting because of the “tricks and traps” – soaring interest rates and hidden fees – in the credit card business.

Before more Americans get in so deep that they cannot dig out, Washington needs to change the way these companies do business to ensure that consumers are treated fairly.

The stories about deceptive practices are harrowing. At a recent news briefing in Washington, a Chicago man told about what happened when he charged a $12,000 home repair bill in 2000 on a card with an introductory interest rate of 4.25 percent. Despite his steady, on-time payments, the rate is now nearly 25 percent. And despite paying at least $15,360, he said that he had only paid off about $800 of his original debt.

Once more Americans are confronted with what causes great bitterness.  No one, not Congress, the companies that lend citizens cash, the corporate tycoons, or candidates can imagine why Americans might be bitter. None of these entities care enough to help the average Joe, Jane, Maxwell, or his parents.

Why might inhabitants in this Northern continent be cynical, or feel a need to cling to religion, weapons, or hostility.  Perhaps, these sanctuaries feel  more tangible.  Faith, as an arsenal, and anger too, are at least more affordable than other options.

Petroleum prices are also an issue of import.  Citizens cry, I now work for fuel.  Only four short month ago, oil hit $100 a barrel for the first time ever.  The rate charged for petroleum continues to climb.  Now the expense exceeds what was once unimaginable. The cost of crude is the cause.  The effect is, Mommy and Daddy do not drive much anymore.  Each trip is evaluated.  Carpools are common considerations.  Vacations are not thought vital.  Parents who had hoped to show Max the seashore this summer cannot keep the promise they made to themselves and their progeny.  Plans did not prove to be predictions.

In 2008, the inconceivable is classified as inevitable.  Scientists share a stingy assessment.  The environment is no longer stable.  Nor are our lives on the planet Earth.  We, worldwide, have passed the point of no return.  Globally, groups and individuals pooh-pooh this determination.  For them, immediate concerns take precedence over the future.  

The question we all inevitably ask, even if not expressed aloud, is, “Will I continue to exist?”  If so, “Will my family and I be comfortable?”  The answers shade our sense of what is right or wrong.  Maxwell hears his Mom and Dad speak of free trade.  This is another hazard that haunts them.

The link between economic integration and worker insecurity is also an essential element of explanations for patterns of public opposition to policies aimed at further liberalization of international trade, immigration, and foreign direct investment (FDI) in advanced economies. Economic insecurity may contribute to the backlash against globalization in at least two ways.  First is a direct effect in which individuals that perceive globalization to be contributing to their own economic insecurity are much more likely to develop policy attitudes against economic integration.

Second, if globalization limits the capacities of governments to provide social insurance, or is perceived to do so, then individuals may worry further about globalization and this effect is likely to be magnified if labor-market risks are heightened by global integration.

It seems every issue intimidates us.  Each challenges the security we crave.  All beckon us and cause us to question whether we, Maxwell, or his parents will survive.  Our serious fears force us to believe we must separate ourselves from others, from our brothers and sisters.  In an earlier speech, echoing the words of Franklin Roosevelt, the eloquent Barack Obama spoke of this situation and how our own anxiety harms us.[ The Presidential hopeful offered solutions.

[W]e need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all . . .

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.”  We do not need to recite here the history of racial [or economic] injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the [any] community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered  . . .

Legalized discrimination . . . That history helps explain the wealth and income gap  . . . and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity  . . . and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of [all] families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban [and now with “no new taxes” suburban] neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

Potential President Obama understands and hopes to help all American realize that we are one.  While this vocalization was meant to focus on the more obvious rift between the races, the Senator from Illinois, the community organizer, attempted to advance awareness for what troubles Americans as a whole.

In fact, a similar anger exists within [all] segments of the  . . . community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch.  They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.  They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense . . ..

Americans, no matter the color or circumstances might contemplate that anger is “often proved counterproductive” as are resentments.  These attitudes distract attention and widen any divide.  If Americans are to find a path to understanding, we must accept that our insecurity, our fears need not distract us.  We will survive if we work as one.

This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of [any child] black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem.  The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy . . ..

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics [poor and those the government classifies as affluent] who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life.  This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag.  We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

Today, we must be honest with ourselves.  We can admit that we are incensed, irritated, infuriated, and irate.  These feelings do not immobilize us.  Nor do we necessarily need to fight, and be combative.  It is time we teach Maxwell and also Maxine, distress can inspire us to dream the of impossible and make it our truth.  We, Americans can rise above our bitterness and build bridges to a fine future if we unite.

It is not elitist to speak truth.  It is ignorance and obfuscation to deny how we feel and what we fear.  We cannot change what we do not acknowledge.  Elusion will not bring bliss.  We may be insecure; we may question whether we can survive.  Indeed, if we act as we have in the past, if we focus on our faith and antipathy, there will be no reason to hope.  Americans, divisions have distracted us for too long.  To negate our natural response is to restrict our growth.  This time citizens of the United States, let us come together.  Bitterness can become sweet.

Sources of insecurity.  Resources for survival . . .

Jeremiah Wright Is Not The Problem

copyright © 2008 Forgiven.  The Disputed Truth

Why is it that in America we always look for the easy and the convenient.  We always want everything to fit into a nice neat box.  That’s right, no contemplative thought, no analyzing, just give it to me in a form that will not require a lot of work or thought on my part.  It is a simple task to chalk up the Reverend Jeremiah Wright as some angry black lunatic who is going to single handedly destroy the Obamania tour.  It is amazing to me how so many people blogging will write all these prose and essays extolling the virtues of the American electorate and how badly they want policy white papers and how hungry they are for detailed plans.  When the truth of the matter, as the fall-out from Reverend Wright has once again displayed, is that the majority of voters could care less about timetables and figures.  Not when there is some juicy story floating around about some crazy black man and his relationship to the leading Democratic Presidential contender.

For those who prefer to accept the Cliffs notes version of events I would suggest you not read any further, because that is not what I will provide.  What I will provide is a provocative analysis of the real underlying problem as to why we are having this dust up about a relatively small-time pastor.  You see the real problem has nothing to do with Jeremiah Wright.  The real problem was exposed 40 years ago by Dr. Martin Luther King in an interview he gave at Western Michigan University.  In the interview, Dr. King stated that the most segregated hour in America is Sunday morning.  You see the problem is that because we do not interact not only Monday through Friday, but also on Sunday we have no concept as to what each other are thinking.  We, as blacks are given a better glimpse into white society because we are bombarded with its images on a constant basis.  Whites on the other hand have little or no conception of what is going on in the black community aside from the caricatures from television and movies.

The Church in America as a whole has done little to reconcile and heal the wounds of the past.  The modern Church instead of preaching the Gospel has instead chose to preach the world.  Just the fact that we have a black Church and a white Church should be alarming to anyone who professes to be a Christian.  Many whites have asked how could Barack Obama have remained a member of his church when the minister was making the statements he was making.  Those of you who are not prejudice how could you have remained in families where racial slurs and prejudice where present?  I have known countless whites who have confessed that they have parents, brothers, or sisters have often times used racial slurs and had racial biases.  Or that they have attended social events and parties where there were no minorities present and the racial jokes and the N-word were being cast around like lures at a bass fishing tournament.  My point is that there is enough blame to go around and if we all just look into our own lives honestly we will see it.

The question I have is this.  If you are attending a church and you look around and everyone in that church looks like you and acts like you, then why are you there?  I present this question to both black and white.  Newsflash – If you call yourself a Christian and everyone at your church looks just like you then you are in the wrong church.  How can we expect to worship the same God when we can’t even come together and worship him here and now.  It is no wonder so many people have such bad opinions of Christians.  We preach togetherness and one Church, one Lord, and one God, but where is that unity on Sunday?  We each run off to our safe little church communities and talk about all of these virtues and once the sermon is over we climb right back into our cars and go right back to our segregated worlds.  The problem is not this one preacher, no my friends the problem is the Church as a whole in America.  If we are ever to overcome the many obstacles that divide us we must begin with the One who unites us.

Martin Luther King Jr. said America’s most segregated major institution is the church.

“At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation,” King said in 1963.  “This is tragic.  Nobody of honesty can overlook this.”

Only 7 percent of America’s churches are racially mixed.  On June 29, Biggers is planning a nationwide Mission Sunday.  He hopes to organize 1,000 churches across the United States to visit churches that “look different from one another.” News OK.com

How can this be?  We talk about love, honesty, and fairness yet we don’t have a clue how to worship God together.  The problem is hypocrisy in the Church.  Jesus had His harshest criticisms against hypocrites* because of their damaging effect on the Church.  Hypocrites destroy the Church from inside as well as outside.  They destroy it from the inside by undermining the faith of others.  How can I trust the preacher when he is running around with the deacon’s wife?  They destroy it from the outside by preventing those who want to join the Church from doing so.  Why should I join the Church when they are doing the exact same things that the world is doing?  I beseech anyone who claims to be a disciple of Christ to look back at what He did.  He went out into the world; he didn’t just stay in “His” community.  Can we not also do the same?  I would ask all true Christians and non-Christians alike to step out of your comfort zone and reach out to those who appear different from you.  You may be surprised how much they may be like you.

~ Matthew 23:13-36

False history gets made all day, any day,

the truth of the new is never on the news – Adrienne Rich

Trinity United Church of Christ; Pastor Wright Homilies and Hope



Audacity To Hope Jeremiah Wright Part 1

Please review and reflect upon the inspirational text.  Wright’s Sermon – “The Audacity To Hope”

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning.

~ Barack Obama [Senator and Potential President] March 18, 2008

When we are separate, our experience is never equal.  African-Americans mingle among the many Anglos in this country.  However, individuals with dark-complexions do not fully unite or fit into a society that segregates by color.  While Americans have forcibly progressed beyond the laws that allowed for racial discrimination, the bias and bigotry that filled the hearts of many citizens in the United States for centuries still thrives.  While we muse, we love thy neighbor, we react to those whose race is not our own.

Americans claim they are Christian, inclusive.  Indeed, we are a Judeo-Christian nation.  Yet, Jews are still scorned in America, as are people of any color that is other than a pinkish white.  Amongst Caucasians, the habit of hate has been passed on for generations.  Yet, when those whose skin is pale, hear the words of a Black man, a Reverend, Jeremiah Wright, who has been wounded by racism for all the years of his life, speak of his distress, they react as though they had never uttered a racial epithet in their lives.

The most respected Americans, white in color proclaim, “I have never heard such vile derisive language in an Anglo church.”  “No preacher, pastor, priest, or rabbi would ever express him or herself in such a loathsome manner.”  Shocked Caucasians inquire as if to invite a shared criticism, “Is this what Black people believe?”  If reasons are presented for such resentment, the response from self-righteous lovers of G-d and man is, “African-Americans are bigoted!”  “How dare they.”  The pink persons declare, “In the House of the Lord only words of love are spoken, at least that is the way it is in white churches, temples, and synagogues.”

However, this may not be the case.  Hate is harbored on every avenue in America, even in places of worship.  As Barack Obama dared to remind us, on Sundays African-Americans and Anglos who reside in the United States are perhaps more divided than they are on any other day.  The pale persons pray with those whose skin tone is similar to their own.  When we look at only the surface, all whites may appear equal; and they are in the eyes of the Almighty.  Yet, as humans gaze upon each other, they see differences.

A white man or woman, whose gender preference is unlike those of the self-ordained “absolved of all “sins” congregation may experience discrimination even in death.

Church learns vet was gay, cancels memorial

Texas congregation acted out of principle, not malice, pastor says

Associated Press.  MSNBC

August 11, 2007

Arlington, Texas – A megachurch canceled a memorial service for a Navy veteran 24 hours before it was to start because the deceased was gay.

Officials at the nondenominational High Point Church knew that Cecil Howard Sinclair was gay when they offered to host his service, said his sister, Kathleen Wright.  But after his obituary listed his life partner as one of his survivors, she said, it was called off.

“It’s a slap in the face.  It’s like, ‘Oh, we’re sorry he died, but he’s gay so we can’t help you,”‘ she said Friday. . .

Simons said the church believes homosexuality is a sin, and it would have appeared to endorse that lifestyle if the service had been held there.

“We did decline to host the service – not based on hatred, not based on discrimination, but based on principle,” Simons told The Associated Press.  “Had we known it on the day they first spoke about it – yes, we would have declined then.  It’s not that we didn’t love the family.”

Love rears its ugly head in many odd ways.  Fondness, in the form of fury and foment, is found on film throughout cyberspace.  As the “average” American bears witness, people, pale in color, have become a community of contempt.  Condescension is what appears in the Judeo-Christian churches throughout the land of the free.  Americans, be they  Jewish, Mormon, Protestant or Christian are calm when they contemplate the G-d and the all that he creates.  People are polite in public; however, when they are in the comfort of their homes they express what they claim is never stated.  The proper and pink teach their progeny to believe as they do.

The Year In Hate, 2005

A 5% annual increase in hate groups in 2005 caps a remarkable rise of 33% over the five-year period that began in 2000.

By Mark Potok

Intelligence Report

Southern Poverty Law

Spring 2006

Fueled by belligerent tactics and publicity stunts, the number of hate groups operating in the United States rose from 762 in 2004 to 803 last year, capping an increase of fully 33% over the five years since 2000.

The expansion of hate groups last year, documented by the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, seemed to be helped along by aggressive maneuvers that landed them on front pages and in national news broadcasts.  The National Socialist Movement, for instance, repeatedly made national news with provocative attempts to march through black, inner-city neighborhoods.  Other groups rallied with increasing fervor and frequency, and even undertook sure-to-infuriate campaigns like “Operation Schoolyard,” an attempt in the 2004-2005 school year to distribute 100,000 free racist music CDs to schoolchildren . . .  A growing Internet presence also helped groups’ propaganda to flourish; there were 524 hate sites counted in 2005, up 12% from 468 in 2004.

Yes, whites individuals and groups do indoctrinate their young.  The practice amid the pink population is as odious as they believe it is among African-Americans.  Whites are as blackened by bigotry as their brethren may be.  

Sadly, too frequently when we look upon another we see only what appears on the surface.  Just as the oppressed of one color or creed voices words that may be defined as dishonorable, so too do those in the supposed superior sect.  Each of us errors.  We are all emotional beings, complex and never viewed completely.  New York Times Columnist, Nicholas D. Kristof, addressed this truth in his recent editorial, Obama and Race.  The articulate author writes of what goes on within the walls of Trintiy United Church of Christ, Chicago, Illinois.

Many well-meaning Americans perceive Mr. Wright as fundamentally a hate-monger who preaches antagonism toward whites.  But those who know his church say that is an unrecognizable caricature: He is a complex figure and sometimes a reckless speaker, but one of his central messages is not anti-white hostility but black self-reliance.

“The big thing for Wright is hope,” said Martin Marty, one of America’s foremost theologians, who has known the Rev. Wright for 35 years and attended many of his services. “You hear ‘hope, hope, hope.’ Lots of ordinary people are there, and they’re there not to blast the whites. They’re there to get hope.”

Professor Marty said that as a white person, he sticks out in the largely black congregation but is always greeted with warmth and hospitality. “It’s not anti-white,” he said. “I don’t know anybody who’s white who walks out of there not feeling affirmed.”

Mr. Wright has indeed made some outrageous statements. But he should be judged as well by his actions – including a vigorous effort to address poverty, ill health, injustice and AIDS in his ministry. Mr. Wright has been frightfully wrong on many topics, but he was right on poverty, civil rights and compassion for AIDS victims.

What should draw much more scrutiny in this campaign than any pastor’s sermons is the candidates’ positions on education, health care and poverty – and their ability to put those policies in place. Cutting off health care benefits for low-income children strikes me as much more offensive than any inflammatory sermon.

Indeed, what is an affront to a person affected by a policy or practice is barely observable to one who will never realize how a political promise or lack thereof can destroy the life of those they love.  When in an impoverished community people depend on the kindness of a culture such as the society Thomas Paine described, one in which the commonweal was more important than the needs of any individual.  The disenfranchised rely on the good will of people who believe in the Lord, practice as Jesus preached, “Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Yet, inside and outside of a religious house, mere mortal man fails to adhere to the principles preached from the pulpit.  We need only remember the plight of a sweet young child, a twelve year old, Deamonte Driver who died of a toothache Sunday, February 25, 2007.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren’t so hard to find.

If his mother hadn’t been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte’s own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George’s County boy died.

Few in a white American world can imagine such a situation.  Certainly, a Caucasian churchgoer does not subscribe to the belief a child must suffer.  No clergy would caste a little one to the wolves or ask them to endure the burden of a national budget disagreement.  An ordained Minister, Reverend, Pastor, Priest, or Rabbi, a Shaman would not will a poverty-stricken parent, people within an impoverished community, or those not yet empowered, to care for a child without adequate means to assist the young person.  That is unless the religious leader is part of the “Fellowship” or “Family,” who congregates in Washington District of Columbia or other Capitols throughout the globe.

The Fellowship believes that the elite win power by the will of God, who uses them for his purposes. Its mission is to help the powerful understand their role in God’s plan.

This group of world leaders, the affluent and comfortable from Congress to the Cabinet, from the White House to the wondrous world of power elite, accepts as part of their mission, that those whose pigmentation is darker, or persons deemed to be of lesser value may be left to die when they no longer serve the “masters.”  This theological order differs from some of the other organized religion.

The Family avoids the word Christian but worships Jesus, though not the Jesus who promised the earth to the “meek.” They believe that, in mass societies, it’s only the elites who matter, the political leaders who can build God’s “dominion” on earth.  Insofar as the Family has a consistent philosophy, it’s all about power — cultivating it, building it and networking it together into ever-stronger units, or “cells.”  “We work with power where we can,” Doug Coe [Fellowship leader] has said, and “build new power where we can’t.”

 

African-Americans rarely and barely have authority equal to those of Anglos in this nation.  “Affirmative Action,” a policy established to appease those embarrassed by the actions of their ancestors, is granted and taken away.  Caucasians complain of “reverse racism,” for few can comprehend.

[B]lacks have not simply been treated unfairly; they have been subjected first to decades of slavery, and then to decades of second-class citizenship, widespread legalized discrimination, economic persecution, educational deprivation, and cultural stigmatization. They have been bought, sold, killed, beaten, raped, excluded, exploited, shamed, and scorned for a very long time.  The word “unfair” is hardly an adequate description of their experience, and the belated gift of “fairness” in the form of a resolution no longer to discriminate against them legally is hardly an adequate remedy for the deep disadvantages that the prior discrimination has produced. When the deck is stacked against you in more ways than you can even count, it is small consolation to hear that you are now free to enter the game and take your chances.

Chances are opportunities will be scant and tentative at that.  Former Congresswoman and Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro reminds us of this.  For the Clinton cohort, and a former member of the Clinton Finance Committee, Barack Obama, and perhaps all Black Americans are “lucky” to be where they are today.  For Ferraro, another Anglo American who evidently cannot connect to the experience of being poor or purplish-brown in hue, being Black in this country is apparently an advantage.  Perchance, it is a privilege to suffer at the hands of those in power, the people who do not wish to speak of their work or worship.  We cannot know.  For unlike the scenes seen in volumes of video in the worldwide web or in news network libraries, there are no recordings of what occurs in “Fellowship” [Family] meetings.  The “cells” remain cloistered, just as the rich do.

[T]he prayer groups have become cherished sanctuaries for their members-providing respite, however brief, from the cacophony of political Washington. Speaking about a group is strongly discouraged, and what transpires at meetings is strictly off the record.

No one will know if these elite powerbrokers express their racial hatred aloud.  One can only determine what is true through the policies these persons enact.  They may say they prayer for equality; however, the laws introduced and passed frequently, further disenfranchise the poor and people of color.

There is much evidence, anecdotal as the Ferraro affair may be, and research analysis, to suggest Caucasians in this country find it difficult to relate to the circumstances of those whose skin is a darker color.  The predicament of people whose skin gleams a brownish-purplish hue is incomprehensible to those who do not suffer from the effects of racism.

A Jew can pass amongst gentiles.  An Asian can climb, albeit inch-by-inch.  Hispanics are hindered in their assent; yet, not in the way a Black man or woman is. An African-American is never fully free from the stereotypes.  On screen dramas, depict African-Americans as villains.  The nightly news amplifies this message.  The public presumes if a crime is committed, certainly the lawbreaker will be Black.  

Our language leads us to believe black is bad.  White is good.  From childhood on Americans are indoctrinated.  Slavery may have ended with the Emancipation Proclamation; however, African-Americans remained incarcerated in caricatures.

From the introduction of animated film in the early 1900s to the 1950s, ethnic humor was a staple of American-made cartoons. Yet, as Christopher Lehman shows in this revealing study, the depiction of African Americans in particular became so inextricably linked to the cartoon medium as to influence its evolution through those five decades. He argues that what is in many ways most distinctive about American animation reflects white animators’ visual interpretations of African American cultural expression.

The first American animators drew on popular black representations, many of which were caricatures rooted in the culture of southern slavery. During the 1920s, the advent of the sound-synchronized cartoon inspired animators to blend antebellum-era black stereotypes with the modern black cultural expressions of jazz musicians and Hollywood actors. When the film industry set out to desexualize movies through the imposition of the Hays Code in the early 1930s, it regulated the portrayal of African Americans largely by segregating black characters from others, especially white females. At the same time, animators found new ways to exploit the popularity of African American culture by creating animal characters like Bugs Bunny who exhibited characteristics associated with African Americans without being identifiably black.

By the 1950s, protests from civil rights activists and the growing popularity of white cartoon characters led animators away from much of the black representation on which they had built the medium.  Even so, animated films today continue to portray African American characters and culture, and not necessarily in a favorable light.

Perhaps, the portrayals burned into our brains, when we were toddlers, those heard in church, in homes, in movie theatres, and on televisions, helps to explain why Anglo Americans cannot imagine what it like to be Black in America.  Few Caucasians have experienced the pain of prejudice.  Pinkish people cannot comprehend what it feels like to consistently be a victim of avoidance.  An Anglo does not think that their mere appearance might threaten another.  White people walk down the street without a care.  No one crosses the boulevard in order to steer clear of them as happens frequently to a Black man or woman approaching from the other direction.

Anglos do not know what it feels like to be shunned, snubbed, or scorned because your skin is dark.  Caucasians cannot pretend to know how what some say is a tease is truly a threat.  When Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman smiled and suggested today’s young players should “lynch Tiger Woods in a back alley,” African-Americans did not laugh. A noose in the neighborhood can cause ones’ blood to curdle.  A word as vile as n*gg*r, does not cut to the core of a white man or woman who has never lost a loved-one to brutal aggressions based only on race.  There is much the white world does not realize or rationalize as they sit in their ivory churches.

To whites, for example, it has been shocking to hear Mr. Wright suggest that the AIDS virus was released as a deliberate government plot to kill black people.

That may be an absurd view in white circles, but a 1990 survey found that 30 percent of African-Americans believed this was at least plausible.

“That’s a real standard belief,” noted Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a political scientist at Princeton (and former member of Trinity church, when she lived in Chicago). “One of the things fascinating to me watching these responses to Jeremiah Wright is that white Americans find his beliefs so fringe or so extreme. When if you’ve spent time in black communities, they are not shared by everyone, but they are pretty common beliefs.”

This thought is not merely a personal opinion, research documents the truth of this assessment.  White Americans don’t truly comprehend racial disparities in our country.  Philip Mazzocco, co-author of the a study titled, Whites Underestimate the Costs of Being Black, and Assistant Professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus states, “The costs of being black in our society are very well documented.”  “Blacks have significantly lower income and wealth, higher levels of poverty, and even shorter life spans, among many other disparities, compared to whites.”  Researcher Mazzocco avows, “white households average about $150,000 more wealth than the typical black family.” Overall, the total assets for an Anglo family are about five times greater than that of an African-American family.  The disparity seems a constant in American history.  The chasm has persisted for years.  Mazzocco said. . . .

“When white Americans find it within themselves to say ‘I must be compensated for a past injustice done to me’ but the same logic evaporates when the injustice concerns black Americans, they are staring straight at bias,” Banaji [co-author Mahzarin Banaji, the Cabot Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University] said.

What is good for thou, is not tolerable for thee.  Hypocrisy is a theme we know all too well.  We witness it here in America.  We hear charlatan expressions in our daily lives.  Is this not the concern Caucasians present, when they criticize Reverend Wright?

Opportunely, those who protest too much forget the numerous groups who hate in the name of G-d, or the “Family” formed amongst the elite.  Nonetheless, pinkish people preach; white worshipers never speak words of woe, or wrath.  The Judeo-Christian clergy, and the congregation, at least when in church, do not speak badly of their brethren.  If only Jesus had known.  The Son of the Holy Father may not have felt a need to warn the hypocrites.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

~ Matthew 7:1-5 RSV

Perhaps, our best teachers, those who see most clearly, understand the complexity that is humankind.  Perchance, a parishioner hears what is truly said.  One with love in his or her heart does not hear the gospel as a reason for grief.  He, or she, the commoners within a congregation may understand the clergyman in a manner consistent with the whole being that stands before them each and every Sunday.  It seems Kennise M Herring, an “average” disciple of Jeremiah Wright lives the lessons of the Lord more fully than those who gather in gentler, kinder  churches.

I am a member of Trinity United Church of Christ and have been for 17 years.  Interestingly, I’ve never seen Barack in church, which may simply speak to the fact that there are 3 sermons and our family attends a different service than the Obama family.

I was in attendance in the sermon after 9/11 that has been circulated.  Ironically, I felt soothed following that sermon.  I certainly remembered upon viewing the clips the infamous God Damn America comments, but that is not what stood out for me in that service.  At the start of the service, Reverend Wright spoke poignantly about his fears as he was in New York on that fateful day.  He spoke about the tremendous pain he observed, the evil and horror of the event and of his personal realization that he may never get to tell all of us how much he loved us.  He spoke of realizing that his life with his family was not guaranteed and that he could not take anything for granted.  He made a commitment to tell us at each service that he loved us and I experienced his words-I love you-simply and freely offered as real and soothing.

Yes-he spoke about policy matters and clearly used strong language but at the time, neither I or my three children or my husband found it the salient part of the talk.  Despite the strong rhetoric, I left church feeling that “there is a balm in Gilead.”  Reverend Wright delivered the eulogy at my aunt’s funeral and it is not hyperbole to say that I was more moved by his words than I have ever been at a funeral.  He was warm, compassionate, empathic, and genuinely sad for as he said repeatedly about my aunt, “this was not ordinary parishioner, this was my friend.”

Reverend Wright frequently chided those of us too constricted to freely experience the passion often evident in the sanctuary and suggested that we were too educated to show our love for Jesus.  I, being one of the more reserved-ok-constricted ones simply smiled for I longed for the kind of intimate, passionate relationship with God that he seems to have cultivated with God.

In finishing, I have seen this man on too many occasions do too much that is good and meaningful.  He is imperfect-he will tell you that in a minute but I am certain in my core that he is doing God’s work and he loves God’s children even if he is disgusted by their behavior at times.

There are two Americas and the one I occupy is often invisible.  How I wish that the peek inside my world had offered a fuller portrait of this man and not the caricature.

Might the Anglo individuals who dwell in the more visible America, assess their own passion, principles, and preachers.  Might Caucasians consider the hypocrisy that lives within them and their clergy.  Would white Americans be willing to judge one of their own people as harshly as they do Barack Obama or his Pastor, Reverend Wright?  

Would Anglo Americans condemn one of the most profound and powerful Senators, Presidential aspirant Hillary Rodham Clinton for her affiliation with the “Fellowship?”  Potential President Barack Obama “condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy.”  Yet, Hillary Rodham Clinton, an active participant of the “most elite cell” [their term]  says nothing of the fact that . . .

The Family takes credit for some of Clinton’s rightward legislative tendencies, including her support for a law guaranteeing “religious freedom” in the workplace, such as for pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions and police officers who refuse to guard abortion clinics.

The former First Lady, Caucasian Clinton may not have considered how these laws affect those in the Black community.  Certainly, one would imagine that the Senator, a scholar would understand that without birth control, abortions are more likely.  Perhaps, she, as most Anglo Americans is unfamiliar with a life that differs from her own.  

As an elite, among the “Family” Hillary Clinton may not have experienced the hurt that is an African-American’s life.  Those in Black neighborhoods have limited access to pharmacists and clinics.  The notion that African-Americans might shop around for someone to serve them is absurd.  We need only consider the availability of viable transportation, the cost to travel, and the ultimate truth, the quality of health care services.  Those whose complexion is dark in color remain separate and unequal in an America dominated by the affluent who are lighter in color and pray within a selective Fellowship.

Perchance, prosperous persons, members of the Family “cells,” people such as Senator Clinton, do not rant and rage as they reflect on racism.  They cannot; they do not relate.  These prominent individuals do not need to discuss their mediation which remains publicly unmentionable.  They to talk of prejudice or the policies they ratify in order to retain power.  Possibly, affluent Anglos and those who merely wish to appear proper do not need to speak of the strife that is their life in church, synagogues, or temples, for their situation does not compare.

For most Caucasians and for former First Lady Clinton, church conversations are yet to be called into question.  However, we might wonder, what if Senator Clinton’s religious beliefs, her practices, and her pastor are not subjects of scrutiny.  What if all Anglos were subject to such severe scrutiny?  Might the discussion help eliminate the disdain?  Could empathy be the cure for what ails America.  Barack Obama asked us to consider that possibility.  Yet, apparently the request is denied.

Churchgoers in the white community continue to think they do not speak of cruelties committed against them, few as these may be.  These pious people truly believe they live by the Golden Rule, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Sadly, it seems Anglos do not wish to discuss hypocrisy either.  Perhaps, those with paler complexions should.  From Americans reaction to the topic of racism, it is obvious, parishioners in pinkish neighborhoods still have much to learn of the Lord and the lessons he hoped to impart.



Audacity To Hope Jeremiah Wright Part 2

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Please review and reflect upon the inspirational text. Wright’s Sermon – “The Audacity To Hope”

Sermons, Sources, A Search for Truth and Hope . . .