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Over the past several months I have tried to put into words the reasons why Donald Trump should not be the Republican nominee, and the level of existential danger his candidacy poses to this nation and to the world. I have explained this to friends and acquaintances who were or are on the fence either about Trump himself or whether or not they should/could/would vote for the only individual who, based on the reality of electoral college mathematics, stands between us and this unbelievable peril.

This editorial by the Washington Post lays it out far better than I can.  As they put it:

” . . .  In an ordinary election year, we would acknowledge the Republican nominee, move on to the Democratic convention and spend the following months, like other voters, evaluating the candidates’ performance in debates, on the stump and in position papers. This year we will follow the campaign as always, offering honest views on all the candidates. But we cannot salute the Republican nominee or pretend that we might endorse him this fall. A Trump presidency would be dangerous for the nation and the world.”

Cutting through the smokescreen of falsehoods and fallacies the Post editorial board has written an indictment of this man who must be prevented from coming anywhere near 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Regardless of your party affiliation please read this, and if you share anything of a political nature please share this on Facebook or on your Twitter feed.

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Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy
The Washington Post


https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/opinions/donald-trump-is-a-unique-threat-to-american-democracy/2016/07/22/a6d823cc-4f4f-11e6-aa14-e0c1087f7583_story.html#

stonewall

I’ve had several requests to share the text of the sermon I delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Meriden (Connecticut) on July 10th.  By way of explanation, lay-led worship is a long-standing tradition in many Unitarian Universalist congregations and the sense of shared ministry runs deep in our roots.  The idea for this sermon came to me in the aftermath of the Brexit vote to sever the ties between the United Kingdom and the European Union as well as in the context of the current debate in this country about building walls and excluding those who are not “like us” and who are perceived by some as posing an existential danger.

I had no way of knowing at the time I began preparing the sermon of the events that would take place between then and when I was to deliver it, particularly the police shootings of two more black men and the subsequent massacre of five police officers in Dallas Texas just two days prior to this service, leaving those in attendance this Sunday feeling wounded and raw.

Early in the service I shared the poem, “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost.  For those not familiar with this work it might be helpful to read it first HERE as my words refer back to his idea that, “Something there is that does not love a wall, and wants it down.”  and to his questioning the need for the walls we erect.

“Bridges and Walls” – Jeff May
Delivered July 10, 2016
The Unitarian Universalist Church in Meriden

 

“. . .  But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.”           – (Robert Frost)

 

The house I grew up in had an old stone wall in the back yard.  It was a pretty substantial stone wall, and it ran quite a distance, marking the boundary between not only our yard but the yards of our neighbors and the land beyond, some overgrown former pasture, some wooded with evergreen and oak that my mom used to call “the deep dark green forest”.

Like the wall in Frost’s poem this one had gaps from frost heaves no doubt, and those from children like myself.  Like Frost’s wall it no longer served the purpose for which it had originally been constructed.  Mr. Hunter, who apparently had once owned all of the land including that on which our neighborhood had been constructed and whose name the street we lived on, “Huntervale Avenue” bore – had long since passed away by the time I came along.  The cows that had once roamed his pasture beyond the wall were gone and in their place thickets and brambles had grown, stands of pine and scrub maple in which we would create our make-believe fortresses and villages, wild blueberry bushes – tall shrubs and low ground plants ripe for the picking in the summertime.  Here there was a stream passing under an ancient rock bridge along a winding path.  We used to make “boats” out of sticks placing them in the water upstream, then moving quickly to the other side to watch them emerge from beneath the giant stones as the lazy stream took them on its journey toward Eel Pond and the ocean at Sawyers Beach.

Bridges and walls.

When a wall is constructed it is generally put there for a purpose.  Our houses have walls marking the boundary between inside and out, between dry and wet, warm and cold or hot, and surely walling out insects, mice, mischievous chipmunks and squirrels, and marking the private place that is our castle – our space for family and into which we sometime invite friends.  Inside our walls we make the rules of how we work and play, how we interact with one-another, when and what we eat, when we rise and when we sleep.

Ancient cities often had walls.  The oldest we know of was the wall around the Neolithic city of Jericho dating to some 8000 years before the common era – long before the other wall by that name central to the story in the Biblical book of Joshua – and probably built, according to archeologists, for some combination of flood control and defense against hostile tribes, but like all such walls whether after decades, centuries, or millennia it fell into disuse and disrepair and like the later wall in that place of legend, like the wall in Frost’s narrative, like the walls around pastures and fields, the walls around states and nations this wall came tumbling down, stone by stone until finally it was no more.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.”

As Frost suggests, when we build a wall it is important to consider what it is we are walling in, what it is we are walling out, and whom as he asks, we are likely to offend.  In our current political debate there are those who call for the construction of a great wall between this nation and our neighbor to the south – a wall to keep out people who apparently are so different from us, so frightening, such a threat to our way of life.  I shall not bother to repeat the vile characterization of our neighbors used by the most vocal of these current wall proponents.  It is, we are told, because these neighbors will come to take our jobs.  I have friends in California who insist that this is so, but is it really about jobs or economics?

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.”

Are those who live beyond this boundary to be walled off, on the other side of the Rio Grande or that sharper, more arbitrary line with a few angular jogs between El Paso and San Diego – are those people so different from ourselves?  And what threat do they pose that we should build such a wall?  Is it actually the taking of employment desired by “worthy Americans” we seek to protect, or is it really something else, something harder to define?  Is it really a wall of economics or is it more a wall of culture constructed out of fear that “our way of life” is being threatened by those who speak another language, whose customs differ from those passed to us by our European forebears?

We build walls – real and virtual, communal and personal, physical and psychological to mark the boundaries between safe and threatening, me and thee, mine and yours, us and them.  And certainly there is a need for boundaries – for a safety zone within and around our own skin defining our personal space.  But when we build walls we really need to ask – and be honest with ourselves what it is we are actually walling in or walling out and if the wall we are building is likely to be successful or be filled with gaps.  In a world ever more connected by technology enabling easy travel and technology facilitating instant communication of ideas, the notion that we can build a wall like our Neolithic forebears to preserve the comfortable and familiar against the different and the alien is both ludicrous and futile.  These walls have been breached ere they have been constructed and are porous from their conception.  Our cultures are merged and continue to merge, our ways of life are evolving as we ultimately realize and experience our common humanity.  As dark as it may seem right now, this is a step along the way to the aspirational Sixth Principle of Unitarian Universalism, “The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all”.

The Rev. Sean Parker Dennison, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Tree of Life congregation in McHenry, IL writes,

“The sixth Principle seems extravagant in its hopefulness and improbable in its prospects. Can we continue to say we want ‘world community’? ‘Peace, liberty, and justice for all’? The world is full of genocide, abuse, terror, and war. What have we gotten ourselves into?

“As naïve or impossible as the sixth Principle may seem, I’m not willing to give up on it. In the face of our culture’s apathy and fear, I want to imagine and help create a powerful vision of peace by peaceful means, liberty by liberatory means, justice by just means. I want us to believe—and to live as if we believe—that a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all is possible. There is no guarantee that we will succeed, but I can assure you that we will improve ourselves and improve the world by trying.”

I began writing these remarks several weeks ago – born of frustration with the current political dialog and what I believe to be the preposterous notion that we are better when we are separate.  It gained focus in my mind with the vote of Great Britain to sever the bridge so carefully constructed with the rest of Europe; and like the proposed wall between this country and Mexico ostensibly to protect Britain from the threat of refugees that might carry the seeds terrorism and threaten jobs and the economy, but likewise really an attempt to retain a sense of autonomy – the way it used to be.

Make England great again.

Make America great again.

But in reality is this really possible?  Can we really turn back the hands of time to the days of nation states containing tribal members who look alike and whose habits and language and cuisine and religions are uniform and unquestioned within the secure walls of national identity?

And to what would we go back?   Back to a day when black people were enslaved and treated as property?  Back to a day before workers had rights?  Was America greater when those who are gay and lesbian lived in the shadows and were denied the right to marry who they love?

What great America would we return to?

What great Britain would they return to?

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.”

In the past week our senses have been violated yet again – and multiple times by more of our black brothers being killed under the guise of law enforcement, and by those whose uncontrolled anger causes them to strike back and kill those whose job it is to protect and provide security.

So frequent are these atrocities that we can scarcely name them all.  We wake up each morning wondering what form of brutality we will hear about, what innocents will have perished, what children will be fatherless, motherless, botherless, sisterless.

And then we log on to social media, we watch our Facebook feeds streaming with memes bearing slogans defending one side or the other of the social debate – attempting to claim that Black Lives Mater is an affront to other lives or an attack on law enforcement, smearing half-truths and outright falsehoods across the digital landscape in an effort to stake sides in the battle between the way the world is and must go, and the way it used to be, or at least our romanticized imagination of a better time now lost.  And in our frustration and out of our own fear and rage and desire to feel safe we burrow ourselves in our own safe psychological wall – shouting back across cyberspace, friending those with whom we agree and viscously lashing out at those on the other side, fortifying our walls of difference and tearing down the bridges of connection.

“If you talk about that again, I’ll unfriend you!”

Until about six months ago I was not a Facebook user – I somewhat famously avoided it, and in the interest of time I won’t relate the journey that brought me to that platform right now, but as a consequence of becoming a Facebook user I have renewed connections with family members I haven’t spoken with in years, and friends and acquaintances from long ago.  One such acquaintance – a woman named Barbara – was a girl I went to school with from the time I was in first grade.  Now living in California she and I have reconnected, and while most of our exchanges have been cordial we differ significantly in our political and religious outlooks, she rather conservative in both regards and I, as most of you are aware quite liberal and progressive.  Last week in response to a meme she shared regarding the FBI decision in the supposed email scandal. I responded that I differed in opinion, posting a link to an article I had written on my blog a few days before, addressing this particular issue.  She posted the following on her timeline:

“A fellow FB friend posted today about moving on with the conversation regarding the political arena. 
This is what I have say.

You may not agree with me, you may not like what i have to say and you have that right as I have the same right to say…

Power To The People

My ancestors came over to this Country for purposes that this Country is so far away from that they are rolling over in their graves! How is it you are willing to say move on!

For the people, by the people!

We have been so complacent over the years that we/I, actually think my “Voice Matters”! Not

And to my original comment on her meme she replied, “Jeff I’m sorry –  I don’t see things the way you do.”

I responded:

“That’s quite okay . . . we’re allowed to differ.

And to a point I saw you post elsewhere, I didn’t say “move on”, and I am not implying that people shouldn’t speak up for what they believe in. I’m also not suggesting we ignore the problems and challenges. I believe you finished that post with the imperative, “Say what you mean, mean what you say.”

Exactly.”

I went on to explain how the debates that we were having struck me as superficial, and that what we seemed to be arguing about was not really what we were arguing about, and then continued:

“My point is that there are very real challenges we face both here and abroad and instead of talking about those challenges in a meaningful way we (as a society) are expending most of our energy arguing about peripheral issues trying to inflict wounds on the “other side”. I don’t care for either of the two major candidates we are presented with. I believe America can do far better and I believe we need far better – but the system we have in place leaves us with the choices we have, in no small part because we allow our dialog to be limited to partisan barbs that can fit in a 140 character tweet or fit on a 300 x 400 meme.

All of this is a long way of saying that I’m not suggesting that we move on, I’m suggesting that we move deeper.”

Her response was heartening –

 “Thank you Jeffrey for sharing. I better understand now what your post meant. Thank you God for bringing further answers to that of which I was needing. I appreciate your words Jeff.”

No, Barbara and I still don’t see eye-to-eye, but now we are talking – building a bridge where there was the potential of having a wall.  Continuing the type of connection and conversation we need to have with each other in these unsettling times.  Conversations we all need to have if we are to move through these unsettling times.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.”

We move closer to the vision, aspirational and inspirational of our Sixth Principle when each of us, takes the risk to reach beyond our individual perspectives, place ourselves in the heart of another – not surrendering our own identity or our own truth – but allowing the other person space within their own personal wall for their truth.

In the words of a benediction familiar to some of us here:

“Despite our differences and beyond our diversity there lies a unity that makes us one and binds us forever together, in spite of time and death, and the space between the stars.”

There is hope.  We are hope’s agents.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.”

Each of us can choose to build a wall, or build a bridge this day and each day.

Let us be conscious in each moment of how we make that choice.

And may you live in blessing.


stone-wall

 

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”
                         – Robert Frost

Here in  New England they are ubiquitous lines of stacked stone which wind along country roads and are sometimes found deep in the woods, often marking the boundaries of what used to be farms long since overgrown in birch, maple, and pine.  Closer to civilization these walls may be well maintained, perfectly shaped stones interlocked to form an architectural masterpiece upon which one might set a level and have the bubble float squarely in the center.

Robert Frost, the 20th century poet who loved this place and knew the trails and woods of the New England landscape intimately, penned “Mending Wall” in 1914.  Textured, multilayered, and as complex as a Vermont stone wall as it is with so much of Frost’s poetry,  Mending Wall builds these iconic structures of granite and limestone into a metaphor for human relationship and boundaries – both personal and societal, and calls us to think closely about how we apply  the wisdom of ages and adages passed down by way of our forebears.

“One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.”

 This poem, taught to me by my mother when I was a child of perhaps 11 or 12 growing up in a small New Hampshire town comes to mind in light of current events;  the calls by one who would pretend to be our next President for a mighty wall between the United States and our next-door neighbor Mexico, and the somewhat more virtual  one erected in the minds of Britons with their recent decision to separate themselves from the European Union.

“Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall . . .”

It being one week before the Forth of July the sounds of fireworks in nearby back yards punctuate the evening calm.  Our golden retriever Kalani, averse to things that go “bang” in the night is back in the house, sheltering in what she believes is the safety of the bathroom.

Such are the times we live in. 

Striving to maintain our comfortable walls of familiar patterns, connections, and traditions in  world ever more complex, ever more interconnected, ever more interdependent – we find ourselves seeking to rebuild the stones torn asunder by the frost heaves of human evolution –  the disquieting fireworks in the dread of uncertainty, convinced that our safety lies in maintaining walls that clearly define the lines of distinction between me and thee, mine and yours, us and them.

Yet, something there is that doesn’t love a wall.

Perhaps, as Frost suggests it is wood-elves of our times, using trickery to divert our attention from their evil intent, devilishly tearing down the familiar boundaries so firmly etched into the landscape of our psyche, and yet such an anachronism in a world of gigabit fiber-optic connected social media and a global matrix of financial dependencies that the then 40 year-old Frost could have scarcely imagined.

No . . .  Frost, transported to our times would find himself in a world totally foreign to him.  He would be like his horse in “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening”,  strangely  out of place, not understanding where he was, or why he was here.

And yet, he knew.

“He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Boundaries are necessary.  Understanding the lines that define me from thee are essential to our humanity.  Connections of family, community, and nation ground our understanding of who we are.

At the age of 89, Robert Frost passed into that great mystery that is death in 1963.  He never saw the photograph of the planet Earth rising over the horizon of the moon, but he got it.

We are connected as inhabiters of a small blue island in an infinite cosmos, it is our ultimate connection, we forget this at our peril.

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”

We need to “get it”.

Jeff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wellregulatedmilitia

My social media feed has been ablaze over the last few days with arguments about the limits of the Second Amendment, and when I say “ablaze” it often feels as if my monitor is going to burst into flame from the heat.

This little cluster of twenty-seven words separated into two clauses is probably one of the most hotly debated elements of the Constitution:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The Second Amendment is an odd-duck in so many respects and was one of the amendments written (primarily by Madison) to help ease the anxiety (particularly in the south) of a powerful federal government taking away the rights of the states.  There are some who hold that its actual intent was to assure the southern states that they could keep their slave patrols and there is significant evidence to support this.   Of course as with anything else involving the 2nd there are powerful arguments on both sides and it is likely that this is just one of the foundational reasons.  After all, a general distrust of government was a rather common sentiment in the aftermath of the colonial period.  All of this being said, our 2nd Amendment is certainly unique in all the world.  No other country has such a right written into its foundational document, and while the Supreme Court has held that the government DOES have some interest in controlling certain types of weapons, it has sidestepped broad rulings and largely permitted restrictions only based on other constitutional provisions such as the commerce clause of Article I.

Many make the case that the right to keep and bear arms would appear to be subordinate to the militia clause in which this right is framed, but the Supreme Court has largely avoided addressing this issue directly and no broad ruling on this question has ever been issued by the court.

One might also think that so-called “constitutional originalists” such as Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, or the late Justice Antonin Scalia would take a great interest in this question. It would seem from the wording that the original intent of the framers, as would have been understood at the time the Bill of Rights was written, was that the right to bear arms was to further the maintenance of a “well regulated militia” which could be called into service at times of national peril.   Once again, no such case has come before the court to see how justices who hold this philosophy or the more interpretive “living Constitution” philosophy would rule.

An interesting side note to this, and an angle that could be considered should we ever have a Congress interested in placing limits on the rights of individuals to keep weapons (or certain types of weapons) would be the definition of the word “militia” which might be construed by the wording in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution to be the province of Congress:   

“The Congress shall have the power . . .”     “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;”      (Underlined emphasis is mine.)

If the “organizing, arming, and disciplining” of the militia is the province of Congress, it would seem to me that “well regulating” said militia and providing how it was to be armed and under what circumstance would be a power of Congress allowing Congress to have considerable say as to the access to weapons.  Again, this would require a Congress willing to pass such legislation which would almost certainly be challenged leaving the decision to the Supreme Court, and unfortunately I don’t see this happening any time soon.

I’m expecting the hot debate to continue.

big-tent-down

Ronald Reagan built it.

Whatever my opinion might be of the 40th President (and don’t get me started), his reconstruction of the Republican Party in the aftermath of Watergate into the “big tent”, reversing the party’s free-fall was masterful.  “He who agrees with me 80% of the time is not my enemy.”,  Reagan is often quoted as having said.  What Reagan created was a platform that appealed to some of the most unlikely bedfellows, bringing libertarians into the same fold as social conservatives and evangelical Christians, big-money bankers to the  table with family farmers, young aspiring business people together with factory workers.  Just six years after many were predicting the death of the Party of Lincoln, Reagan carried all but six states and the District of Columbia in an electoral and popular landslide which also handed control of the Senate to the Republicans for the first time since 1955.  This was outdone only by the following election where he won every state except for Minnesota (and DC) a plurality of almost seventeen million popular votes, and an electoral sweep of 525 to 13.

Suddenly it was the Democratic Party that appeared to be on life-support.

One of the tenants of the Reagan juggernaut that catapulted this unlikely grade-b movie actor into power was a simple principle often referred to as Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment:  “Thou shalt not speak badly of Republicans.”  Party unity was placed above all else.  Certainly there would be differences, but by agreeing to compromise and work together toward a set of common goals, Reagan and his handlers were able to accomplish what had seemed impossible only a few years earlier.

Fast forward to 2016. Among Republicans the “11th Commandment” appears as quaint as great-grandma’s dating rules from the 1930s.  The party has fissured into multiple factions along establishment vs. doctrinal conservative lines with multiple sub-camps vying for dominance.  Fueled by absolutest rhetoric from champions of the various factions, amplified by right-wing talk radio preaching the gospel of absolute conservatism to the party faithful and spread like a viral pathogen via the unrestrained free-for-all of social media, this division has destroyed any semblance of Reagan’s sacred party unity.  The anger of the electorate, particularly those who more often identify as “right-of-center” in some way has made rational discussion of significant issues impossible with no room for compromise and no middle ground.

If there is a major earthquake in California this year, it will doubtlessly be the result of Ronald Reagan rolling in his grave.

Donald Trump is the inevitable result of this division.  Devoid of any identifiable philosophy of governance and lacking any type of well developed moral compass, Trump has masterfully tapped into the anger and division within the party. Building on the fears and animus that have become the party identity for the last decade, Trump feeds upon this toxic stew.  Like Reagan he has found a way to build a big tent, but the circus inside this tent is at war with itself.

There could not be more contrast between Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump.  One might have despised Reagan’s policies and politics but personally he was not unlikable.  Something of a doddering grandfather figure, Reagan was calm, patient, and projected a demeanor of kindness and maturity.  The rude, bloviating, boastful, insecure NYC real-estate tycoon turned reality TV icon is anything but likable.  Reagan made people want to work together despite their differences, Trump builds his personal power by driving people apart.  Having successfully labeled his opponents as losers, liars, weaklings, and cowards he has fanned the flames of the cauldron and bubbled to the top of this caustic brew.  At this point he appears to be the likely nominee to take on the mantle of the GOP in November.  Should this happen he will almost certainly fall to whichever candidate is nominated by the Democratic Party, a fact not lost on the Republican establishment which has come to the conclusion, likely too late, that the gamble they made in attempting to use Trump to divide the party’s right wing has backfired.

Currently in some oak paneled room in suburban Virginia filled with the smoke of Cuban cigars, the power brokers of the Party establishment are working out the details of how they might prevent this certain disaster from happening.  National poling shows the only reliable candidate they have who stands a chance against either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is Marco Rubio.  The question is, how can they propel Rubio who has virtually no realistic path to the nomination into the end-zone.  Unlike the Democrats, Republican “superdelegates” make up only about 7% of the total delegate count, and while Democratic superdelegates are free to vote for any candidate they wish, Republican superdelegates are required under a rule adopted by the party last year to vote for whomever receives the most votes in their state.

At least on the first ballot.

Probably the best chance the Republicans have of dropping Trump would be a brokered convention.  Assuming that Trump goes to the convention with less than 51% of the 2,339 available delegates and the first ballot is indecisive all of the delegates would be released from their obligations, and through what could become a rancorous process where votes are traded a consensus candidate would emerge.  Under this scenario the most likely winner would probably be Marco Rubio, but in this year of unprecedented crazy we can only expect the unexpected, and a lot can happen between now and July 18th.

No matter what happens, the Republican Party as we have come to know it will not exist after this election.

No matter what happens, the tent is coming down.  In fact, it is already down, it’s just that nobody has bothered to tell the clowns.

 

gunplate

If it is not clear enough to everybody by now, we need to regulate firearms.  A suggestion that has been made is that the very least we treat them the same way we treat automobiles.

This sounds like a good start to me.

Each time ownership of an automobile changes a certificate of title is issued and recorded and the vehicle is registered to the new owner.  There is no loophole if you buy a car at a car-show or an auction.  There is no loophole or exception for cars sold by a private individual.  At the very minimum it should be the same with guns.

When an automobile owner moves from one state to another the title and registration in the former state of residence is surrendered, and a new title and registration is issued.  At the very minimum it should be the same with guns.

When a person wants to drive a motor vehicle, they need a license.  In order to obtain that license, they need to be trained and pass both a written and practical test.  The more complex and potentially hazardous the vehicle they wish to operate (tractor-trailer, taxi, bus, special purpose vehicle, etc.) the more demanding the training and testing requirements.   At the very minimum it should be the same for those who wish to own a gun.

In order to maintain one’s license to drive one must be in good enough health to do so safely, and must not have any condition that would impair the safe operation of a vehicle.  If a person develops a condition that calls this into question, they must surrender their right to drive until such time as they are certified fit to safely operate a vehicle once again.  At the very minimum it should be the same for those wishing to possess a firearm.

When one owns a motor vehicle, one is required to maintain liability insurance to cover damage done to the property or person of someone who might be injured by the improper operation of the vehicle.  The cost of the insurance varies with the risk profile of the owner and the risk profile of the vehicle.  More risk, more cost.  If your insurance lapses, your registration and right to operate the vehicle is revoked.  At the very minimum this should be how we treat firearms.

Every two years most states require that vehicles are inspected for safety and compliance.   At the very least this should be the same for firearms.

In short my friend, there are some extremely good parallels that can be drawn here.

Not perfect, but it would be a start.

speechless800

I’ve been resisting the urge to write about this all day.  What more can I say that has not already been said?  What more can I say not written on the faces of those forced to witness this barbaric act of inhumanity or those waiting for loved ones who are not going to come home?  What more can I add?

Not much.

I’m beyond disgust.

I’m particularly beyond disgust with the fact that this keeps happening with what is becoming predictable regularity and we seem unable to muster the will to take the first and most simple steps to do something about it.  But this has been said already, many times today, and many times in the last few weeks and months.

I’m beyond disgust with those who keep trying to make this about something, anything else but our love affair with guns in this country.  But this too has been said more times than any of us could count.

I’m beyond disgust with those who shamelessly use each installment of this serial national nightmare to make points for their side of the pointless partisan political non-debate.

I don’t care what the motives of these two perpetrators were, nor do I care about their religious beliefs.  They had whatever their supposed justifications were, just as those who shot up the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, Newtown Elementary School in Connecticut, The Sikh temple in Wisconsin, The movie theater in Aurora CO., The shopping-center parking lot in Tucson AZ, The liquor distribution warehouse in Connecticut, The Virginia Tech campus . . .  and on, and on, and on, and on . . .  They all had their motives, and none of them matter.

There just are not many words any longer, none that are meaningful.  Not as long as we refuse to take the steps to actually do something about it.

My dear God good people!  My dear God!   You can’t drive a car in this country unless you prove you are fit to do so, and a car cannot be operated on the highway unless it is registered and insured.  If you become unfit to drive, if your car cannot be safely operated, if you get caught driving under the influence . . .  we don’t let you drive any more.

Why can’t we at least treat weapons designed to inflict death the same way?

My dear God.

What purpose do assault weapons, intended for the sole purpose of killing as many people as quickly as possible, serve in the hands of a private citizen?

In many states in this country you can obtain one of these killing machines if you can fog a mirror.

Are we completely mad?

But all of this has been said before.

What has also been pointed out numerous times in the past couple of days, in answer to the obligatory calls to “pray for the victims and their families” is this simple truth:

God Ain’t Fixin’ This

If it is true that 80% of Americans are ready for stricter gun laws, why can’t we make it happen?

I’m just out of words, at least new ones.

How about you?

angryflames

 

Anger, anger triggered by the slightest perceived offense or disagreement seems to have become a cultural norm.   Blogger John Pavlovitz, often quoted and re-blogged here published a piece recently titled, “Why Are We All So #@%^&$! Angry?”

This is a topic I’ve been thinking about quite a bit of late.

After his first few introductory comments, John asks the six-million-dollar question: “. . . why are we so damn angry and what, if anything can we do about it.”

The short answer to the first part of that question, as trite as this may sound, is “fear”.

Anger is one of those “fight or flight” emotions.  Rooted deep in the ancient reptilian core of our brain known as the “hypothalamus”, once a situation, pattern, or person has been identified as a potential threat this information is stored for future analysis by a nearby portion of the brain known as the “amygdala”.  Think of the amygdala as the “fear memory” department of your brain.  Anger is our brain’s response to something which has previously stimulated our self-preservation and protection resources.  These responses are our “on-guard” response to something we suspect, based on prior experience might pose a threat now or in the future.  It’s the “I see you as a threat . . .  so you had best keep your distance” posture.

Anger can be quite appropriate when encountering someone or something that is either a real and present danger, has done harm in the past, or based on experience is likely to cause such a threat.  The risk posed by the object of one’s anger does not need to be physical to be valid.  A person who has previously caused emotional distress or harm to you or others may quite legitimately stimulate the anger reaction – again, the memory of a prior fear stimulus.  One might also become angry when one witnesses harm or injustice inflicted on others, even strangers . . .  “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you might just do unto me”.

The question is, when is anger (and the fear it presupposes) an appropriate response, and why does it seem that our amygdalae have become hypersensitized to the point that anybody expressing an opinion on a topic online via social media (or on this blog) so often unleashes a tirade of invectives, accusations, vile comparisons to hideous villains . . .  or worse?

I don’t have all the answers, but I can sure throw out a few ideas and observations gleaned over what is soon to be six decades amongst my fellow inhabitants of this little blue globe.

Technology has brought world events we would never have witnessed before right into our homes, and right into our brains.  Today we are subjected to real-time and near real-time images of things we would never have witnessed at all just a few short years ago.  Among other things these images are brought to us by the over 2-billion and growing smart-phones that turn just about anybody anywhere into a video journalist with global reach.

We have become both desensitized and sensitized to acts of violence.  We have become desensitized in that images of violent death and wanton destruction both real and simulated are something we are far too used to seeing. We have become sensitized in that our brains are wired to take in this information and use it to determine potential threats in the future.

Cultural and social standards have changed dramatically, and whether real or imagined the lack of certainty about our neighbors and how we relate to each other contribute to fear that “our way of life” might be threatened or that “we” might lose some of the power and privilege we take for granted.

All of this works together to call in to question our notion of our boundaries and our identities . . .  what is “mine” and what is “yours”?   Who are the safe “us” and the maybe not-so-safe “them”?   How can I tell the difference?  How can I be sure that “my” way of life will be respected and that my certainties will still be certain in the face of all of this change.

And we are afraid.

And fear makes us angry.

And anger is just a few neural synapses away from lashing out in violent action.

It is pretty obvious that the genie is out of the bottle, the cat is out of the bag, the can of worms has been opened, and the horse is out of the barn . . .  (can you come up with any more metaphors for “there is no going back”?)  Despite it hall, many among us still want to reclaim a sense of the stability and the certainty that feels safe, while others wish to move bravely on into the future and embrace the possibilities in this new and unknown world.

And I have no certain answers.

And so I’ll end this with the second half of the question posed by Pavlovitz . . .

“What, if anything, can we do about it?”

Once open, worms don’t go back into a can.  Once liberated cats don’t go back in bag, horses will often roam for a long time, and genies set free will never be “bottled up” again.   Understanding this makes it clear that those who believe that the answer to our future is returning to the ways of the past just don’t make any sense.

How do you believe we can move forward?

Gratitude and Abundance

 

“As we express gratitude we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”  – John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

 

As those of us who celebrate this holiday prepare to gather with our families and friends, let us be mindful of just how much we have to be thankful for, and consider how we might express our gratitude in a meaningful way throughout the year.

If we are gathering with our families let us give thanks for the blessing that they are, and remember those who have lost their families to the violence and bloodshed in so many places around this small planet we call home.  Let us consider what we can do through our own choices and our own words to bring this to an end.

As we watch our children play let us give thanks for their joy and innocence, and remember those children whose innocence has been taken and who find little joy this day.  Think of those children in refugee camps, those who are trying to make it to safety, those who are turned away because of fear, and those who have perished trying to make it to safety.  Let us consider what we can do through our own choices and our own words to bring this to an end.

As we open the doors of our homes, or enter the doorway of a relative or friend to celebrate this holiday let us give thanks for the roof over our head.  Let us remember all of those who have no home, who rely on space in a shelter if they are so lucky, who live under bridges, in makeshift tents, in cardboard boxes, abandoned cars, or in whatever form of shelter they can find.  Certainly in this, the wealthiest country in the history of the world we can make it so that nobody has to live in these conditions.  What can we do through our own choices and our own words to help end homelessness?

As we celebrate abundance around a table laid out in extravagant bounty, let us give thanks for our good fortune, remembering that this is not the norm in much of the world, or even in much of this country.  In a nation where we waste and discard almost 40% of our food supply there is no reason why anybody should go hungry.  It’s a nice gesture to donate a turkey to the homeless shelter, but what about the other 364 days of the year?  What can we do through our own choices and our own words to end hunger every day?

Gratitude, real gratitude is not passing or temporary, and gratitude is more than attitude.  Gratitude is a way of living in such a way that we cannot imagine allowing another soul to live in need.

Let us be thankful and live in gratitude this day, and every day.

Live in blessing.

Most of us are familliar with the “Pale Blue Dot” image taken by the Voyager-I spacecraft in 1990.  From a distance of six-billion kilometers our earth takes up a little more than one-tenth of one pixel.

The late astronomer Carl Sagan, at whose suggestion this image was captured wrote the following a few years later.  In light of current world events and the dialog happening here in the United States over refugees, immigration and the ageless and timeless battles over religion it would do us well to ponder these words again.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”  – Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

Considered from a different perspective, this image is a closeup . . .  a “selfie” taken with a really long stick.  The vantage of Voyager’s cameras at the point where this picture was taken is at the edge of the Kuiper belt which lies at the outer reaches of our solar system.  Our solar system in turn is but a tiny and insignificant fuzzball in the infinite vastness of the universe, the observable portion of which is a sphere some 552 sextillion miles in diameter.

Who is my neighbor?

In reality, every person on this tiny spec of dust we inhabit is really, really close.

Perhaps we should all start acting as if we understand this.