Beloved Community: It’s hard to describe!

So this project turns out to be harder than I thought. I’ve gone back to Josiah Royce and am one-quarter of the way through with the book in which he coined the phrase and the concept. I’ve also done some digging in Howard Thurman’s and Martin King’s writing.

The one thing I’m confident in saying is that all three of them thought of Beloved Community in very big terms. Royce equated it with the Commonwealth* of Heaven on earth. Thurman thought of it as a feasible better society. King considered it an end to be attained.

I’m not sure any of them would be comfortable with the idea of plural Beloved Communities. Maybe I’m wrong.

*Yes, Royce said Kingdom.

Beloved Community: What is it?

Like most people of my generation who know the term Beloved Community, I know it through Martin King’s writing and speeches. It’s got a longer history than that, stretching backwards and forwards. It’s important on its own terms, not just to understanding King’s thought.

As a project, I’m summarizing what I know and have read about Beloved Community over the next few days.

There’ll be definitions (and attempts at definitions) and other references, not leading to single conclusions about what the term means today. The hope is instead to do justice to the scope of meanings people have given Beloved Community in various contexts, and to identify those contexts.

First up: Josiah Royce.

Insurrectile Dysfunction and Self-Terrorism: A How-Not-To Story

So the planned catastrophe of March 4 did not come to pass.

I’m not surprised. Those who are out to kill democracy and its supporters by any means availble are an extremely small minority, empowered beyond their actual numbers by their ability to kill and destroy. Which is all they got–beyond that, they have nothing.

The white supremacists in Charlottesville seemed larger than they were due to tactical surprise, police tolerance, and violence. Their numbers were tiny for a national mobilization. They were vastly outnumbered, and likely out mobilized by non-local opponents.

This is not to diminish the rottenness or the threat of the January 6th insurrectionists. They were as much clownish stupid losers as were the pathetic failures at the Beer Hall Putsch, who after that failure went on to put the Nazi Party into power in Germany.

But there just aren’t many of them. They were unable to match the size of #BLM demonstration in small, rural cities.

Which brings us to self-terrorism and a nineties organizing story.

The Gay and Lesbian Student Alliance at UArkansas-Fayetteville had a brilliant idea: Blue Jean Day. Posters went up all over campus early that morning, declaring Blue Jean Day, when gay and lesbian students and their supporter wore blue jeans.

Reaction was mixed, but there were briefly a lot of gay and lesbian people and their supporters on campus–or so it might have seemed.

I think of Blue Jean Day when I look at the the tiny alt-right and the vast space it occupies in the liberal-left mind. Consider this:

CPAC Odal Rune? Or Self-Terrorism?

Seriously? That’s enough to raise your blood pressure over? Here’s another way of looking at this, via someone who takes the threat of white supremacists seriously and does not doubt that the Odal Rune is currently used as though it were a swastika:

Or not?

All that trouble just to put an ambiguous, upside-down symbol on television without anyone taking credit for it or promoting themselves? That is not absolutely impossible. It’s not exactly likely, either. It’s a lot of effort and risk for almost no gain.

Actually, one thing I said wasn’t exactly true. There are people who are promoting it: People who fear it, yet do not know whether it’s an actual threat or (more likely) a coincidence. Those folks are promoting the hell out of it.

How much do we self-terrorize ourselves? There are people out to hurt us. I don’t dispute that. What I do think is this: If there were as many as we think, we wouldn’t be discussing it. We’d be dead or worse. Yet here we stand.

We don’t have that many people who really want us dead, any more than there are that many people in the world who just want to hurt America. It’s not like it was that hard for the bin Ladinists to hurt us. We’re relatively safe. Not that many people want us dead that bad.

That’s a hard blow to the old ego for some folks. Being trolled and threatened, that’s how we know we’re doing our job. Right?

Or maybe not.

Maybe our value to democracy is better measured by how many people we connect to. How many people we support. How often we work together. How little we bow to fear. How much we love each other. How far we go. How near we stay.

We almost lost to a self-coup. Let’s not self-terrorize in the aftermath.

Don’t let the bastards rattle you. Rattle their asses instead.

Doc., Nr., Emt.: Should Medical Professionals Have Special Forms Of Address?

A recent piece of odious tripe in the Wall Street Journal obscured a serious question: Should there be special terms of address for medical professionals which distinctly mark them as people trusted with matters of life and death?

Academics and those who write for them say no, that anyone who has an Xy. D. degree should be called Doctor. That’s the standard style for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, the leading ruling class publications of left and right: If you have a doctoral degree in anything whatsoever, you are referred to as Dr. Whoever because you wrote a dissertation on hotel management for pimps or getting away with dishonest marketing or particle physics. It’s all the same. A doctorate is a doctorate and it all goes on the resumé.

Those of us who spend significant time outside the academic bubble know better. No one ever yells “Doctor!” because they need an explanation of Keynesian economics or a case study in stripping local municipalities of assets through charter schools.

People ask for a doctor because they are in danger of dying. That’s it.

If I say, “I need a doctor,” and you send me a Nobel Prize winner in physics, you are a jackass.

Further, the only doctors people outside a very narrow world encounter are medical doctors of some sort. GP, surgeon, osteopath, chiropractor–even a veterinarian. I’ll take a DVM over a Ph.D. in biochemistry if my kid is sick and those are my choices.

This should be a learning moment for academics: Your terms of art are not meaningful to most people. Your use of them in public discussions is careless at best and deceptive at worst. When you also use them for self-aggrandizement, you should be ashamed.

Which wouldn’t change anything, even if you were.

So instead, let’s talk about something useful: Reserved titles for medical professionals. What is the proper title for someone who must answer when you call from a child’s sickbed? I can think of three such professions: Doctor, Nurse, EMT.

The obvious titles are Doc. for doctors, Nrs. for nurses, and Emt. for EMTs. I don’t like Nrs. for nurses, because it reminds me of when women in college were said to be there “to get their Mrs. degree”. Maybe that’s far enough in the past to be okay now. I don’t know.

I do think medical professionals, whose public responsibilities are greater than any other degree-holding class, should advocate for specific titles that mark them separately. What they do is qualitatively different from what the rest of us do.

The Once and Future American Gods

I understand our situation now.

As followers of Jesus leave him for the Trump cult, Jesus’s power weakens as Trump’s grows. When Jesus finally figured out there was a demon inside Trump, he tried an exorcism, which started okay until it turned out there were way more demons than anyone knew. Now the demons just keep on coming, because the Trump cult has used their greater power to prop the portal to hell open.

And as is traditional, those demons are fleeing into herds of swine who run themselves off a cliff, screaming.

That is why I prefer science fiction to fantasy: Happier endings.

“Thoughts and Prayers”: I love this song. Don’t misuse it.

This is a wonderful, humane, sorrowful song. I love it so much. And I get angry as hell when I see you misconstrue it:

A lot of you don’t seem to understand who this line is directed to:

Stick it up your ass with your useless thoughts and prayers

So let me break it down for you:

It is aimed at the politician who offers thoughts and prayers because he plans to do nothing more. It is not aimed at the victim’s mother who is trying to live through another minute any way she can.

It is aimed at Karen from Corporate HR peddling BS when you know the job killed your co-worker. It is not aimed at the guy next to you in the meeting who found the note and still can’t sleep.

In short: It is aimed at the guilty. It is not aimed at the innocent.

One of my oldest friends in the world spent over thirty years in the Park Service. He’s jumped into deathtraps more times than I’ve skinned my knee–and I’m a clumsy SOB! Whenever I heard about a fire in the West, he was on my mind, all the time. He sure had my thoughts, and if I were the praying kind, he’d’ve had my prayers. Because I cared about him. Thoughts and prayers that express care are Good.

For those who offer thoughts and prayers instead of caring? Because they don’t care? Let’s sharpen their thoughts and prayers up real good so they stick real well.

Two Kinds Of Plans To Make Right Now

The first kind is very easy; the second kind is wickedly hard.

First plan for what you will do in six months at the start of what might be the furthest left presidential administration ever. Don’t be fooled by the guy on top; JFK was awfully conservative, too, but the people he picked couldn’t be. The same thing will happen with Biden.

It’s one of the best opportunities we have for a more humane and livable world. Figure out how you’re going to help make that happen.

Then plan for what you will do for the next six months to ensure you get that chance. Here’s what the folks you’re working against plan to do: Donald Trump suggests delay to 2020 US presidential election. He and his followers are as serious as a heart attack, and as deadly.

And as survivable, if you plan well and don’t do stupid things.

We’re on the defensive now, with centuries of elections during any and every crisis to back us up. All we have to do is hold the ground of Elections On Time! for three months, then the ground of Enforce The Results! for three more months.

And we have a secret weapon, of sorts: President Chick N. Shit

Donald Trump faces justice.

He’s a flincher. He talks tough and backs down from firm resistance. He has an eminently kickable political ass. Don’t back down.

The Daisy Bates College of Arts and Sciences and the Fulbright-Faubus Center for Global Arkansas Studies

What to do about J. William Fulbright’s long history of active acquiescence* to white rule in the South?

Of course his name should come off UA-Fayetteville’s College of Arts and Sciences. He’s the wrong symbol, a warning sign about using intellectual ends to justify political means. And the proper replacement is also clear. I give you:

The Daisy Lee Gatson Bates College of Arts and Sciences

In 2000, the Arkansas Historical Association polled its members as to the most influential figures in Arkansas history. The first was Bill Clinton, as you would expect. Next were Orval Faubus and J. William Fulbright, and fourth was Daisy Bates.

It’s hard to argue with Bill Clinton in first place! But Daisy Bates is the logical choice for second.

Daisy Bates and those who fought with her prevailed over Fulbright and Faubus, the two faces of Arkansas segregation, the good cop with the fancy degree and the the bad cop with a year at a small, unaccredited school.

That’s second place by any accounting!

The change she and those who fought with her brought was far-reaching and touched every citizen of Arkansas, mostly for the better–and frankly, those who were made less well off by it, they mostly deserved worse.

Faubus and Fulbright both had their virtues. If you took a paring knife and cut out the racism out of both men, you could Frankenstein them into a fairly decent human being. Fulbright was a generally positive figure in foreign policy and education, and he didn’t much go out of his way to advance segregation. Faubus made significant advances for Arkansans generally. He wasn’t even-handed, but he didn’t go out of his way to keep some of the benefits he brought from falling into black peoples’ hands. Mild praise. It’s what they deserve.

Since Daisy Bates won her fight against Fulbright and Faubus, the fruits of the good things those men did can be better distributed. If she’d lost–but she didn’t, and we need to act like it.  We need to put her forward as our exemplar and claim the spoils of her victory.

She didn’t have a degree because there aren’t degrees in what she did, which is changing the world for the better. If we respect the power of ideas to turn the world around, then we pay tribute to those who wielded those ideas, with or without degrees.

That said, Faubus and Fulbright deserve study. They were polar opposites yoked by location, acquiescence to racism**, and not much else. Faubus was a deeply local politician; Fulbright was a national and global figure. And they grew from the same dirt.

It’s not that different from a Sam Walton or a Don Tyson, a Jerry Jones or a John Johnson, and it’s worth studying. Thus I also give you, as a subsidiary of the Daisy Bates College (the DBC at the UAF should be a useful catch-phrase), a whole new thing:

The Fulbright-Faubus Center for Global Arkansas Studies

Every year, they flip a coin to see whose name goes first. The domain name abbreviates them to ff or f-f so it doesn’t change. And the focus of the instituted changes for the year to local or global issues, all related to Arkansas.

Let’s see if Faubus and Fulbright can actually do right by race for once.***

*I’m being nice for once.
**Okay, twice.
***Third time’s a charm! And by “a charm” I mean “the fire next time”.

No One Trusts A Flincher To Hold Steady

The slogan people fought for in the streets is DEFUND THE POLICE whether you like it or not.

If your first act on hearing that is to flinch, your question should be, “Who taught me to flinch, and why?”

Your hands should hold steady when you are slapped, or who would trust your judgement in a fight?

History’s a slap on the side of the road as people pick and choose monuments to topple to the valley below.

If you say “My goodness!” before the trouble starts, you water down what people die for in their hearts.

If you can’t stand by the slogan DEFUND THE POLICE, don’t stand so, don’t stand so close to me.