Category Archives: Arkansaw

The UUA Call for the Abolition of ICE and This Weekend’s March

Last weekend, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s 2018 General Assembly passed this Action of Immediate Witness: End Family Separation and Detention of Asylum Seekers and Abolish ICE.

It includes a call to “Participate in the June 30th nationwide Mass Mobilization”, whose lead organization is Families Belong Together. In Little Rock, several organizations, from mainstream liberal to near left, are sponsoring a rally at the State Capitol.

I spent Thursday afternoon at a spirited  demonstration at the State Capitol, sponsored by local groups and the national group Mijente, with whom the UUA is partnering, as part of their Chinga La Migra/Abolish ICE* tour.

They and we are calling for the Abolition of ICE:

#AbolishICE

Families Belong Together is calling for Defunding ICE:

#DefundICE

The UUA has been most successful in producing justice over the years when it has taken a visionary approach to issues. Line 51 in the Action of Immediate Witness, in which we are called to “Host interfaith vigils to lift our prophetic voices”, claims a theological grounding in our Second Source, “Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion and the transforming power of love.”

We have a choice about how we participate in this weekend’s rallies. We can pick up the call to #AbolishICE or to Defund ICE or make some more general call. We can show up and blend in and not be visibly Unitarian Universalist. We don’t even have to show up.

What are you going to do? What is your congregation going to do?

Have you spent time working together to discern what you believe in common? Where you differ? What you can do? What you will do?

If not, then you have another chance to do so, this time under the pressure of time and events. It won’t get any easier if you wait.

*A language note: “Chinga” does not literally translate to “Abolish”.

It’s Not A Silver Lining. It’s Just Hope.

Over a decade ago, I first read about the rock-bottom level of W’s support at 28% as a rough estimate of current bugfuck crazy levels. I took that to heart and have repeated it as wisdom, so I’m not shocked that there are people cheering for caging children.

(Afraid? Yes. Still.)

What has been a pleasant surprise is seeing people building capacity to resist. That capacity wasn’t nearly enough during 43’s term to hold him back, and it wasn’t there to sustain the Occupy movement.*

Now we’re a third of the way through a Presidential term, and people successfully pushed hard enough to make a public policy change. It’s still a bad policy–I’ll still be at a pro-immigration rally after work today–but the spiritual boost people get from publicly backing an authoritarian down and the corresponding morale drop on the other side is pure power. If it’s used well, if politicians don’t drain all the effort into electoral politics only, this can be a turning point.

It’s not a position I’d’ve chosen to get into. The suffering at the border and elsewhere isn’t “worth it” for change. But it’s not a position we chose, is it? It’s where we’ve been forced to by cruel humanoids. That suffering is on their heads.

If we miss this moment, if we fail to learn electoral politics can’t be won without a robust non-electoral political movement to maintain us during the times we are out of power–and to remind politicians who claim they are on our side that they can’t pee on our leg when they are in power and expect us to thank them for the rain–then the suffering from that will be on our heads, and quite a few of us will fully deserve what we get from it (though most of us will not).

This is not the 2018 I’d hoped for, but it has great potential. Or you can call it high stakes. Pretty much the same.

*The Occupiers themselves weren’t the problem. They were plenty determined. It was a support failure.

A Memorial Day sermon, followed by songs

Memorial Day is a holiday I don’t fully appreciate. I’ve had to work at it. I’m not in favor of war, even when I don’t see any alternative, so it feels hypocritical of me to wave the flag for it. But I think I’ve found my text for the day, at last:

The fight for Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest of World War II. A tiny island in the Pacific dominated by a volcanic mountain and pockmarked with caves, Iwo Jima was the setting for a five-week, nonstop battle between 70,000 American Marines and an unknown number of deeply entrenched Japanese defenders. The courage and gallantry of the American forces, climaxed by the dramatic raising of the American flag over Mt. Suribachi, is memorialized in the Marine Corps monument in Washington, DC. Less well-remembered, however, is that the battle occasioned an eloquent eulogy by a Marine Corps rabbi that has become an American classic.

It’s easy to forget, in these days of optional wars and eternal conflicts, that people go to war with pure motivations. Not all people, but many. Consider Pat Tillman, who turned his back on a lucrative football career, only to be disillusioned before his death.

Reading this remarkable sermon is a reminder of that. I present it to you not to support the idea of war–I do not–but to remind us that people are complex creatures who destroy and create with the same hand. To remind us that good sometimes follows from darkness.

These are the words of Roland B. Gittelsohn, Marine lieutenant and Reform rabbi, said over the Jewish dead at Iwo Jima:

THIS IS PERHAPS THE GRIMMEST, and surely the holiest task we have faced since D-Day. Here before us lie the bodies of comrades and friends. Men who until yesterday or last week laughed with us, joked with us, trained with us. Men who were on the same ships with us, and went over the sides with us, as we prepared to hit the beaches of this island. Men who fought with us and feared with us. Somewhere in this plot of ground there may lie the individual who could have discovered the cure for cancer. Under one of these Christian crosses, or beneath a Jewish Star of David, there may rest now an individual who was destined to be a great prophet to find the way, perhaps, for all to live in plenty, with poverty and hardship for none. Now they lie here silently in this sacred soil, and we gather to consecrate this earth in their memory.

IT IS NOT EASY TO DO SO. Some of us have buried our closest friends here. We saw these men killed before our very eyes. Any one of us might have died in their places. Indeed, some of us are alive and breathing at this very moment only because men who lie here beneath us, had the courage and strength to give their lives for ours. To speak in memory of such men as these is not easy. Of them, too, can it be said with utter truth: “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. It can never forget what they did here.”

No, our poor power of speech can add nothing to what these men and the other dead of our division who are not here have already done. All that we can even hope to do is follow their example. To show the same selfless courage in peace that they did in war. To swear that, by the grace of God and the stubborn strength and power of human will, their sons and ours shall never suffer these pains again. These men have done their job well. They have paid the ghastly price of freedom. If that freedom be once again lost, as it was after the last war, the unforgivable blame will be ours, not theirs. So it be the living who are here to be dedicated and consecrated.

WE DEDICATE OURSELVES, first, to live together in peace the way they fought and are buried in war. Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors, generations ago helped in her founding, and other men who loved her with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores. Here lie officers and [privates], [Blacks] and whites, rich and poor…together. Here are Protestants, Catholics, and Jews…together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed. Among these men there is no discrimination. No prejudice. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy.

Anyone among us the living who fails to understand that, will thereby betray those who lie here. Whoever of us lifts his hand in hate against another, or thinks himself superior to those who happen to be in the minority, makes of this ceremony and of the bloody sacrifice it commemorates, an empty, hollow mockery. To this, them, as our solemn, sacred duty, do we the living now dedicate ourselves: to the right Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, of all races alike, to enjoy the democracy for which all of them have here paid the price.

TO ONE THING MORE do we consecrate ourselves in memory of those who sleep beneath these crosses and stars. We shall not foolishly suppose, as did the last generation of America’s fighting, that victory on the battlefield will automatically guarantee the triumph of democracy at home. This war, with all its frightful heartache and suffering, is but the beginning of our generation’s struggle for democracy. When the last battle has been won, there will be those at home, as there were last time, who will want us to turn our backs in selfish isolation on the rest of organized humanity, and thus to sabotage the very peace for which we fight. We promise you who lie here; we will not do that. We will join hands with Britain, China, Russia—in peace, even as we have in war, to build the kind of world for which you died.

WHEN THE LAST SHOT has been fired, there will still be those eyes that are turned backward not forward, who will be satisfied with those wide extremes of poverty and wealth in which the seeds of another war can breed. We promise you, our departed comrades: this, too, we will not permit. This war has been fought by the common man; its fruits of peace must be enjoyed by the common man. We promise, by all that is sacred and holy, that your sons, the sons of miners and millers, the sons of farmers and workers—will inherit from your death the right to a living that is decent and secure.

WHEN THE FINAL CROSS has been placed in the last cemetery, once again there will be those to whom profit is more important than peace, who will insist with the voice of sweet reasonableness and appeasement that it is better to trade with the enemies of mankind than, by crushing them, to lose their profit. To you who sleep here silently, we give our promise: we will not listen: We will not forget that some of you were burnt with oil that came from American wells, that many of you were killed by shells fashioned from American steel. We promise that when once again people seek profit at your expense, we shall remember how you looked when we placed you reverently, lovingly, in the ground.

THIS DO WE MEMORIALIZE those who, having ceased living with us, now live within us. Thus do we consecrate ourselves, the living, to carry on the struggle they began. Too much blood has gone into this soil for us to let it lie barren. Too much pain and heartache have fertilized the earth on which we stand. We here solemnly swear: this shall not be in vain. Out of this, and from the suffering and sorrow of those who mourn this, will come—we promise—the birth of a new freedom for all humanity everywhere. And let us say…AMEN.

There’s really nothing to follow that but music:

A proposal for Armistice Day: Sunday, November 11th

Armistice Day was established as a Federal holiday in 1938 as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.” It was repurposed as Veterans Day in 1954.

A Proposal: Let’s return to the old tradition of observing Armistice Day as a day for peace.

2018 is the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I. The war ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month: November 11th, 11:00am.

At 11:00am this November 11th, a Sunday, most Unitarian Universalist congregations will be holding worship services. At that time, let’s all focus our services and our activities on peace.

There will be other activities taking place on and around November 11th. Most of those will emphasize relatively transient concerns, many of them important. Peace is a permanent issue. We have never known a time of world peace. We don’t know if it can be achieved; and if it can, we don’t know how. We will be challenged by peace for the rest of our lives. We remain hopeful.

Last month, the Arkansas UU Cluster and the Arkansas UU Justice Ministry “decided to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day on 11/11/2018. On November 11, 1918, at 11:00 a.m., World War I ended with an armistice. While the War to End All Wars never fulfilled that promise, UUs in Arkansas wanted to celebrate peace and the end of war. Join us as we celebrate a peace worthy of the name and honor all people of peace through Arkansas, the United States, and the World.” This proposal is an effort to amplify that call and to encourage people everywhere–especially Unitarian Universalists, but everyone who wants more peace in the world–to celebrate Armistice day this Sunday, November 11th, at or about 11:00am.

This is a dedicated page for Armistice Day resources. Your suggestions and contributions are welcome.

Why I’m Not Thanking Black Women For Electing Doug Jones

The black folks who showed up to vote against Evil certainly have my thanks, as does everyone who shows up against Evil. I don’t think that’s how people think about it, though. I doubt anyone woke up in Alabama Tuesday and thought, “I’m going to go save the world.” No. They thought, “I have a chance to elect a senator who will protect and advance my interests.” And they voted, and I’m glad, because I share their interests.

But who deserves the most thanks? James Luther Adams used to talk about the “immaculate conception of virtue” and why that was a silly idea. So let’s apply that insight here: What got people to the polls that day? Local organizers. People who consciously act beyond their own interests to make a better world.

And here’s the big thing: It costs money, lots of money, to put boots on the ground.

So if you want to offer thanks, go right ahead. I think you’re better off finding out who was effective in turning out voters and giving them your thanks in the form of cash.

I Predict: Tomorrow’s “Wave” of Fascist Demonstrations Will Fail

Perhaps I’m wrong, but that’s my strong hunch and this is why.

Earlier this summer, in Harrison, Arkansas, there was a far right demonstration called in response to a supposed left-wing demonstration that never materialized. The rightists got about fifty people there, many from out of state. (No word on representation by Illinois Nazis.)

Does that sound like a lot? It might at first, until you remember that there is an actual Klan compound not far from Harrison. They’ve got a fair number of people there and they’ve got ties into the local community. And yet, these people had to bring in out-of-staters to make their crowd.

I think we’re seeing what we’re being shown: A lot of rightist propaganda spread through social media to give a falsely inflated impression of their size and strength. This is what happened today in Durham:

11:25 a.m.: In a recorded message to employees, Durham County closed office buildings and sent workers home early on Friday. All employees were instructed to leave for the day, take their belongings and avoid downtown.

11:40 a.m.: Police have blocked the road in front of the old Durham County Courthouse at 201 E. Main St. ahead of a rumored white supremacist protest.

12:07 p.m.: Crowds of people could be seen holding signs on Main Street in downtown Durham. A banner read “We will no longer be intimidated,” and people were seen holding “Black Lives Matter” signs.

12:23 p.m.: So far, there is no evidence of a white supremacist demonstration

12:50 p.m.: A man said he was attending the protest to stand up against “another round of Jim Crow (laws).” He said it was a good place to be today.

12:54 p.m.: A group was seen burning a Confederate flag

12:56 p.m.: A UNC professor said she was attending the demonstration to stand up against bigotry

1:08 p.m.: A group of protesters defaced what remains of a confederate monument in downtown Durham. “Death to the Klan” was written on the monument.

1:12 p.m.: A “party-like” atmosphere was described in downtown Durham as people danced to drumbeats and others could be heard chanting

1:23 p.m.: No hate groups, white supremacists, or KKK members have been seen in or around Durham.

Multiple people were taking part in a dance party. They said they were “dancing the hate away.”

Sounds like a great time! Especially since the guests of dishonor didn’t show up.

I bet that’s what almost every counter-protest looks like. We’ll see, but that’s my bet–it’ll mostly be counter-protest-dance-parties.

How To Be Good: Forgiving and Unforgiving

I’m becoming less forgiving and less tolerant.

It’s not a pleasant development, but this is a time of injury. No matter how skilled the healer, some wounds fester.

I would love to tell you that we can forgive all those who wrong us. I would love to tell myself that, but I cannot because it would be a lie. A comforting lie is a lie nonetheless, so instead I bring a not-entirely-bitter truth.

Every day, unforgivable things happen all around us. Every day, people forgive them or unforgive them. Sometimes they forgive the unforgivable. Sometimes they are right to do so, sometimes not. Sometimes people break each other over trivia.

This election has been particularly bitter. The stakes were higher than in recent memory. One of the candidates ran as a strongman rather than a politician and that candidate won. History teaches us to avoid what we now have rubbed in our faces.

Many people helped cause this problem.

Some of them couldn’t have known any better. Some of them should have. Some of them knew better but should have done better. Some of them were careless. Some of them didn’t care. Some of them are bad people doing bad things on purpose.

Who do we forgive? There’s no question there’ll have to be forgiveness going on. Too many decent people made bad choices for us to just cut them off. Even if it were practical, it would be wrong.

This is going to be a hard question for people to face. I have my own lines drawn, but I wouldn’t recommend copying my work. My life has been too particular for my pattern to fit your equally particular life. But I do have one thought.

So many people I know have separated themselves from their families of birth. One would hope that would be an unbreakable bond. A bond one would not want to break. And yet for so many people, the bondage of such intimate ties is unbearable. Something has gone wrong where things are supposed to be right. Sometimes it’s abuse, whether physical or mental. Sometimes it’s lack of acceptance. It’s always someone’s human folly or flaw, nestled like a knife against your most personal, tenderest places.

So people choose to break such bonds. It’s not a choice to wish on someone. Neither is it a choice to second-guess.

As it is in miniature in the family, so it is in the large in society. The fundamental human bonds that make it possible for us to live together and sometimes find a little comfort and joy in doing so, those same bonds can be turned toxic and demand to be destroyed. From a trusted loved one or a dear friend to a total stranger in your face on Facebook, sometimes the only decent and humane thing to do is to cut a tie and walk away and not look back.

So this is the one thing I have to guide you in forgiving and unforgiving:

If a total stranger takes a political action which will endanger your life, restrict your freedom, does something so vile, so awful, so unbearable that you do not find forgiveness in your heart for it,

Think of your dearest relative, your closest friend, your sweetest partner. Think of that person doing the thing you cannot decide whether to forgive. Think of that person doing to you what you cannot bear forgiving,

And if you would forgive your dearest for such a sin, then I say you should forgive a casual acquaintance, a total stranger, an annoying co-worker, whoever else might commit that sin against you, for that particular sin.

That works both ways. If someone otherwise unknown to you says or does a thing you find unforgivable, that is a thing you must find unforgivable in your loved ones.

I didn’t promise much. What I do have for you, I will stand on.

There is certainly power to be found in just, righteous anger. You should seize that power when it comes to you. You should wield it for good. Seeking it out, though, is asking for trouble, a fool’s game at best and the road to hell at worst.

I assure you, even if things go relatively well the next few years, you will have endless reasons to be angry, crimes and cowardices not to forgive. You may have reason soon enough to hate. There’s no reason to hurry and every reason to wait.

There’s a certain symmetry in anger, an almost balance that instead escalates anger and conflict. If you can’t control your anger, if it uses you instead of you using it, then it stops being helpful and starts becoming its own problem. The chances are good that it will be through with you before you are through with it.

If we are to care at least somewhat for every human being, then we have to consider doing so fairly, then in matters concerning society or humanity or any necessary complete idea made flesh, we have to think of all people simply as fellow human beings first.

So forgive the forgivable things and hope the unforgivable people can redeem themselves. That’s generous enough to everyone.

How To Be Good: An Introduction

In troubled times, it’s often good to get back to the basics.

These are the sorts of troubled times which I dreamed of, as a foolish and romantic child. Times in history when things were uncertain and exciting and up in the air and one well-timed move might bring the whole circus down.

That’s an easy dream to get behind until you learn intimately just how hard it is to build anything, any damn thing at all.

But we learn things, even in the playgrounds of our dreams, about how to live, and the fantasies of my youth might have taught me a bit after all, especially since I fed them as much history as I could cram in with the stories and songs.

So I’ve been reading various stories, each one true in at least some senses, about people in difficult times and hearing what they are telling us, over the distance of culture and time, over the border of myth and fiction and even history.

“The problem is always how to live in a decadent society.” Not entirely true, because sometimes the decadent society can’t be lived in. Then what? Now, surviving a decadent society is a different matter. That’s a thing to learn.

So I have just a few thoughts worth sharing about how to be good in a bad time.

UU 102: “A conversation begins with a lie…”

Of all the dangers I ever wondered about in the marriage equality movement, it was the possibility that the GLBTQ community would collude in the silencing of these queer notions of love and desire.   When I used to read those alarmist articles about queers wanting to change marriage, and straight (and also gay) liberals defending our upstanding intent to slip unassuming into marriage as-is, I used to think – No.  We do want to change marriage.  I hope we do. 

Me, too, friend. Me, too.