Defund The Police, Gwen Stacy!

O sweet Gwen! Save yourself while there's still time!

Defund The Police! Does that slogan scare you? Maybe it should.

As Bob Dylan sings, “You’d better start swimming or get thrown like a stone.”

Maybe that’s a judgement on you.

A huge grassroots movement has put forward the demand Defund The Police. It’s put that slogan on the lips of every American.

If the leadership of the right had been given a gift like that, they’d hammer you every day with Defund The Police! Defund the Police! Why? Because they want to win. They know better than to stand in the way of, oh, the Tea Party. They co-opted them instead. They took the forms of their demands, their slogans, and used them to get some–not all–of what they all wanted. And they won.

So just this once, can we try not backing down in advance because the mean people will say the mean things? Can we defend our leaders who are in the streets fighting for us, instead of worrying about whether Chuck Schumer (D-Wall Street) can beg enough McNuggets of funding from fat rich fucks?

Because let me tell you: Those of you quibbling about the slogan are not leading. Neither are those quibbling at the top. Not any more.

If you’d been paying attention, you’d know Defund The Police is the compromise. The true demands of the heart? More like Fuck The Police! and Chinga La Migra! I don’t know how anyone who noticed that four policemen slowly murdered a man in a public display of terror can ever have hummed along with “I Shot The Sheriff” or “Murder In My Heart For The Judge” and not feel that too.

As Mary Jane Watson told Peter Parker, “Face it, tiger–you’ve hit the jackpot!” And we have. Just look at Generation Lockdown out in the streets. They’ve been told in every possible way their lives are disposable commodities. We can’t be bothered to keep them from being mass murdered other than by traumatizing them with fake mass murder drills. We can’t worry about them getting bullied in school or ending up on the street because their parents don’t care. We sign them up for a life of debt to get a degree that has become more a job license than an education, and tell them with a straight face that debt is for their own good. We watch as those younger than ourselves fail to thrive in the environment we created for them, and blame them for it.

Now they are doing something about it. They are doing something you didn’t. Whether you couldn’t or wouldn’t or whatever doesn’t really matter now. It’s being done.

The thing is, Mary Jane Watson has done shown up, and she is rocking our world. She’s a red-headed girl who burned a police car in New York City who’ll end up in prison for it.

And right now, as you stand by and dither as she sits in jail, wondering what you are going to do about what she fights for, you have chosen to be Gwen Stacy. Your father, the kind police commissioner, is already dead, and you are the sweet, doomed past.

It’s not a perfect metaphor. It’s not a perfect world, either, so that seems fitting.

Which one matters more? Which one will you do something about?

Devils, Satans, and Lucifers whose reality Unitarian Universalists must acknowledge

  1. I have met this Devil, many times. The song remains the same:
  2. Satan introduces the worship of crosses and crucifixion through empire:
  3. Lucifer arrives via an unintentional blood sacrifice and does a little good at an unconscionable cost:
  4. The Devil anticipates Stephen Strange telling Victor Von Doom, “I think you should be afraid, old friend.” Kind of:
  5. Constantine teaches the Devil’s Disciples to hide behind desks in gaudy uniforms and click down the halls of power in pantsuit and heels:
  6. Even when the Devil is dogging you down into the grave, he is still no more than a man, and you can still get your licks in on him while you go, even if all you can do is call attention to you as you are drowning, not waving, but drowning with a knee on your throat:

I know there’s more. This is what I have right now. If you have one, lay it on me!

Who is the antagonist in the church?

It’s hard to know and important to know.

Kenneth Haugk’s classic Antagonists in the Church: How to Identify and Deal with Destructive Conflict gives us this guidepost:

What is church antagonism? It is that disruption in a congregation caused by an antagonist…

Antagonists are individuals who, on the basis of nonsubstantive evidencego out of their way to make insatiable demands, usually attacking the person or performance of others. These attacks are selfish in naturetearing down rather than building up, and are frequently directed against those in a leadership capacity. (Emphasis Haugk’s in the original, with italics.)

Those are important phrases:

  1. nonsubstantive evidence
  2. go out of their way
  3. insatiable demands
  4. selfish in nature
  5. tearing down rather than building up

When you’ve checked three of those off, you’ve got an unhealthy situation. But what do you do about it?

Haugk explains tactics for dealing with a church antagonist. Many of them look a lot like how sophisticated, socially adept antagonists with power attack their victims. When you start stepping through the process of actually coping with someone using those means, which are at best only relatively kind and gentle, you start looking into the abyss of your own will and ability to impose something unpleasant on another person against their desire. Sometimes it may bring back memories of how and when it was done to you.

If you have to use the tactics of an antagonist against them, how are you different from that antagonist? How do you stay different? Are you the antagonist? Are you perceived as the antagonist? Do you function as an antagonist, whether you want to or not?

Haugk doesn’t throw the word “evil” around casually in his book, but it’s in there. I know the evil that breathes in your ear every time you fight fire with fire. I also know the evil that tells you to see no, hear no, and speak no, so someone can get away with murder.

I don’t have any wisdom (other than Haugk’s), except maybe you should be tough and strong both. I’m working on the strength part.

A Literary or a Scientific Answer to a Human Question?

The current issue of UU World has a lovely long meditation on mortality and John Keats, “Loss, poetry, and the ballast of faith“, by Kathryn Hamilton Warren. Go on–read it. It’s not long and it’s worth your time. Then I’ll put a small tile on her mosaic.

Kathryn Hamilton Warren isn’t the only one of us who finds answers to deep human questions in art, especially the written word. I find them there, and chances are you do, too. I also find answers in science. So do you, probably, and so does Kathryn Hamilton Warren.

But what of my mother’s spirit, her energy, the person and the presence brought into being by that utterly contingent constellation of atoms? This, of course, is the great question, about which science says this:

There’s another way of answering this question, by going back to John Keats and one of his last works–“This Living Hand“:

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm’d—see here it is—
I hold it towards you.

It’s built to be read aloud. The meaning falls into place after a time or two. Most criticism takes this to be Keats expressing fear of mortality, which is true enough, and goes on from there into considerably darker interpretations. Everyone’s a critic, right?

But that’s not how I read it. This poem says:

I am alive now (line one)
I will be dead soon (lines two and three)
You’ll think about me (line four)
You’d do anything to have me back (lines five and six)
It’s okay (line seven)
I’m still here (line eight)

That’s where Keats’ spirit went. It went onto paper and into the people he knew and out into the world generally while he lived. Now that his body is gone, he is still reaching his hand out to us to freely give us what he can:

And thou be conscience-calm’d—see here it is—
I hold it towards you.

We don’t have to make our “own heart dry of blood” for Keats, any more than he died for us. Keats lived, and  reaches out to us today.

That’s where I figure my mom’s spirit is, and my dad’s, and someday mine. Holding my hand out, what’s left of me in the world, offering.

Things Many of Us Believe and Practice

What is the basis on which Unitarian Universalists can act together for the good of the religion and the world?

This is one such set of ideas:

  1. Unitarian Universalism is an emerging religion, distinct from its sources. It is a sufficient religious identity in and of itself.
  2. Unitarian Universalism is humanistic in the sense that it holds human problems require human actions in response.
  3. Unitarian Universalism contains multiple theologies which hold similar attitudes toward the world and how we are to act in it.
  4. Unitarian Universalism contains many, often conflicting, ideas about ultimate and transcendental questions.
  5. Unitarian Universalism requires covenantal relationship but it does not require congregational membership.
  6. Unitarian Universalism requires action in support of belief by both groups and individuals.
  7. Unitarian Universalism is more important than the organizations which support it. (Added shortly after first publication.)

I Support Bernie Sanders Because I’m A Leftist, Not A Greendividualist

I’m a leftist in the United States, where parties can’t build national power by getting five percent or so of the vote. Under parliamentary systems, that works. It worked for the Greens in West Germany. It works all over Europe. It doesn’t work here.

In the United States, two parties contend in the general election. If you can’t influence a party’s policies before an election, you are shit out of luck and have constrained choices. Being an individualist that can’t work within an organization means you aren’t really a leftist.

Bernie Sanders gets that. He caucuses with the Democrats and helps them build the party organizationally. He runs independent but functions as a Democrat, having learned early on that even local third party scenarios don’t play out well for his policies.

The Greens have had over thirty years to build power. They haven’t because they can’t. They fail to build local power, even in favorable circumstances. Look at Arkansas history, especially in very progressive Fayetteville and Eureka Springs. I was there for those failures. I failed along with them. It don’t work.

Green Individualism is the opposite of leftism. It’s Greendividualism and I say the hell with it.

Wishing away structural barriers that keep leftists out of power is pissing into the wind. It sucks worse for those who stand around you than it does for you. Bernie Sanders is smart. He’s building power outside the party and inside. You don’t need a raincoat to stand with him.

That said, the “Lefties for Trump” slur is also bullshit. It smacks of the Old Left style of analysis: “You are objectively racist in your anti-racist activities.” That’s useless overstatement performed to make the person who says it feel superior. It usually, though not always, comes out of the mouth of someone with class privilege.

People make their choices on both pragmatic and principled grounds. Telling people “you’re really for Trump if you vote Green/Libertarian/independent/not at all” is just mind reading. People hear it, know subjectively it’s false, and correctly reject it.

If you want to influence people away from counterproductive forms of leftism, don’t tell them false things about their state of mind. Say true things about the effects their actions have. Don’t tell people to your left they are really on your right. It’s not true and we all know it.

Sermon or Song? Kesha’s “Here Comes The Change”

In a sexist world, a woman who attempts an equal partnership with a man is likely to be shortchanged. Even a strong woman. Even a feminist woman. It can be done, but the odds are against her.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, like Nancy Pelosi, like Liz Warren, chose to partner with good men who put her career first. They were lucky to make a good choice young.

Kesha, like Tammy Wynette, like Tina Turner, chained young to shitty men who put her career last, chose to break those chains at great personal and artistic cost, for greater personal and artistic freedom.

So ends the lesson of today’s Sermon or Song?

Donald Trump Understands The Constitution. The 9/11 Killers Understood Airport Security.

It’s really this simple:

Building on fire

If you have a can of gasoline, you understand architecture just fine.

If you have an atomic bomb and the plane to carry it in, you understand Hiroshima well enough.

If you can aim a gun, you understand human anatomy splendidly. And if you aren’t any good with a pistol, there’s always a shotgun.

Complaining about Donald Trump being stupid and ignorant while he’s kicking your ass shows he understands playground rules better than you do. Who do you think is going to save you from the bully if there is no teacher on the scene?

I don’t care for horror movies. I don’t watch them. But I read about everything, and I know they teach this lesson:

When the call is coming from inside the house, no one can save you but yourself.

Don’t take that too literally. Horror movies set it up so that the heroine–that’s you, in the current horror show–are stripped of your friends, your family, all the cloud of support around you. That’s how moral fiction works, stripped to the essentials to teach a lesson.

In This Real Life? You have friends. You have family. You have the kindness of strangers. You have human solidarity, one of the three foundations of my own spirituality.  Thanks to all that, you have agency and power. You’d best use them.

Or lose them. It’s up to you. It’s always been you, my love.

Keep On Moving Forward

There are two separate steps in what we call “impeachment”.

The first is impeachment. It’s carried out by the House. That’s the investigation, the preparation of a case. It’s like a grand jury, where evidence is presented and an indictment can be issued. It doesn’t have to rise to the standards of a criminal trial. Since the last House abandoned its oversight duties, the onslaught of oversight requests are the beginnings of that process. Whether there’s a formal impeachment at the end of it, we’re having that now.

Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and Andrew Johnson were all impeached, and rightfully so. Nixon committed actual crimes; Clinton creepily perjured himself; Johnson helped the South regain what it had rightfully lost. All of them committed grave irresponsibilities while in office. There’s no doubt in my mind Donald Trump’s misdeeds rise to that standard. His venality combines the criminality of Nixon, the faithlessness of Clinton, and the disloyalty of of Johnson.

I expect Trump will be impeached, just as those three were.

The impeachment itself is a significant punishment. It has stained all three men’s reputations, not from the vote to impeach, but from the public exposure of their unfitness to hold office. It ended Nixon’s political career. It should have ended Clinton’s–the party should have demanded his resignation once the process was over, so Al Gore could have run as an incumbent, unchained from a shitty man–and it did damage him. Johnson was already weakened.

The second step is trial. It’s carried out by the Senate. No president has ever been convicted by the Senate. Neither will Trump be, barring some smoking gun we don’t know about. He’s obscured the record by obstructing justice.

Nixon deserved conviction. He only avoided it by resignation. Clinton didn’t. His shittiness was revealed to be ugly but truly small, like him. Johnson…I have no strong opinion about what fate he deserved. His misdeeds were purely political.

But that process of trial in the Senate, that is important, not least because it focuses national attention on a process more easily understood than investigation. It allows the facts to be laid out, much like a trial, for judgement.

I’ll follow Pelosi’s lead on whether to impeach. She’s a fighter who’s been Trump’s most effective political opponent.

Till then, keep on moving forward. Forward with investigation. Forward with the next election. Forward with building a fighting Party that doesn’t roll over and pee itself when threatened. Forward with popular mobilization to ensure that.

Keep on moving forward.