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.

One Good Thing About the Rise of Authoritarianism

If you’ve read a lot of inside stuff about Unitarian Universalism the last few years, you’ve noticed ministers (and others, but a lot of ministers) decrying the “antiauthoritarianism” of rank-and-file Unitarian Universalists.

Equating “antiauthoritarianism” with “antiauthority” is just as dishonest as the people who try to equate “spirituality” and “spiritualism”, and in just the same word-warping manner.

So here’s the good news: I haven’t seen one such use of “anti-authoritarian” since the last election. As Samuel Johnson said, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Looking authoritarianism in the eye reminds the weary and forgetful of the virtues of standing firm and saying no, middle finger and all.

It’s a small blessing, but I’m not in a position to turn anything down!

Dear Dahlia Lithwick: The Story Is The Ending

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate wrote a wonderful piece yesterday, How to Survive Trump’s Presidency Without Losing Your Mind. It’s short. You should read it before going on.

At the end, after repeating a story to us, she says:

I told this story to a roomful of people the other night and someone asked me after how the story ends. I had to admit to him that as a formal matter, the story ends where I ended it: the madness and the markings. But the truth is that the story doesn’t end so much as invite us into it, to contend with it on its own terms.

That’s true, but incomplete. The story, the telling of the story, the very existence of the story is itself the ending of the story. Consider: What if the plan in the story had gone terribly wrong? Who would be left to tell it? That the story is told shows the plan was successful enough that this piece of knowledge passed from those two men, through that time, to us.

Of course, it’s just a story. It’s not like history, a story which is more than just a story. But stories is what people do. We consume stories. We tell our stories; we tell the stories of others; we make up stories when we run out. The person who told that story lived; the writer who created that narrator lived. Choose to read this story as one of coming through the storm.

(Personal to Ms. Lithwick: I’d love to know what children’s record the version of the story you know comes from.)

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.

Shame Can Do What Guilt Cannot

I learned something about people this week: When you call someone a fascist or a Nazi or a racist, they shrug it off. When you tell them they are bad and should be better people, they take offense. The labels as guilt don’t carry much weight to people who are skeptical of them. Failing as a human being, though, needing to be better, that gets through.

Shame can do what guilt cannot.

Donald Jr. and Eric on SNL: The Smothers Brothers of Our Time?

This sketch is funnier every time I watch it:

It reminds me of an even more exaggerated version of the Smothers Brothers, as though Dick Smothers were playing Donald Jr. and Tommy Smothers were playing Eric. Except that Eric is innocent where Tommy was petulant. Except Donald Jr. cares more about his brother, is more patient with him, than Dick is with his brother.

It’s an odd, oddly sweet dynamic. This sort of probably shouldn’t work at any level but pointed, mean-spirited satire. I’m not much in the mood lately for seeing the human side of the inhumane. But this is still very funny and just a little touching–but mostly funny, especially the physical comedy Alex Moffatt brings to Eric halfway through the sketch. Mikey Day is very good as Donald Jr., slick and a little sleazy but still trying with his brother, but watching Moffatt do his thing while Day tries to talk, that there is paydirt.

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.

Same thing we do every day. Try and change the world.

If you tell a Nazi with a knife, “Tut-tut! That’s not acceptable!” he will cordially invite you to accept that knife in your throat.

When did that stop being obvious? How did that become some profound truth? Slate Magazine tells us The profound and damaging lesson of the Portland attack is “Two brave men saw something. They said something. They died for it. What will we all do next time?”

Is that “The tragic lesson of Portland”? That you can get hurt when Evil People run wild with weapons? That’s not profound. That’s trivial. When did that even become a thing to doubt?

Someone somewhere always pays the bill for social change. When you put off that bill, it costs more to pay it later. That’s not profound. That’s trivial. How did people blind themselves to that?

The artificial world in which we live

  • in which you take your complaints to HR and let them handle it;
  • in which you call the police and forget about what you see happening in front of you;
  • in which you block someone on Facebook and pretend that answered their argument;
  • in which you appeal to the Supreme Court and assume justice will be served;
  • in which you decide freedom is free and believe nothing is risked for it;
  • in which you talk about the arc of the universe bending toward justice and put away your own tools for bending that damn arc yourself;

That artificial world is a lie.

We build such a world for our babies

  • to show them the world as it should be;
  • to allow them to grow into youth who can then experience the world as it is and stand that experience;
  • to send them in out into that world which must might kill them if they try to make it into the world they want it to be;

We build such a world as a truth we plan to make real.

Making that world risks our lives. It risks our lives and it risks the lives of our babies. It kills some of us and it kills some of them and that kills us even if we aren’t the ones who died.

We die inside a little every time we risk them by sending them out into that world. We rot inside a lot every time we fail to risk ourselves to bring that world into being.

I ride the bus to work. Last December, a man at my bus stop tried to prey on a woman. I’m not a fool. I didn’t just jump into it. I bided my time to see if the encounter would end without my intervention. I planned to intervene when I could do so with the least risk.

When the time came, I tried to engage the bus driver’s help. I stayed between the man and the woman. I did my best to separate them. I gave her the invoice he’d discarded from the stolen property he was carrying so she’d have legal leverage on him if the police came.

I didn’t worry about his threats toward me until later. I failed to completely separate them, but maybe I did some good, and maybe I risked my life without doing any good at all. I knew when he tried to follow me off the bus he might hurt me, might even kill me.

It wasn’t even a choice. Neither is

  • breaking down from it later;
  • knowing you would never know if you’d succeeded in helping that woman;
  • despairing when well-meaning friends and not-so-well-meaning cops tell you that you shouldn’t have intervened;

It’s still what you do if you want a better world.

What now?
Same thing we do every day. Try and change the world.