Category Archives: Politics

Unitarian Universalist Church of Mountain Home gets threatening letter, windows shot out

This is not the right mood for me to go to choir practice in. As Brother Wayne Kramer says, “Bomb-loving leaders get bomb-loving citizens.” It doesn’t surprise me this happened at this point in history, after that election, not one bit.

This is the most complete story I’ve seen so far:

I talked later with Mrs. Hurley, 82, lay leader of the small congregation. The anonymous letter was sent to Bill Rhodes, the president of the congregation about two weeks ago. What appeared to be pellet gun holes were found in a church window Sunday, though she’s drawing no conclusions about cause and effect in the case of either the letter or the holes in the window. The church sits by a traffic light and teenagers with a BB gun might have just popped off a few shots, she noted.

It’s her town, and she knows more about their situation than I do. I hope she’s right. And I’m ready to support them.

Here’s the letter:


I am pretty sure that was written by someone a little more literate than it may first appear, but I could be wrong.

Why I Don’t Celebrate Veterans Day

My reasons have nothing to do with veterans. I respect people who take risks for what they believe in, period. I may oppose those same people bitterly, but keeping who they are and what their virtues are in mind makes me both a better opponent and a better human.

So what are my reasons? There are two and they are related.

The first is that with the end of Armistice Day, we have no day to celebrate the end of war–any war. That was the original intent of Armistice Day, which I observe with a moment of silence at 11:11 (or as close to it as I can manage) every 11/11.

Neither do we have a day to celebrate peace, nor a day to mourn all the war dead. I don’t find the death of a civilian killed in saturation bombing of a city any less regrettable than the death of the solider who dropped that bomb then was shot from the air.

The second is that this change came during the McCarthy era, at the same time coinage lost E Pluribus Unum (United We Stand) for the sad trade of In God We Trust, and the Pledge of Allegiance gained the divisive phrase “under God” before “indivisible”.

The meaning of Veterans Day, and Armistice Day before it, had long been contested. Here’s an example:

On that same Armistice Day in 1919, an American Legion parade in Centralia, Washington, the heart of lumber country and long running labor strife, broke ranks on a pre-arranged signal and attacked the local hall of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Wobblies in the hall opened fire in self defense as the Legionaries tried to charge up the stairs.  Four Legionaries were killed in the attack and several others were wounded inside the hall in a confusing melee before most of the union men were disarmed.  Wesley Everest, himself a veteran and in uniform, escaped although wounded and was chased down to the river where he shot two or more of his pursuers before being overwhelmed.

That night a mob of Legionaries, with the complicity of authorities, seized the wounded Everest from his jail cell, dragged him behind an automobile, castrated him, and hung him from a railroad bridge.  Several IWW members including those captured in the hall and others tracked down by posses in a massive man hunt were put on trial.  Eight Wobblies were convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to long prison terms.  No Legionnaires were charged in the initial assault.

That just sticks in my craw. Where is the Grand Army of the Republic when you need them, anyway? Perhaps I digress.

So if you are reading this and you are a veteran, please take no offense at my non-celebration of the holiday. It’s not about you and it’s not about what you did. If you fought bravely for any cause, I respect your personal virtues. But it’s time for a peace holiday.

The prerequisite to peace, of course, is justice. And so:

Let us not break faith with those who have died in defense of human rights, human dignity, human life.

May we recognize the grief that flows in and among us today
and may we keep the faith.

Post-Election Review

I’m not sure, but I think something or someone I voted for won! That doesn’t always happen. So it’s time to take stock:

Do song and story still have the power to connect and move people across time and space and culture? Why, yes, they do.

Does human solidarity still have the power to pull people together for the common good as they understand it, for kind and compassionate action as they see it called for in the world? Why, yes, it does.

Does the magnificence of the world we live in, both the physical world we all share and the interior world we each possess, and those shared world we create, still stir my heart and ear and eye? Why, yes, it does.

All things considered, I’m in pretty good shape. What about you?

The Cynical Brilliance of the Tom Cotton YouTube ad

You know the ad I’m talking about, right? The guy who said, “It’s me again!” in those unskippable fifteen-second YouTube ads for Tom Cotton. That ad. I’ve turned it down and done something else for thirteen seconds so often this last month. And it was effective.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about this ad. We both seized on it as a sign that the Cotton campaign was doing something smart with its fistful of money. I didn’t realize till today just how smart it was.

Think about the character in that ad. What made it so annoying was the part he played. He looked like that jerk who always knows everything, is typically right, is a real jackass, and is a lot of fun to hang out with when he isn’t taking your paycheck on a bar bet.

He depressed me with his vitality in the service of death.

What was your reaction? I suspect it was more weariness than anger. And that’s important.

One of the tactics everyone in politics uses is to demoralize the opponents, getting them to beat themselves with poor morale and thus poor performance. This ad did a bang-up job of doing that, especially among the YouTube demographic, which skews young.

It’s always hard to untangle causality in real-world social science, but if we could in this case, I would bet you cash money a significant number of voters, disproportionately young with all that goes along with that, did not vote due to this ad.

Well played, Tom Cotton, well played.

UU 102: A VOICE IN THE PULPIT: Or, Why This Preacher is Happy to Advise People on How to Vote their Faith

Rev. James Ford has just thrown down:

Pretty much since our Republic was formed, actually from well before, we are that old of a congregation here, on the Sunday ahead of national elections, our ministers serving here at the First Unitarian Church in Providence, Rhode Island, have climbed into the high pulpit and have recalled us to our deeper principles, to remind us of our ideals, our hopes and our aspirations – and to ask that we take those principles, hopes and aspirations with us in our hearts as we walk into our voting booths. I have no doubt for much of that time names were named, and endorsements were made or withheld.

Doesn’t sound all that radical? Read to the end and marvel. It’s not clear whether this was given from the pulpit or not, but still.

P. S. I may not take his advice, but I don’t live in Rhode Island, either.

A Simple Guide to Official Lies about the First Amendment

Are their lips moving? Then they’re lying. According to Jack Gillum and Joan Lowy of the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government agreed to a police request to restrict more than 37 square miles of airspace surrounding Ferguson, Missouri, for 12 days in August for safety, but audio recordings show that local authorities privately acknowledged the purpose was to keep away news helicopters during violent street protests.

It’s not always that way, just like the race is not always to the swift or the battle to the strong, but it’s the way to bet.