Posts Tagged ‘injustice’

The Fierce Circle of Power

March 5, 2019

Power in the modern State/Nation/Union runs around in a big circle.

Circle

As in a big atom-smasher, where charged-up sub-atomic particles race to oblivion, or to wherever it is that electrons and protons and quarks and neutrinos and cheerios go when they manifest at the speed of light transforming between energy and matter . . . between things falling apart and things hanging together. . .

Power in the modern State cycles around, and is transformed, into greater and greater levels of constructivity. And, unfortunately, destructivity.

On one side of the Circle is Left, and on the other is Right.

The two sides meet at top and bottom.  At these two polarities—top and bottom—Left and Right merge together in a region  where Left and Right are indistinguishable, for instance . . .

A Government in which Democrat and Republican allow neutrally pragmatic institutions for the sake of productivity and increase.

A State in which Socialist and Capitalist tolerate similar policies that do not violate  their diverging identities.

A Regime where  Left and Right achieve tolerance, mimicking each other in their tactics.

Now looking back, a lifetime ago . . .

At the top, leaders and their agents at the peak of diplomacy met with the other side to do business, but unknowingly made arrangements that passively allow harm to all the citizens of the world who would soon get caught in the crossfire.

And a few years later. . .

An Agreement in which Communist and Fascist coexisted, militarily, for about two years, by means of a sham treaty . . .

A Treaty in which, 80 years ago, a Communist and a Nazi tyranny attacked and plundered the Polish nation that lay between them.

Then, years after that initial double-sided invasion . . .

Allied  armies later penetrated the morass of Power, bringing to light of day the deplorable bottom where Nazi concentration camps were found,  and later, Communist gulags. These hellhole prisons were established by both sides, for purposes of controlling both their peoples by means of the same criminally cruel imprisonments and executions.

Because Left and Right made no difference in their tortuous abuses of mankind.

At that low point, persecution, torture, imprisonment, pain and death are the same whether they’re inflicted by a damn Communist or a damn Nazi.

More generally, however. . .

These days, at the Top

of our hypothetical circle we catch sight of moderate players who manage to do their moderating thing  in spite of the treacherous slippery slope curvature of the two sides.

And at the Bottom—in the pit of both sides’ dubious or even despicable practices, the tactical crimes common to both extremities are occasionally uncovered, identifiable as the same  atrocities.

Because Left and Right make no difference, at their extremities, in their manipulations and abuses of mankind.

At what is perhaps our present High point, everybody seems to be chugging along in a globalized quasi-peace.

But at some future a Low point, persecution, torture, imprisonment, pain and death will be the same whether they’re inflicted by a Socialist or a Fascist, a Democrat or a Republican,  by a whacko shootist or a jihadist terrorist.

At some other low point of history, armies representing Truth and Justice—if there is such a thing in this circle— will be required again, to blast their way into the cycle of hellish human history, and liberate those prisoners who are caught in the crossfire.

Even now, the widening gyre,  the next circle, gathers speed to ramp up to dizzying velocity, delivering at some dismal low point of human depravity a new deposit of deplorable arrests and atrocities, accumulating in the pit where innocent souls get caught in the crossfire, deprived of justice and mercy.

Beware. On the last go-round, the pit could be bottomless.

Get ready to meet your maker. If you don’t acknowledge the Maker . . .well,  good luck with that. May the bird of paradise fly up your nose until it all hits the fan.

King of Soul

What Joe said . . .

January 5, 2019

Ponder what the man said, long ago. This lesson pertains to forgiveness, and other truths . . . destiny, injustice, endurance, faith and human nature.

“Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come closer to me.’ And they came closer. And he said, ‘I am your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.’ “

“ ‘Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, but God sent me before you to preserve life.’

“ ‘For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.’

“ ‘God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.’

“ ‘Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God . . .’ “

For more about Joseph and his brothers, read Genesis 37-48.

Also, consider Peterson’s lecture on this subject:

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7V8eZ1BLiI

JosphBros

King of Soul

Never Again

October 28, 2018

From chapter 8 of Glass half-Full, we find Hilda, a restaurant-owner, telling some friends about an experience she had in Germany.

“Hitler and his thugs tried to take advantage of the situation; they launched a coup d’etat, called a putsch in German. But it failed, and they ended up getting arrested. The event has been named the beer hall putsch of 1923. Well, I was reading about these police officers who were killed by the Nazis that night. And I was reading in my guide book some information about the incident. I kept hearing this beautiful music, really spirited music. We walked in the direction of the music. We turned a corner…and there they were, five musicians playing five instruments: clarinet, violin, accordion, cello, a drummer. I could tell they were Jewish right away. I considered their courage: to stand there at the Odeonsplatz where the Nazis had made their first move to try and take over the world, and declare, with their music, that Jewish people, along with their music, were alive and well in the 21st century. They inspired me. We must have listened to them for an hour…the Bridge Ensemble.”

This excerpt from my 2007 novel describes an event in the life of a fictional character named Hilda. While writing the book, I chose the occurrence to make a point about what happens in the history of our human race when hate-based groups take up arms against other people.

However, the event described here, although presented as a fictional event in a story, is in reality something that actually happened.

It happened to me. I was “Hilda.” My son and I were in Munich in 2002 when the music reached my ears while I was reading a plaque about the four German policemen who had been killed during the first Nazi uprising in 1923.

It was a meaningful event in my life, so I made the experience part of a long story story that I later published in 2007. Glass half-Full is a novel about some characters in the Washington DC area; they’re pretty good people, but some bad things happen to them.

Bad things happen.

When bad things happen on a large scale, nations go to war against each other and all hell breaks loose for a while. When all hell breaks loose on a major scale–a continental level of magnitude and intensity–that is called “World War.”

We of mankind have had two of them. We hope that we never have another. Don’t we?

In both world wars, our nation, the United States of America, intervened on behalf of our Allies. In both wars, our presence and strength in the fray made a big difference, and we were victorious in both holocausts.

Holocausts is a word I use in the context of that last sentence, meaning  life sacrifices, by fire: lives being snuffed out by fire, or by other destructive means. In our post-World War II experience, the Holocaust generally refers to the mass-murder of six million Jewish Europeans under the murderous regime of the Nazis, led by the demonic Nazi dictator, Adolf Hitler.

Never again should there be a holocaust of such immensity. Our nation and our armed forces were a large part of extinguishing the fire of persecution that snuffed out the lives of millions of defenseless, innocent persons before and during the Second World War.

AmIsFlags

Now, when people refer to the proposition of making America “great again,” this is–or should be–the meaning of the phrase, Make America Great Again.

That we have been, in times past, the defender of innocent people who are being slaughtered on a massive scale by hate-filled groups, –this is what made America great during World War II. And this is what, generally, does make America great in any present or future time.

Great, yes, because we have–on a massive scale– the resources and the collective will to serve as defenders of defenseless or innocent people anywhere in the world.

Not because we appoint ourselves aggressors to impose our so-called American way of life on any other nation or people-group in this world. This is where we crossed the line, in my opinion, in Vietnam. What began as a war to defend the free people of South Vietnam against aggressive Viet Minh insurgents, degenerated instead, to become a war of aggression in which we raised a lot more hell and bloodletting than we could legitimately justify; in a quasi-primitive nation that had not yet progressed to a phase of development in which they could truly understand the difference between these two words: communism and capitalism.

And may that never happen again.

A year or two ago, I also wrote a sociological novel pertaining to our Vietnam ordeal, King of Soul.

Let us Americans never be the aggressors. We are defenders. What makes our nation great, if anything, is simply the massive scale of defense we are able to muster on behalf of free and innocent people, whether it’s in Europe, Rwanda, the Middle East, or anywhere, including at home. May our great strength never corrupt us.

We are defenders not only in the military applications. We are-and should always be–defenders of the defenseless in matters of law. We are, according to our original founding codes, advocates for justice in all of our institutions: courts of law, legislative bodies, government agencies, immigration agencies, overseas aid, and administrative law from welfare to wall street. That is what makes America great.

May we never stray from the preservation and extension of truth, justice, and yes, the American way.

And may we always be defenders of same.

Glass half-Full

What do you see?

January 17, 2016

Look at this.

Cross

What do you see?

Two lines crossing?

Yes.

Use your imagination. There’s more to this symbol than meets the eye.

Maybe you see an X/Y axis where mathematical equations can be graphed in two-dimensional space.

Maybe you see a crossroads, a place where a traveler, perhaps you, would retain a straight path, or make a turn.

And we know there’s the possibility that you see here a religious symbol.

Maybe you see organized religion fastened irretrievably to a stiff framework of dead tradition.

Think about this. This configuration has been used, at different times in history, as

         an instrument of torture,

         where one human being might be nailed, even unto death, by other human beings.

Or perhaps can you see, in the crossed paths of historical nations,

     the desires of different people groups at cross-purposes with each other,

     or the interests of different ethnicities at cross-purposes with each other,

     or the dogmatic stubbornness of different religions crossing each other in warfare?

You may even see any possibility of World Peace nailed to this cross–

     straightjacketed hopelessly to the hard reality that this world is a cruel, bellicose place.

Maybe you see any hope for true justice in this world bound repeatedly by the terrible deeds that men do.

Stretch you imagination. Canst thou discern Peace On Earth nailed to our inescapable propensity toward war?

Can you, perhaps, even see the hopes and dreams of fearful Syrian citizens nailed to a ubiquitous grid of war?

Or, the lives of black men and women that matter, strewn lifelessly across an intersection of corruption and injustice?

Maybe you can visualize, in the collective memory of our history, a cross burning in front of Great-great Grampa Tom’s cabin.

Can you envision all the wasted time that Saeed Abedini spent in an Iranian prison fastened to a cross of injustice?

Can you imagine all the terrible deeds of mankind throughout history nailed to this cross?

There was a man crucified on it at one time. But he is not bound to that cross any more.

A couple of days after our sentence upon him was passed, and the execution complete, he was carried to to an intersection with eternal life.

Can you imagine eternal life on the other side of that deathly cross?

I can. I’ve been to the crossroads.

Glass half-Full

I wanna know what happen to Freddie Gray

May 2, 2015

Now I don’t know but I been told

that we Americans got a right that we hold:

from unreasonable searches and seizures we are free,

’cause the 4th Amendment say that the way it should be.

 

Now we don’t know what happen to Freddie Gray

but we know he didn’t survive that day

when three cops from Baltimore PD

hauled him in on some charge that no one did see.

 

They said he had a switchblade that’s illegal,

but State’s attorney said he had a pocket knife, legal.

Without probable cause those cops hauled Freddie in,

but he didn’t survive it; it seems like a sin.

 

Now I know its wrong that a riot later ensued

but that don’t change the fact that Freddie was abused.

So I think it appropriate that somehow, some way:

the people of America need to know what happen to Freddie that day.

 

It was a medical examiner, you see,

who examined Freddie’s fatal injury,

and called it not self-inflicted, but homicide.

So in a court of Law, the cops should be tried.

 

We need to know–it needs to be tried–

if Freddy’s death was justified.

We need to know what happen to Freddie that day;

this can’t be like Mike Brown’s case where they never would say.

 

Glass half-Full

This just doesn’t add up

December 6, 2014

Yeah, sure, Michael Brown broke a law.

Yeah, sure, he was resisting arrest;

yeah, sure, the officer of the law was doing his duty.

But in the end, a young man, unarmed, is dead

because he stole a pack of cigarillos and then walked impudently down the middle of the street.

 

Yeah, sure, Eric Garner broke a law.

Yeah, sure, he was resisting arrest;

yeah, sure, the officer of the law was doing his duty.

But in the end, a young man, unarmed, is dead

because he was selling cigarettes.

 

This just doesn’t add up.

There is something wrong here.

And it appears to be, as we say in newspeak, systemic.

 

That is to say, there is something wrong with the system.

 

Yeah, sure, the Missouri grand jury that did not indict the officer

was a legally appointed body the purpose of which was to decide

whether there was a possibility that the arresting officer had violated the law

while attempting to protect himself and the public.

 

Yeah, sure, the New York grand jury that did not indict the officer

was a legally appointed body the purpose of which was to decide

whether there was a possibility that the arresting officer had violated the law

while attempting to protect himself and the public.

 

But we have two dead bodies because of damned minuscule cigarette violations. The deathful end doesn’t justify the means. There’s something wrong with this picture, and the public can smell it.

 

Why is the deadly outcome of these two cases so much bigger, and final, than the sum of their legal parts?

A young man commits a misdemeanor or two; then he’s walking along and suddenly there’s a cop in his face. That’s to be expected; illegal actions have legal consequences. So the cop is doing his job. But hey, a few minutes later the petty criminal is dead.

 

Who issued the guilty verdict and death sentence? A court of law? A trial by jury? No. It doesn’t add up.

There is something going on here, something being exposed, that needs to be dealt with.

Is it racism? True dat. Like sin, it is always there in us, sometimes under the surface, sometimes in full-blown atrocity. Wherever men go upon the earth, there is, was, will be tribe-against-tribe racism.

But racism is only part of this picture; the other part is a justice system with its priorities out of whack. That’s what we the people are feeling now.

Why are so many people–black and white, conservative and liberal–disturbed about the fatal outcome of these incidents?

We have a serious disconnect between the street-imposed sentence (death) and the seriousness of the crime.

That “it doesn’t add up” disconnect is wired into our media-driven minds.  Although we do not know nearly as much as we think we do about news events, neither does a grand jury operating without cross-examination of witnesses.

In this fortnight’s perceived events, it’s almost as if the vast public outcry, as jerky and fickle and circumstantial as it is, produces a more appropriate assessment of the outcome than the traditional, evidence-based system for passing judgement.

 

Oh surely we do not know the facts of the case as well as the grand jury. But we do know this: two young, unarmed men who had not been sentenced to death  are now dead. That’s the bottom line.

It doesn’t add up. The system, with or without grand jury, needs somehow to be fixed, so that the punitive sentence accurately reflects the seriousness of crime.

As if that could happen.

I don’t know though. . . maybe it’s always been this way. Maybe there is, in truth, no justice in this world.

And so folks yearn for something better. . . the Last Judgement of a Righteous God?

I’m not excusing injustice.

Just sayin’. That Last Judgement may be the only justice some of us will ever see.

 

Glass half-Full

Opportunity Lost in Ferguson

November 25, 2014

Officer Wilson will have no opportunity to be publicly exonerated.

I have been thinking about him, and the man he shot. Like many Americans, I have been wondering what exactly did happen on that fateful August night when Officer Wilson, in the line of dangerous duty, killed Mike Brown with a gun.

Based on media-driven hearsay, it sounds to me like the young policeman would have had a pretty solid defense of his actions while attempting to enforce the law. I think, as most other white folk probably do, he would have been found not guilty in a court of law.

But who am I to say? Nobody. I’m a thousand miles away, a merely curious news-seeker with no access to the facts.

Since there will be no trial, and hence no public discovery of what actually happened between Officer Wilson and Mike Brown, we will never know.

Now this tragic death becomes an open wound in our national conscience; it will not heal.

There will be no sworn testimony from Officer Wilson, nor from any witness, no questioning from a defense attorney, no cross-examination from a prosecutor.

As citizens in a nation of laws, we will never know what evidence and testimony might have been called forth in our Officer’s defense in a court of law.

But we need to know. As a nation at black and white crossroads, we do need to know what happened.

As a result of our failure to follow through with due process, the severe wound that has been opened up on our national corpus will not heal; it will fester until it boils up with infections of chronic misinformation, severe political manipulation,  unresolved grief and destructive rage.

We have lost an opportunity. The United States of America will have no close-up examination of what routinely happens between a black shoplifter and a white cop on a dark night in a city that keeps no secrets.

The sad consequence of no indictment in Missouri is that police work in our cities will become more difficult, more dangerous, not less.

And Officer Wilson will have no opportunity for public exoneration from his hastily fatal decision on that dark Missouri night.

Show me some due process, and this could turn out differently for our people.

Smoke

“Death of a King”, Tavis’ book

November 16, 2014

If ever a man lived who actually wrestled the demons of his era, Dr. Martin Luther King was that man.

Tavis Smiley makes that point absolutely clear in his new book Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year.

Dr. King’s steadfast espousal of non-violence, having been firmly founded in his biblical faith, was a burden he bore with dignity his entire working life. What Dietrich Bonhoeffer had earlier called “the cost of discipleship” is a very high price for any Christian disciple to pay, especially one who accepts a mission on the front lines of a never-ending battle. The battle that Dr. King chose to fight–for dignity and wellness among his people, and indeed, among all people–was but one 1950’s-’60’s phase of very long war struggle against injustice and poverty. It is a righteous war that has extended back into the times of Old Testament prophets such as Amos, Moses and Isaiah.

While reading Tavis’ account of Dr. King’s last 365 days, I am convinced that the man stood forthrightly in the line of prophetic anointing that stretched back to those prophets of long ago, especially Amos, and including the Messiah himself, Jesus.

There are some among my Christian brethren who question Dr. King’s authenticity in the high calling of the Christian gospel. Their objections gather around accusations that he was a troublemaker, an upstart, an adulterous sinner, all of which is probably true.

But this  Christian agrees with Dr. King, and with our greatest Book, which teaches that we are all sinners.

We are all sinners on this bus, whether it’s a bus to Montgomery, Birmingham, Atlanta, Washington, wherever. A bus to hell itself can be turned around by the power of a man’s faith.

In the unique case of Dr. King–that one man’s exemplary faith,even sin-tainted as it was– was a rock upon which millions have clung for stability since those heady, raucous days of the 1960’s.

Including the honky who writes this review.

In fact (and Tavis’ book makes this absolutely clear) Dr. King’s unyielding stand on Christian non-violence is the main attribute of that leader’s fortitude that set him apart from most of his comrades during those cataclysmic days of 1967-68.

The preacher’s insistence on non-violent civil disobedience instead of violent confrontation compelled him along a lonely course of isolation, with periods of self-doubt and blatant rejection on all fronts friend and foe.

Those other luminaries who labored with Dr. King during that time–Stokely, Rap, Adam Clayton, and many others, including men in his own SCLC camp, Jesse, Ralph, Stanley–those other movers and shakers, who marked Martin as an Uncle Tom whose relevance was being eclipsed by bloodier strategies– wanted to leave the preacher in the dust.

Which he ultimately was, as we all will be, in the dust.

I haven’t even finished reading Tavis’ book yet. But I just had to let you know. . . there was a man–he lived during my lifetime– whose

 “radical love ethos at the heart of Christianity–is not to change with the times but, through the force of his constant conviction, to change the times.”

Thank you, Dr. King. Your life has been, always will be, an inspiration to me. I look forward to hearing directly from you when we are all together as God’s children, black and white, in that place he has prepared for us.

And also, from this white boy to you, Tavis Smiley: thank you for this timely illumination of Dr. King’s work among us. In spite of all the turbid waters that have passed beneath the bridges of our times, we are still a divided nation. We could stand to revisit the vision of peace that was manifested, not so long ago, in the life and work of this one man’s faithful legacy.

my song about him: Mountaintop

Glass half-Full

To Save the World

October 11, 2014

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing, end them. . .

This problem, described in archaic language by a Shakespearean prince, Hamlet, can be stated more simply this way:

Should we suffer, or should we fight?

Should we accept the world as it, or is it better to struggle against all the bad stuff?

Should we concede, or strive toward tikkun olam, the repairing of the world?

And even if we choose to oppose the (sea of) troubles in this life, can our resistance put an end to them? Can “opposing” those troubles  actually defeat them?

If you or I can put an end to the injustice and or dysfunction of this world, then maybe we should get busy working toward that end. But if this quest–to resist the evil of this world– is fruitless,  a lost cause, then why bother? What difference does it make?

Maybe we just have to suffer through it.

That’s what  one religious founder, Jesus of Nazareth, did. He suffered through the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” that were flung upon him. He suffered all the way through torture and crucifixion until death itself overtook him.

For a few days.

But his boldly compassionate life included not only suffering and bearing the pain, it also included serious resistance against the powers that be. He was a man who took arms, spiritually, against a sea of troubles, by speaking publicly against the injustice that humans impose upon one another, and he used his hands proactively to heal people, and to release folks from suffering and oppression.

I think his life was quite unique in this respect: he actually, and very effectively, trod a middle path between these two choices–submission and resistance.

He was an example of bearing up under the burden of suffering, while simultaneously launching a campaign against what is wrong in this world of human striving that manifests as dogmatic religion and ineffective government.

Now we know from history that Jesus’ struggle to live a meaningful life, a life that truly made a difference, was a failure.

Because, you know, he ended up dead and publicly humiliated and all that.

On the other hand, if you consider what all has been done in his name since he lived, it could be that the work of his life–the suffering and the active resistance–attests that his legacy is more perpetual than it may at first appear.

From the standpoint of world history, his story is everlasting. This persistent story of a savior who conquered death itself has transcended the world. He has won the world by overcoming the world’s cynical resistance.

His was the greatest life ever lived. He opposed the slings and arrows by submitting to them. Thus he rendered them powerless against his sacred work. He  overcame the world. Who else has done such a thing? and then lived to tell about it. You gotta believe.

This was accomplished, paradoxically, without actually “taking arms.” He fired no gun, wielded no knife. Jesus’ only sword was the one in his mouth. What an exceptional way to repair the hearts of men, as if that were possible!

While other religionists have resorted to the sword of conquest, here was a man whose only weapon for opposing the evils of mankind was the sword of the Spirit.

To be, or not to be (with Him). . . that is the question.

Glass half-Full

SFMuni Bus #48

September 29, 2014

Yesterday I took the #48 SFMuni bus ride from the Mission district over Diamond Heights to the West Portal.

I ambled around a bit, wandered lonely as a cloud through a corner of Golden Gate Park, then strolled straight up Haight, past Ashbury to Masonic, then northward through the Panhandle to Fulton and by n by took a long jaunt back  to mid-town and the San Francisco Opera house.

This morning, Pat and I hopped on the #48 and rode out to West Portal. Now we are kickin’ around, having taken a trolley(modern version) over to catch a view of the Pacific, which we had seen earlier this year, but that was down the coast a bit, in Costa Rica.

I like the #48 bus. I was surprised to see it depicted in this mural, which we were viewing yesterday afternoon on Balmy alley in the Mission:

ProtestMural

At the present moment, early Monday afternoon Sept. 29, 2014, I am sitting at a Starbucks preparing to send you this little digital communicado. You may see the skullish fellow in the painting. He is is typing away on a laptop, as I am at this moment, and probably hoping to connect  cyber-cytizens of the world to some idea or story that will lead them to hell or heaven or somewhere in between. I hope the artist did not have this old white guy (me) in mind in that detail.

That cannot be me in the pic anyway, because I am not wearing a black robe. I’m wearing a Carolina blue shirt.

As for the excellent painting jpg’d here, I recommend you study it closely. It is very well done. But somehow I feel not entirely empathetic to its angstish message. On the other hand I can tell you that the painting itself is evidence that not all is well in this present arrangement of things: this truth I acknowledge.

As for the worldy injustice that is alluded to herein, I could write a book (yet to come.) It would be a long book, the fourth I have written, a labor of love, an opus, although others have probably done it better than I.

Nevertheless, If I may offer one brief advisement with which to leave you, it would be: read Matthew 5, 6,7. The message there is, I believe, even more powerful than, say, Marx, Mao or Che. And even more revolutionary than this painting, but not as colorful.

Glass Chimera