Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Why a Feminist Opposes Draft Registration for Womyn

 I am a lifelong feminist and I am a lifelong pacifist, and I do not support extending draft registration to women.   Yep you heard it right Congress is about to vote on extending draft registration to womyn.   Jimmy Carter first reinstated draft registration after the end of the Vietnam war had ended it, back in 1980.  At that time all young men ages 18 thru 20 were required to register.  Many young men bravely publicly refused to register for the draft, challenging a system they felt would quickly lead to another active draft and more US military aggression.   A few were prosecuted, thousands quietly did not register, the justice dept decided to start ignoring that the system was failing. (Audits showed most did not put in change of address forms and the usefulness of the registration cards was ever increasing.)  Despite many states making registration automatic with getting a driver's license and the "Soloman amendment passing, denying Federal financial aid to those young men who could not show they had registered.   And still they system has been so incomplete and inaccurate to be useless, and the military has continued to fill its ranks from the "all volunteer" military.   Otherwise known as the poverty draft.

So why at this point in time would the government seek to extend the failing draft registration to womyn?  The answer is interesting.  A few years back several young men sued the federal government stating that draft registration was sexual discrimination because it only applied to men.   They are correct of course.  And they won.  The government has been given a deadline and then and extension due to change of administrations to resolve the problem.   The Trump administration spent a year with the NCMNPS holding hearings around the country that were quite restricted in who was allowed to testify at these "public" hearings.  They toyed with ideas like making a mandatory public service for all young people for two years.  (Hitler's youth?)  While not military it would have done things in the public interest...as defined by who?  Sounded like building a wall on the Mexican border to me.  The Biden administration is just going with the recommendation of the commission that toured around which is that women be included in draft registration.   No serious consideration seems to have been given to the other obvious solution to the problem: cancel registration for any gender.

The NCMNPS heard testimony from a former Director of the Selective Service System that the current SSS database is so incomplete and inaccurate as to be "less than useless" for an actual draft, and that registration should be ended rather than expanded to women. But the NCMNPS conducted no research on current or likely future compliance, noncompliance, or enforcement of the registration requirement.  This is an outdated system that has never been used for an actual draft, never functioned well even 41 years ago when implemented.  At a cost of $23 million dollars a year, this is just a waste.  This means we have in my lifetime wasted $943 million dollars on this fiasco.

The tired logic has been trotted out again that if women are serious about equality that this means they must do this too.   I am sorry but it is not a "move forward" for womyn to be eligible to be equally shot at, maimed or killed against their wills....because a draft is against your will by definition.  It is a joke to make this claim at the same moment that womyn lost jobs at record rates in the pandemic and Roe Vs Wade is more threatened than it has been since the original ruling - in a year where womyn may actually lose control over their reproductive rights.  But will gain the right to mandatorily be killed in war.

Womyn AND men deserve the right to equal OPPORTUNITIES (threat of death is not an opportunity).  They deserve the right to equal choices - I stand for the rights of womyn who chose military service or who chose abortion.   But neither group deserve to be equally oppressed.   So I don't think we should keep the oppression for just one group (men).  I think we should finally end this flawed and pointless draft registration system.  

Womyn deserve equal rights but they are not the same as men.  There are still differences between men and womyn and differences that create increased risk factors for womyn in militarized zones.  The most obvious one here being the much greater likelihood of a female solider being raped whether by the “enemy” or as military records reveal disturbingly by her own fellow soldiers or commanding officers (25% were sexually assaulted by fellow recruits and 80% were sexually harassed.  In fact, currently they are more likely to be raped in service than killed in service).   Womyn in addition are on average not as strong and thus more prone to injury from things like marching long distances with a heavy bag on their back. (Stats show womyn having twice the injury rate in training then men.)  But also studies are very clear that womyn are far more prone to PTSD – thus putting them in a situation very likely to create PTSD is putting them at more risk.  (10% of womyn wind up reporting PTSD versus the 4% of men reporting PTSD – although this is in part due to the high sexual assault rate.)

The solution to fixing a broken system which is unconstitutionally applied to only one gender is not to apply the same mistake to both genders!  So far the wrong question has been asked which is whether to include women in draft registration.  The correct question would be whether to end the militarizing of our young people of either gender.  A draft (which this registration collects contact info for) is by definition is to enforce service against people’s wills.   It is (despite court rulings to the opposite) involuntary servitude.  It is wrong to force people of either gender to commit acts of violence and to face potential maiming, psychological harm or death.  Let us create equality by treating both genders right rather than imposing on women the same harm already imposed upon men.   

Friends, FCNL strongly fought to end the draft at the end of the Vietnam war and also opposed its reinstitution in 1980.  But now it is "not a priority".   I understand we have limited staff and have to pick what we can do, have many issues we have worked on for years, etc.  But FCNL in theory sets its priorities by having Meetings vote on priorities but this is not even brought to us to vote on.  Non-violence, anti-militarism and the Peace testimony are historic issues for Friends, and yet most Friends do not even know that their daughters and granddaughters are about to be made draftable, because FCNL is not informing us.   Please let them know you do want this addressed. 

Also write to your Congressional representatives and let them know you want it to at least have a hearing in the House (more than happened in the Senate) and that you do not want this applied to women but rather a bill like HR 5492 from last year that would cancel draft registration altogether.  To change what is required for half the population when they reach the age of majority, to impose a requirement that if utilized could result in their deaths, and to do this with no hearing is outrageous!  



Thursday, February 25, 2021

For those with eyes to see...Lincoln was Gay

 Sometimes the force of preconception to provide bias is really rather staggering.  I read an article about Lincolns relationship from age 28 to 32 with a man that was provoking in the amazing blind spots that the preconceived assumption that our Presidents were all hetro-sexual seemed to render onto this person's ability to see the obvious.  I suggest you first read this article with at least the consideration that in that day and age closeness between men was accepted but Gayness was not.  Certainly one could not have career success, economic success or political success as an out Gay person.  Thus the choice was to enter a marriage of convenience and then have a fairly non-sexual marriage, and/or to carry on one's actual sex life outside of the marriage.  For someone with integrity the entrance into a marriage of convenience probably also meant to enter into a sort of voluntary celibacy.

http://www.virginislandsdailynews.com/print_only/did-abraham-lincoln-s-bromance-alter-the-course-of-american/article_8de9157d-f89f-52a4-a354-751780643fac.html

While I certainly buy the idea that in that day and age people could not always afford their own beds, that such were more of a luxuery and that often family members or friends shared a bed, so take that as a more minor piece of evidence in this story - I think the timing of both Lincoln's depression and his friend Joshua's speaks volumes.   After living together for years and sharing a very, by all accounts, emotionally intimate relationship - they encourage each other to try to find women to marry.   Lincoln first accomplishes this becoming engaged to Mary Todd, meeting her in 1839 two years into his relationship with Joshua, becoming engaged in 1840 a little after a year from meeting her  and breaking off the engagement on Jan 1st of 1841 6 months later.  It takes him almost two years from the broken engagement to actually marry her.  

As our author points out, Lincoln becomes engaged as his friend plans to move away to take care of his father's estate.  One could argue that in the face of being about to lose his friend and enter a marriage of convinence Lincoln facing this as a choice not congruent with his heart, breaks off the engagement and sinks into a depression about the poor set of choices before him as a gay man.   Speed leaves and becomes almost immediately engaged to a woman he has just met (reads as a rebound to me.)  But he upon becoming engaged also becomes depressed.  I see two men for whom the enormity of marriage presents a final seperation of their relationship creating depression in both men.

Speed has moved to Louisville in the spring of 1841 , after being gone only 4 months, Lincoln comes to visit, for a month and while he is there Speed becomes engaged to a woman he has only know for months, immediately becoming depressed.   He then goes back to Springfield to see Lincoln, staying with him for the rest of the fall only returning at the end of the year to "prepare for his wedding".   You know normally a man in love would be wanting to be around his finance more than his best friend.  This story reads to me that they both shared a belief that they must end their relationship and marry but as they attempt to do so each become depressed, they travel back and forth to see each other and only finally seperate so Speeds marriage can be carried out.

Joshua Speed

Should you think me imaginative, I think the quotes from Lincoln's letters (apparently the matching set from Speed are lost) seem very conclusive.  These letters are written after Joshua goes back to marry.

“You know my desire to befriend you is everlasting,” Lincoln wrote in one of these letters, “that I will never cease, while I know how to do any thing.”  I read this as: "I desire to be with you forever, and I will never cease while I breathe"  “You will feel very badly,” he says knowingly of Speed’s fears about consummating the marriage. And later: “…it is the peculiar misfortune of both you and me, to dream dreams of Elysium [paradise in classical mythology] far exceeding all that any thing earthly can realize.”   I find it very illuminating that Speed has fears about consummating the marriage - yes he was probably had never had intercourse, but if one is Gay it is an open question whether you can aroused enough to have intercourse with someone of the opposite sex.  In fact this is enough in question that Lincoln does not reply to the letter confirming the marriage has happened but waits with baited breath to receive a letter from dear Speed confirming the consummation of the marriage.   Saying: "I opened that latter (letter), with intense anxiety and trepidation — so much, that although it turned out better than I expected, I have hardly yet, at the distance of ten hours, become calm.”

Again I am astonished by how bias can blind us.  To me the anxiety and trepidation is about whether his beloved has really crossed over to the life of marriage and the "it turned out better than I expected" is an acknowledge that neither knew if he could bed his wife, but it seems of significance that 10 hours later Lincoln is still not calm.  I read that as he has wanted this for Speed but it is none the less unsettling and deeply emotional.   I am astonished that the author reads this as Lincoln taking courage to confront his own fears of intimacy with women (but why those fears - no explanation) and giving him hope.  Where does he speak of hope.  Rather I see that with his lover now married off he goes back 4 to 5 months later and makes amends to Mary Todd and then also enters the worldly life outside of Elysium.  Lincoln has written to Speed before they both marry: "We both dream of paradise that exceeds what we can realize on earth".  To me that says "we can imagine happiness together but we know we cannot realize it in this society." and that in fact is the source of their mutual depression.

I am amazed by a historian who can interpret all these facts: a shared bed for 4 years, depressions after their engagements, letters and visits back and forth reflecting an intense attachment  -as all hetro normative.   I am reminded how historians interpreted the numerous signs of a early Crete, a matriarchal society, as representing weapons and hierarchy because that is all they had eyes to see, rather than the much less contorted interpretation that it was an egalitarian and matriarchal society.  If one simply starts with the belief that it was hard to be Gay in the 1830's ...the clues are pretty straightforward - it in fact takes no real bending to arrive at the obvious conclusion that at minimum the later to be President was bi-sexual but probably Gay.

And if we stop assuming hetrosexual norms - President Buchanan who is usually referred to as our only "bachelor" President, in fact had a male "roommate" for 16 years before he died of tuberculosis, 4 years before Buchanan became president and was commonly rumored to be his partner.  A little food for thought.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

A Light In a Pandemic

 We are coming up on a Year of Pandemic.  Many of us have been in lockdown for 11 months.  There is a national mental health crisis occurring.  Depression and anxiety as well as substance abuse are at record levels.  So are divorces.  How do we find Light in all this?   To answer that question I engaged in my prayer practice (previously mentioned) of holding a question with sacred (to me) texts and opening to the wisdom they reveal.   So this is what I got:

From Emanuel  Book I: "Look to understand your negative feels as a loving Mother would understand a confused and frightened child...Do not deny the part of you that is in darkness or it will manifest again. ...With awareness, you give yourself the gift of an opening for growth and change.  Do not criticize yourself because in darkness you could not see."

Those of you familiar with the classic, The Prophet by Kahil Gilbran know that the section on Laws talks throughout it about the contrast between a rigid law following spirit and a joyful and free spirit.  He goes on to say: "What shall I say to these (the rigid law following ones) save that they too stand in the sunlight, but with their backs to the sun? ... What is the sun to them but a caster of shadow?...but you who walk facing the sun, what images drawn on the earth can hold you?

For me this passage serves as a reminder about getting caught up in shoulds or preconceptions which when rigidly held mean we are turned away from the sun and thus in shadow. It means having to face this pandemic with spiritual orientation - looking towards the Light.  Which leads to...

Our beloved Thomas Kelly in the Testament of Devotion: "Continuous renewed immediacy, not receding memory of the Divine Touch, lies at the base of religious living.  Let us explore together the secret of a deeper devotion, a more subterranean sanctuary of the soul, where the Light Within never fades, but burns, a perpetual Flame, where the wells of living water of divine revelation rise up continuously."

I love the rich poetic imagery that Kelly always uses.  He emphatically brings home here are need for each other, for spiritual community, to help renew each other - that our sharing keeps us in a living experience of the divine.  Thus as we face the pandemic community is essential.

Illusions by Richard Bach from the "Messiah's handbook": "Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there.  What your choose to do with them is up to you"  

This one serves to me as a powerful query.   If the pandemic is not in our life as an accident but as collectively created event, then it is incumbent that we understand it on the spiritual level.   I have previously written about this:  http://thefriendlyseeker.blogspot.com/2020/05/i-sent-you-warning.html and   http://thefriendlyseeker.blogspot.com/2020/07/covid-is-still-teaching.html  But he also says all the people in our lives (and that means yes when they are annoying the heck out of us).  Why have I drawn this teacher to me?  As record divorce levels are occurring, and other personal ruptures it is important to ask this question.  The next reading also emphasis this point of how we engage each other right now.

Emmanuel book II:  "Everyone on the planet is your soulmate.  If there is a man selling newspapers on the corner and you are connected to that person with your openness, your love and truth, you are with your soul mate for that moment."   

You may long for an encounter with a stranger right now, but most of us are still going to the grocery store.  We interact with people on zoom, we talk on the phone to people.  And now more than ever it maybe critical to see the soul of the person before us and know that they are sharing an emergency with us.

Neil Donald Walsh: "When you wish to manifest, seek not merely to think of things, but to feel it.  Feel what it would be like to have that.  Feel what it would be like to experience it....Feeling is the way we identify and magnify the energy we wish to experience more of, by resonating with it."  

This is a reminder to those of us who belief in manifestation, as I do, that we must see and feel the thing.  It is particularly hard right now because many of us long for contact with people and trying to imagine that taps into painful longing.  The trick of course is to imagine a party of people, feel the feelings, and then offering it into the hands of God, knowing it will again be and releasing it.  If one can do it with non attachment it is actually a nice little mental vacation trip.

Michael Singer in The Untethered Soul also reminds us that what we do with our mind can also be the source of our suffering and calls us into mindfulness: "You must stop telling your mind that the jobe is to fix your personal problems...Your mind has very little control over this world.  it is neither omniscient nor omnipotent.  ...Nor can it control all the people, places and things around you. ...Whenever it starts telling you what you should or shouldn't do in order to get he world to match your preconceived concepts, don't listen.  ...The truth in everything will be ok as soon as you are ok with everything.  All you have to do is stop expecting the mind to fix what's wrong inside of you. ... The minute you stop putting your whole heart into the mind as if it where your savior and protector, you will find yourself behind the mind watching it."

This is such a helpful reminder about not ruminating about all the political crap which has been happening - it points to how to do some of the above, how to turn towards the sun, how to notice why people an events are in our lives, how to touch into manifesting but in a non attached way.  By stepping back and watching our mind, by adopting a posture of acceptance for what is.

Finally Wayne Dyer from The Power of Intention.  Wayne frequently talks about having our intention (like in the Walsch quote) but being in alignment, noticing thoughts that take us out of alignment.  He urges that we set an intention like: "I feel lovingly connected to others and hopeful."  He encourages us to repeat this to ourselves when negativity arises.

So to summarize all this wisdom: Be gentle and accepting with your negative feelings. Turn away from rigidity and preconception and turn towards the Light.  Use spiritual community to keep you in touch with Living Waters. See all the events and people in your life as teachers.  See the soul of everyone you meet, and it will be a spiritual encounter.  Hold a vision for a good life feeling into that without attachment.  Stop trying to solve your life from your mind - observe instead the events of your life from a place of acceptance.  Have a positive affirmation to say to remind yourself.




Saturday, December 26, 2020

Genocide in our Prisons

 WA state prisoners are dying of Covid as is true of prisoners throughout the country.  On 12/23/2020 there were 2,294 cases of Covid in the WA state prisons which was close to 10% of all the cases in WA state.  We have all read how people of color and native communities are disproportionately getting Covid and dying. This is both because of their disproportionate work in service jobs with high contact with the public but also because of lifelong substandard exposure to quality healthcare, as well as generally poorer diets leading to many pre existing health conditions rendering them more vulnerable to the virus.  This is magnified under the racism of our prisons.  Due to racism, BIPOC are more frequently charged, tried, sentenced and imprisoned for longer than white people committing the same crimes.  While white people are 72% of the population of WA, they are only 60% of the prison population.  Black people while being 5% of our state population are 18% of the incarcerated, the 11% of Latinos are 13% of those imprisoned, and Native Americans are incarcerated at 2.5X their rate in the population. Similar statistics exist around our country and are in fact much worth in southern states where the majority of prisoners are African American.

Initially the prisoners had no access to masks, ate in crowded cafeterias– in short they were sitting ducks.  Most of the prisons are overcrowded and they can be housed in rooms with 6 prisoners in bunk beds in one room or at least have cell mates.  Masks arrived after infections had already arrived.   The New York Times reported that in CA when San Quentin was ordered to reduce their overpopulated prison population (it was hoped through release of non-violent prisoners) they complied by transferring the prisoners to other state prisons which resulted in the spread of the virus to every prison in that state.  There is little and inadequate access to health care under the best of circumstances in state prisons.  At this point all visitation has been cancelled and prisoners are confined to their cells round the clock (an hour out for exercise every 3 days - showers on schedules) and yet still it spreads.  The guards as well to attend their jobs risk their health and the health of their families.

Imagine being trapped with the virus unable to get away.  Essentially just waiting till you get it.  This is a mass experiment in herd immunity.   This will be survival of the fittest. Those who get it must fight it off or die.  And here again the prisoners of color have higher pre-existing health risks making them at greater risk to die from it.

This is genocide.  Please write to Governor Inslee (or your Governor) that prisoners and guards should receive priority for the vaccine after frontline workers and those in nursing homes (also trapped where they are too easily exposed with pre-existing conditions.)  Of course everyone in our country needs to be vaccinated.  It is part of the ongoing tragedy of the Trump administration that we have so many cases and so few vaccine's.   Since many people feel prisoners deserve to be punished and deserve whatever they get this will be a hard case to make.   But even if one believes they deserve to be punished do they deserve a death sentence for every crime you can be incarcerated for?   Should the racism that disproportionately placed them there also be a death sentence?  There have been calls to protect them by releasing those with non-violent crimes to reduce the number of people at risk in the prisons.  Those proposals have not been acted upon.  

Please act



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

UnTrumping Our Country

 I have finally settle into some feeling of confidence that we will not have an unending rule of Trump. I have stopped the 4 years of breath holding, as I watched the march towards the "signs of fascism" check list playing out in my country of birth.   See previous post written 4 years ago when Trump won: for the actual list from historians on the steps towards fascism.  

So as we emerge into a new ruler of Corporate America or Empire in Decline 2020, I am clear on some important agenda items clearly revealed by the last 4 year debacle.  These are agenda items for if we ever want to reclaim a democracy, for if we don't want to live in Oligarchy.

1) Serious Election Reform: It means passing absolute protections for voters right to vote.  This would include figuring out the least tamperproof way of voting and making it the standard for our country (to hell with every county having a different way of doing it and different technology and some poor counties having inadequate machines).  It means making registration be automatic with getting a drivers license (as hugely freed the Black vote in GA) and an easy way for people who don't drive to also register.  It means passing national protections for physically safe voting during an election.   In other words that it is guaranteed on the Federal level so no state court can ever again block a governor for ordering changes to accomodate protecting people's health during a pandemic or other health threat.  Also perhaps by determining a national standard for how we vote it will take care of this but assuring that access to polling places cannot be restricted to make voting burdensome and that options are always available to people who work on voting day.   Working should never be an obstacle to voting.

2) Overturn Citizen's United - or election finance reform.   This will also need to be accomplished from a national bill.  We need to outlaw dark money, and the best way to get the influence of money out of politics is just to set a ceiling for total amount of campaign advertising any candidate can spend.  It will level the playing field and bring those of us who were harassed by hateful ads full of lies and endless robocalls some peace.   Maybe then candidates would have to campaign on the strength of their message!

3) Police reform nationwide - we are tired of the murder of BIPOC people in our streets by the police.  This must stop.  This cannot be regulated, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, or state by state.  Just like the passage of the civil rights bill reformed Jim Crow obstructions to voting (till over thrown by a biased Supreme Court) this problem of police violence must be solved on a national level.  All of the standardly understood reforms like: de-escalation training for police, anti-bias training, body cams, no choke holds, etc. etc must be passed on a national level.  In addition we must start seperating out on a national level the jobs that really belong to social workers - like responding to mentally ill citizens or wellness checks and start removing those jobs from police jobs and shift the funding.   We also must demilitarize the police.  There is no reason, never was, and never should be a reason for our police departments to be the "used equipment" sale ground of the military.   Military level weapons should be banned from police departments!  What might you say does this have to do with fascism?  The increased militarization of police and use of them to control civilian populations is part of every facisist state.

4) Assure the Teaching of Science in our public schools - between climate change and the pandemic it is clear that a scarily high percentage of Americans don't really understand how science comes to its outcomes or believe in science.   It is time this changes.  It will only really change if we teach it in our schools.

5) Protect a Free Press and its role in a democracy.  Between the effects of more and more people getting news online and more and more papers dying and less actual reporters in the world a free press is at risk and it is actually considered one of the cornerstones of democracy.   It has also been under attack for 4 years by Trump which is typical under fascism that press becomes centralized, controlled and delegitimized.   So I am going to stop treating press as service to choose or not choose and treat it as a cause to support because I believe in it.  So I am going to buy actual online subscriptions as "donations".   But beyond that it is very clear that anti-trust law will have to be applied to the consolidation of media which has brought us things like Fox news.  We may also need some laws that clarify the line between opinion and the reporting of facts and return us to an era when the "editorial page" or the anchor opinion piece were distinct and the line was not blurred.  The marriage between Fox news and the President more closely mirrored a propaganda channel or state sponsored news then a free press.

6)  Decriminalizing the PIBOC community - It is time to end the disproportionate prosecution and longer sentencing of people of color.  It is a long haul to a complete redo of our justice system.  However, some good first steps would be mandatory anti-racism/anti-bias training for all prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges.  We also need to move to a restorative justice model for all non-violent crimes. There is a long list of what needs to be done in this arena

7) Defining the 25th Amendment.   While there are many things I do not agree with Nancy Pelosi about, I do agree that the 25th Amendment if not clear enough.  Even before Trump it left a lot of grey areas about what to do if a President was simply under anthesia for a brief procedure, or was temporarily disabled by heavy drugs, or temporary medical symptoms.   It sort of relies on the person holding the office to use good judgement before being disabled and to act in good faith.   However, as we have seen under Trump if a presidents mental health deteriorates they maybe the last person to admit it.  Thus we need a procedure which has been agreed to years before it is needed and which both parties recognize could be relief for a country from a bad situation.   It needs to be spelled out very clearly!  Given that we now know 6 presidents were deeply disabled/ill/dying at the end of their terms (and a few wives were secretly running the country) we just really need this reform.

8) Election disclosure reform.   Before the 2016 election it had been "tradition" for a long time that the Presidential candidates released both their tax returns for a number of years and also their annual medical exam results.   I think it is fair for the voters to know if someone who is going to rule this country is playing fair, paying their share, and is healthy enough to lead.  Once again Trump proved these traditions are only as good as someone operating in good faith.  I believe that once not shielded, we will learn of the depth of both his health problems and the depth of debt he was in that would have made him ineligible for national security clearance, if not elected, because of the risk of blackmail or influence peddling.   This should never happen to our country again and can be prevented by passing a bill requiring these two disclosures of Presidential candidates.

9)  Ethics reform - rather than counting on meaningless promises to "drain the swamp" followed by just the opposite - lets make it law that someone who has been a lobbyist cannot be hired onto a cabinet post of head of a dept for at least 4 years after serving as a lobbyist.   (This may also help some people not take lobbying position at the end of an administration if they hope in another 4 years to serve another President).  Let's also in that same bill make nepotism illegal.  No hiring of family members into white house positions or cabinet positions.

10) The End of the Electoral College!  This one is so past due!  Given that 2 of the 5 times that a President has gotten into office without winning the popular vote have happened in the last 20 years.  It beyond clear that this structure was put into place by a land owning aristocratic founding fathers who did not fully trust the popular vote, and attempted to have a way to "correct" it through privileged electoral college voters "if needed".   All this had really done is leave a way to manipulate away from the will of the people.   Previously people have argued that some populist nut case could get it in if there was no electoral college.  Quite the opposite, given that the electoral college, not the popular vote gave it to Trump in 2016, there is literally NO justification for this elitist institution.  This will be hard to correct thru a constitutional amendment, as nothing is easy to do that way.  But if a few more states pass the interstate compact against the electoral college it will be done!  If you live in a state that has not passed it yet...please do this work! 

11) End Gerrymandering - As some have become painfully aware in the past 4 years - how one party has kept itself in power especially in state houses but also in the House is by creating districts that are so absurdly drawn that they look like paint splats on a map.  It should be federal law that a bi-partisan commission draws the map, and it stops being the work of the party in control assuring that it remains in power.   The same new legislation should protect the Census gathering which sets us up for the redrawing of districts.   Protections should be put in place to prevent the politizing of basic data collection.

12) Restrictions on Pardons - Again the founding fathers imagined that whoever would be elected President would be a fair and honorable person.  They never would have imagined the cronism and deceit of pardoning colleagues who are charged with committing crimes on behalf of the sitting administration.   Since that has happened under the most corrupt Presidents (Nixon and Trump) let's place a limit on Presidential pardons.   Presidents should be restricted from pardoning anyone who is charged with committing a crime in service of the current administration.

13) Protection of whistle blowers - It is critical to accountability within a democracy  that whistleblowers can bring to the attention of the public and the press wrong doings that are happening within the government without fear of loss of life, career or reputation.   The active firing and punishment of whistleblowers has a chilling silencing effect that breeds loyalty to authoritarian leaders and a climate of fear rather than openness in government service.  Although we have a national whistleblower law apparently it again needs to be actually made law that whistleblowers cannot be fired.  I hope the incoming President will restore the title and retirement benefits of everyone who was wrongfully fired.

14) Protection of civil servants- this country has always had civil servant positions in DC that were bipartisan.   People were career civil servants and served under each administration of either party, faithfully carrying out administrative duties.   Under Trump various employment protections were removed so they could be fired at will - again making the workings of government hinge on loyalty rather than faithful duty.   This was particularly troubling when applied to immigration judges so they became vulnerable to being fired for a decision that the Administration did not like - jeopardizing the notion of a free and seperate judiciary.  I hope the incoming administration will restore the protections for civil servants and immigration judges and also reemploy any who were removed for opposing the lawless behavior of the previous occupants of the White House.  This is part of why Hitler had so much power is because all levels of government were loyal to him and operated in the fear of being perceived as not loyal.

15)  The end to enemies and racial targeting - the hallmark of fascism is the identifying and targeting of enemies.  In Nazi Germany it was Jews - as well as LBGQT folks, and radicals.   In Trumps America it has been Muslims and Mexicans and Black people.   It is time for this 4 year reign of hate and terrorism to end!  We have a lot of children and parents to reunite, and a lot of restitution to be paid for the trauma's that have been induced.  Clearly we will need to work hard on the teaching of tolerance and anti-racism.   We need to correctly identify right wing hate groups and white supremist groups as national terrorist groups.   I look forward to the day where when they march in a state capitol that the President speaks out condemning the behavior and when attempts to kidnap a governor is met with support from the national level and is followed by aggressive prosecution of actions like this that simply bring fear and unrest to our communities.  I look forward to when peaceful protestors are not treated as threats and violent protests are stopped.

16) No National Service - we MAY have stopped just short of instituting a Nazi like Hitler's Youth.  For the last two years the Trump administration has been positioning in reaction to a lawsuit that rightfully pointed out that drafting only men is sex discrimination, to make a youth service corp for all young people between the ages of 18 and 24 to serve two years.  Some would serve in the military and some in civilian service such as building the hated wall.  It would be better to end compulsory service for either gender and move toward the ending of our endless wars.  Militarism is another sign post of fascism, nationalism, and empire.  Our military is $100 billion dollars more in 2020 than it was in 2016.  Let's cut the bloated military budget.

17) The end to rampant sexism...and isms.   It will be such a relief to not have a President who is charged with 16 sexual assaults on women and who constantly displays blatant disrespect and misogyny.  (President Biden is also charged with sexually inappropriate behavior).  But it is nice to have a cabinet that is not an old boys club.   It will be nice to not have sexism, racism, able-bodiedism, classism and homophobia and Xenophobia modeled by the most visible position in the nation to our children.   Facicism uses the control of women as one of the ways to control a population.  By stacking the Supreme Court to overthrow Roe Vs Wade, despite the vast majority of Americans supporting it...we were well on the way to returning to a state imposed control over female bodies.   We will have to work hard in the next few years to counter the stacking of the courts and for the passage of the ERA so we can end the legal ability to suppress women.

18) The end of censorship - a classic tool of fascism used to control the expression of ideas.   No more will government websites forbid the use of terms related to climate change, or dismiss or silence climate scientists who work for the federal government or scientists or doctors attempting to tell the truth about the virus even if it is inconvenient to the occupants of public office whose policies maybe flawed.  It maybe necessary to pass laws prohibiting the censorship of government employees.

19) National neighbors - fascist countries/Imperialist nations terrorize other countries.   We have been doing so for decades.   But it would be nice to go back to keeping our treaties, not insulting other leaders at every turn with culturally inappropriate behavior, and being in some way participants in global efforts to work on global problems.

I am under no illusion that President Biden is some sort of saint; he is neo-liberal.   I do not expect all these things to be done.   I do expect some of them to be done.  Some of this will depend upon what happens in the Georgian Senate racism and if Congress is able to act with some unity.  But mainly I name these things because this is OUR work to do if we want a democracy.




Sunday, October 11, 2020

Living in the God Space

It is very tumultuous times in the US.  We are facing the most important election in our history.  One that will determine if we stop being a democracy and become an oligarchy instead.  It is very unclear what will happen, and this is happening in the midst of a global pandemic uncontrolled in the US due to lack of leadership.

I feel like I have been distracted from my professional life as a psychotherapist, distracted from my clients.  So today in Meeting I was praying for my clients.  For me what this meant was to hold each of them one by one in my attention and imagine them whole.  There were some clear themes that emerged of what seemed need to be and feel whole:  To know that one is loveable and loved, to be able to lay down the injuries of that past to come fully into the present, to be able to self sooth and come into the peace of our universe, to be able to set boundaries so no harm comes and to be able to not have to try to hard, to relax into the universe as it is.

This made me think of quote (misattributed to Nelson Mandela but actually from Marianne Williamson) that has long been on my bulletin board:

"You're a child of God.  Your playing small doesn't serve the world.  There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insurece.around you.  We were born to manifest the gory of God that is with us; it's in everyone.  As we let our Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

That quote for me is about living into the bigness of who are as a Child of God.  Who we really are before and after injury.

Recently when Trump was admitted to the hospital for Covid, I noticed a wonderful space opened up for me.  It is was not the space created by rejoicing in his illness or potential death, but it was a space in which I was able to imagine for the first time in a long time my country not controlled or diminished or manipulated by him.  It was a space where he is no longer President and no longer can create havoc.  There was much relief and peace and possibility in that space. What I quickly came to realize was that whether he left the hospital, alive or dead, that it was I who was in charge of that space. It was a space I could choose to stay in and or to dwell with, or I could in fear return to a universe controlled by Trump.

This makes me think of the words in the Peace Testimony: "We utterly deny outward strife and tumult.  We live in the Life and Power that takes away the occasion for all wars".   Think of that it is a space, an energy that is not war, the opposite of war, a place without outward strife and tumult.   And we live into that space.  It too is a choice as one could live in the space where there is war and tumult.

I am not talking here about some Pollyanna world where we close our eyes and do not see or feel war, or Trump, or the injuries my clients have suffered.  I am simply saying that in the God space there is another set of possibilities.  Ones with more wholeness, more peace, more possibilities for growth, healing and justice.



Saturday, September 26, 2020

To Elder

 Quakers have this funny practice called Eldering.  Even the name of it is antiquated.  It comes from a time when someone very respected was called an Elder.  However, from early on in Quakerism because of the value on equalatrism it was recognized that young people and women could be elders.  (Rather unheard to in the 1600s).  This was because it was a mark of being mature in the Spirit.   The person was a spiritual elder, someone who lived a grounded, spirit inspired life.  They understood Quaker practice and the underlying beliefs that went with Quaker practice.

There were many roles that Elders played.  They sat on the facing bench and held the Meeting in the Light, thereby deepening the worship.  They acted as anchors and mentors for Friends engaging in new ministry.  They often would accompany a Friend who was in traveling ministry to help them stay true to their Light and not overshoot their leading. They would speak with and nurture those who were newly giving ministry in Friends Meeting, encouraging the development of faithful ministry.

But the practice of eldering is something slightly different.  It was/is the modern day equivalent of "calling in" ( the opposite of calling someone out which is often with anger and criticism.)  It was to speak to someone who was seen to be morally straying, or lost, or beyond their light, or behaving inappropriately and to lovingly call them back into the Light.  A powerful example of this was when John Woolman would travel and meet with Quakers who were owning slaves and he would speak to them or the moral wrong they were doing TO THEIR OWN SOUL, and plead with them to sell their slaves.   This is not to say that he did not believe in abolition or have great concern for the well being of the slaves.  But since he saw slavery as a sin, he reasoned that to own a slave was a sin that corrupted and damaged the soul of the slave owner just as much as the enslaved person.

That was the power of eldering but it also got its self a bad name in the middle years of Quakerism when it became a sort of rigid litmus test of moral conformity with people being "written out of Meeting" by Meeting elders for such sins as singing, dancing, wearing lace or marrying outside of the faith.  The over correction for this was Friends largely have turned their back on this practice.  I regard this as too bad because from my point of view we are sadly lacking true eldering in modern Meetings.  We both lack Friends who are really grounded in Quaker practice, we lack mentoring for younger friends in everything from clerking to giving faith ministry....but most importantly we lack a real accountability when things go estray.

Friends to a large degree have drifted into an American Liberalism - a desire to be open and accepting to everyone - to a point that often surrenders having an actual defined set of beliefs or boundaries.  While Friends drift towards a more codified set of testimonies, calling them "SPICES", we oddly do not stand up for these truths that we have found.   If Friends exhibit conspicuous and unsustainable possessions we do not even lovingly discuss Simplicity with them.   When male Friends exhibit learned male privilege in our gatherings, we either sigh and turn away or attack with a Feminist critique, but we do not lovingly labor with them over how and why to change that behavior.  It is rare that anyone talks about how us pacifists are all paying for war. We accept many behaviors in our committees and our business meeting which are frankly secular behaviors from our work places that are not part of Quaker Faith and Practice.  (see also previous post on eldering and conflict: http://thefriendlyseeker.blogspot.com/2019/10/it-may-not-surprise-you-to-hear-me-say_30.html)

"Quakers behaving badly" is a phrase that brings a slight chuckle and smile to most long time Friends faces.  Yes we know about Friends being behaving badly -we have seen it many times.   This ranges from Friends who speak too often and too long.  Friends who "mansplain" Quakerism (and other subjects) to the rest of us.  Friends who rant and lecture about politics to the rest of us.  Friends who talk about the news in Meeting for worship and who have never given a spirit filled message in their life. (Is this NPR or is this God?)  Alignating young people and people of color with unconscious ageism and or racism.   Letting fear about changing from "the way we have always done it" get in the way of considering what new Light might show us.   Over editing minutes, hung up on Grammar rather than finding what Spirit is trying to say through us.  Being attached to forms over the purpose they were intended to serve. Friends who have tantrums in business or committee meetings, who we silently allow to do this to everyone else. Refusing to talk about critical issues because we are uncomfortable with conflict and have forgotten that Light is available on all subjects.    Unable to identify what we believe because we are practicing acceptance of all to the point where there is no Spiritual Center.  I could go on, and feel free to add some of your own in comments below.

But the bottom line is we will continue to have Friends who are behaving badly until we again have Elders who can lovingly share Quaker practice and belief with those Friends behaving badly and loving show them another, Quakerly set of possibilities.