A message for @SenateDems & @HouseDemocrats

I hope y’all read this because its 4:30am and frankly, I’d rather be asleep right now…

I woke up in the middle of the night burning with the following thought: Donald Trump is personally violating my constitutional rights. It came to me as I thought back to his petulant, bratty and terrifying (see the rise of Nazi Germany) performance in Phoenix this week. Call me biased, but start with looking at this list CNN put together of the 57 most outrageous quotes from that speech: Donald Trump’s 57 Most Outrageous Quotes…

Here’s another bit worth considering. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution where the office of President of the United States is defined and outlined in its scope of power and obligations reads:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:-“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” [1]

My sleepless night comes from how this oath, as sworn to by the 45th president and when considered alongside at least 50 of those 57 most outrageous quotes from CNN, doesn’t quite match up with this little gem from the most talked about element of the Constitution today (see bold):

AMENDMENT I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. [2]

The first thing to note here is that the First Amendment is entirely the jurisdiction of Congress. It is Congress’ obligation to protect and define the laws established in the Constitution and that includes the First Amendment. In fact, any casual student of the Constitution (I would qualify as one) can see that the founding fathers gave most of the power to Congress because the House and Senate actually represent the people. The Executive, cannot and DOES not function without the power of Congress…that was the whole point of the legislative structure. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have failed the American people in maintaining this essential balance of power in our government as the majority party leaders of both houses…but that’s another blog post.

My primary point is that Donald Trump has leveraged his “celebrity” and his power as president to completely undermine our constitutional right to freedom of the press. Every time he speaks of “fake news” or “fake media” he takes his office and actively uses it to damage the integrity of something that is very clearly protected in the US Constitution.

We do not live in a dictatorship, where the government controls our access to information. Despite the influence of wealthy individuals and power hungry corporations, one of the basic premises of US government is the free flow of information and even Rupert Murdoch understands that. Donald Trump, overriding the power of Congress, is actively and intentionally blockading that flow of information from the press by creating an atmosphere of doubt and suspicion and he has managed to master the art of curtailing, perverting and twisting the information generated by the free press into a sickening, poisonous and judging by Charlottesville, lethal brew.

If we are to have any hope at all of eradicating this disastrous virus of lies from our highest elected office, I say we need to look at and actually use the Constitution that is meant to serve as both his job description and his watchdog. I am calling on you, our elected officials to demand that Trump either end his war on the press (which, if it could be defined as a war would be full on treason…see Article III section 3) or to seek his removal from office for not adhering to his sworn oath. If you who we have put in office are not willing to do so, than folks, the People of the United States must to bring suit against Donald J. Trump for being denied free speech and access to a free press, and yes, we have the tools in the Constitution to do that as well.

See you in court.

Ways to Sue if Your Constutional Rights are Violated

[1] – http://blogs.findlaw.com/injured/2014/09/3-potential-ways-to-sue-if-your-constitutional-rights-are-violated.html

[2] – Ibid.

 

Slogan to the Right

1024px-lincolninauguration1861a

Lincoln Inauguration (incomplete Capitol) 1861

Four words that are
Not for all
Cast a pall
Build a wall
Straight and tall
Where only one side is right.

Four words that
Conjure an era
Make nostalgia dearer
Allay misplaced fear
Make it clear
There is only one way to be right.

These same four words
Erase black authority
Deny brown integrity
Evade gender autonomy
Remove migrant empathy
Define only one kind of right.

Four words,
one man,
300 million dreams,
An unending struggle to be “right”
That in the end will leave us all
Alone and afraid in a dark and starless night.

– ALD

Wherefore Art Thou?

dubois

W.E.B. DuBois

In 1890 W.E.B. DuBois delivered a commencement address at Harvard[1] in which he tackled the issue of the impact that leadership has on society. He brilliantly foreshadows the work of Martin Buber’s Ich und Du (I and Thou – 1923). More importantly, his words ring ominously true today as we start 2017 in the United States. In the piece, he reflects on the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis:

I wish to consider not the man, but the type of civilization which his life represented: its foundation is the idea of the strong man—Individualism coupled with the rule of might

DuBois goes on to caution that:

The Strong Man and his mighty Right Arm has become the Strong Nation with its armies. Under whatever guise, however, a Jefferson Davis may appear as man, as race, or as nation, his life can only logically mean this: the advance of a part of the world at the expense of the whole; the overweening sense of the I, and the consequent forgetting of the Thou. It has thus happened, that advance in civilization has always been handicapped by shortsighted national selfishness.

Today, we are facing a New Year and a new government and sadly a new shortsightedness. The choice is stark: are we, as a society, a nation and individuals, going to be an isolated “I” or are we going to be partners in cultivating a world of “I-Thou”?

The incoming US Government administration has utilized a “post-truth”, bully posture to convince the American people that the schoolyard will be better for everyone as long as the chief punk is in charge. This has ushered in a new dark age in American idealism that finds its greatest motivation in fear…fear of exclusion from the club, fear of the other, fear of appearing weak, etc. It backs up a nouveau belligerence that has no grounding in facts or integrity. “Because I say so” has become the default bargaining phrase of the day and the “deals” that are already being struck are less about negotiation and more about coercion and self-aggrandizement. In this equation there is only “I”. The “I” of the “strong man” who only functions for himself* and the “I” of the minions responding to the source of their intimidation, each one trying to see a small part of the big bully/strong man reflected in themselves.

But there is also the dangerous “I” of apathetic immobilized malcontents who refuse to fight back because they believe the system will correct itself. These are the same people who in 1868 allowed Jefferson Davis and the rest of the Southern aggressors in the civil war to be pardoned “with restoration of all rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution and the laws which have been made in pursuance thereof.”[2] The result was Jefferson Davis and his “Strong Man” never being called to task for defending the institutionalized possession, abuse, rape and murder of other human beings in servitude. This laid the groundwork for the next 150 years of political apologists who still don’t understand why blacks don’t just “get over” slavery and the legacy of Jim Crow. The “I” of apathy does more damage because it is the “I” of retreat and acquiescence with the full knowledge that grave wrong is being committed. This is the same “I” that quickly defaults to assumptions of sameness as a rationale for inaction. It proudly proclaims on one hand that “All Lives Matter” and that it does not see race, but it refers to “the Hispanics” or “the gays” as if they are entirely different species. This is the “I” who will see you as long as they see themselves in you first.

But, I-Thou does not function based on sameness; it is not a filter. Instead, I-Thou is a manifestation of interconnectedness. I-Thou asks us to be in relationship regardless of our ability to agree. It says that there is no I without Thou. The great advantage here is the elimination of in-groups and out-groups and the true nourishment and safety of all. The challenge for us then today is to avoid being swept up in the wave of “Strong Man” individualism based on assumptions about how we are all the same and instead embrace the importance of being able to submit strength, individual or national to the benefit of all in celebration of our collective uniquenesses. In truth, the more the “Strong Man” abandons his relationship with “Thou”, he is not only weak, but an utter coward, afraid of his own human frailty and need. I cannot improve upon the words DuBois uses to drive home our greatest calling, particularly now at the dawn of an era that will challenge our most basic potential for interconnectedness:

What then is the change made in the conception of civilization, by adding to the idea of the Strong Man, that of the Submissive Man? It is this: The submission of the strength of the Strong to the advance of all—not in mere aimless sacrifice, but recognizing the fact that, “To no one type of mind is it given to discern the totality of Truth,[3]” that civilization cannot afford to lose the contribution of the very least of nations for its full development: that not only the assertion of the I, but also the submission to the Thou is the highest individualism.

Happy New Year!

– ALD

*I have intentionally retained the limited masculine language of “he/him/his” in this piece to reflect the original language used by both DuBois and Buber from which I have drawn my analysis.

[1] http://credo.library.umass.edu/view/full/mums312-b196-i029

[2] http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=72360

[3] New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, Volume 7, Issue: 3, March, 1890, 361-374

 

The Edict of D.C.

This is what it feels like to be amidst a crumbling empire. It feels like a gaping hole where your sense of security should be. It feels like the realization that it is not a “few bad apples” but the whole rancid orchard. It feels like being told to remain “nice” to protect someone’s fragility while they kick you in the groin. In short, it sucks. And as with any empire’s collapse, after the pain of implosion, something must fill its place. As I watch the latest shift in the stolen earth beneath the wobbly edifice of the White (man’s) House, I am reminded of an earlier time in history when a reviled and much feared fringe movement stepped in to fill the vacuum left by a another collapsing empire. That empire was Rome and the fringe movement was Christianity. What are we supposed to do if white supremacy is our current empire’s Christianity? What if the President-Elect is a modern Roman Emperor Constantine (the first Christian Emperor and the one who legalized Christianity in Rome) and what if he has normalized white supremacy, not just as a legal or systemic framework, but as a spiritual ideology?

We are a spiritually skittish culture, and we are not equipped to fight that kind of battle…the one where white identity functions like religion. There is a specific reason I am willing to float the difficult comparison of the evolution of white supremacy with the history of Christianity. In our current society, we have no legal recourse against a “religion” based on whiteness yet the current environment is ripe for exactly that kind of movement to take flight. As ISIS has coopted the space of Islam among radicals, so might white identity step in where Christianity has come up short for white supremacists. Some would argue that this scenario already exists and that what we are seeing is just the same old monster of Christian-sanctioned bigotry rearing its head again. There is significant scholarship on the Christian justification of oppression of non-whites (the Pauline epistles say a lot about slaves obeying masters). But I disagree that this is a cycle. I think Christianity may have helped shape white supremacy and white identity, but I do not believe they are inherently synonymous; nor do I believe that Christianity or any religion is inherently evil. What we are seeing is an evolution of white supremacy beyond Christian roots and more extreme than the most doomsday oriented theologian’s imagination. This is a spiritual nuclear weapon.

In order to fully understand my point about evolution and Christianity, one must first consider the history. Christianity answered the thousands-year-old prophecies set out in ancient Judaism. The post-crucifixion, proto-Christianity then simmered for 300 years before the Edict of Milan. In that time it developed structure and sacred text and saints and a complex hierarchy of belief/non-belief that engaged Christians from around the Mediterranean/North Africa as it grew. Christianity didn’t just spring to life one bright day in A.D. 313. There were great ebbs and flows of its strength and weakness then there was a tipping point that came with Christianity’s endorsement by a powerful ruler.

Now consider that the concept of ethnic supremacy is older than the United States, but it took the creation of “race science” in the 17th and 18th century to give it a name and a specific target: non-whites. You might say that the enslavement of Blacks and genocide of Native Americans was the white supremacy “Jesus moment”. While the noble anti-oppression struggles of the 19th and 20th centuries say a great deal about the resilience of the non-whites and their allies, racists didn’t just go away after slavery and Jim Crow. With the language of “race” becoming a global standard, they would always have a tool for future use in an emergency. Over time, some white supremacists suppressed their own beliefs. Others have obviously found like minds with which to organize and to make the occasional public statement in a society built on the social covenant of free speech. Unfortunately, the benevolent tolerance of the magnanimous operating system called the US Constitution has allowed white supremacy to run like a piece of malware in the background. It could now be our total undoing.

Human beings seek grounding. Even without religious community, or explicit “spiritual” expression, people across the globe seek meaning in their world. They find it in like minded companions and expressions of life that help them make sense of challenges and joys, birth and death. What we call spirituality is one way that we make sense of our lived context. Champions of white mono-culture are seeking grounding and it stands to reason then that if white identity is the center of their context it will become the primary means through which they will wish to see the world.

I am not sure what to do with this analysis today. I do know, however, that it will be important in the coming time to understand the increasingly aggressive acts of white supremacy as expression of a spiritual nature. They will require entirely new ways of looking at human motivation and what we call “spiritual” grounding. Answering them will stretch our concepts of “pastoral” care. We may find personal comfort in our traditional religious frameworks (including Christianity), but they will be useless to influence an ideology that sees racial identity as a surrogate for God.

Fragments from a colossal statue of Constantine

Fragments of Constantine the Great Colossus (C) Getty Images

#unraced, #eraced

A Poem in (the) Twitter Verse*

Racism is not just about white people and non-white people hating. It is about who has “race”.

In the United States, there are “un-raced” bodies and “e-raced” bodies.

E-raced means there’s a social algorithm that makes your color, culture, religion and customs an opaque burden.

Un-raced means your color, culture, religion and customs are invisible and weightless.

If you are un-raced, sometimes you turn around to see racism in the distance, and you hate it.

If you are e-raced, you are the physical location of racism. You see it in the mirror, and you hate it.

If you are un-raced, you hear about shootings and poverty and say “what a shame.”

If you are e-raced, you wonder if you are next, or if someone in your family just died.

Most white people in the United States are un-raced.

Most everyone who is not white in the US is e-raced.

The Bundy family and their accomplices are free because they are un-raced.

The Alt-Right wants to protect the exclusive white privilege of being un-raced.

White liberals who write songs to speak for brown mouths are un-raced.

The Movement for Black Lives is a demand for an end to being e-raced.

Black youths being killed by police or each other are being e-raced.

Black conservatives being thrown out of Republican rallies as thugs are also being e-raced.

Muslim women having their scarves ripped off their heads are being e-raced.

Latino/a/xs being told to speak English are being e-rased.

The tribes protesting at Standing Rock are being e-raced…again.

I have never experienced the United States in an un-raced body.

Every day I wake up to news that reminds me how often and how easily my body is e-raced.

America, seen from inside an e-raced body is a nightmare.

No government or President alone can solve the tragedy of the un-raced vs. the e-raced.

Regardless of how you are “raced”, don’t vote for an ideology…vote to be seen.

The goal is not to be un-raced or e-raced.

The Goal is learning to share what it means to be human-raced.

-ALD

 

*This “poem” originally appeared line-by-line on Twitter

D-bate

img_0873Never before in the history of our country has male sexual privilege and priority been so nakedly on display.  The second presidential debate will not be about the close listening that Clinton has done to those who supported her Deomcratic rivals, nor will it be about Clinton’s sponge-like absorption of the real issues facing black and brown communities around policing in this country and how her own connection to that past makes them struggle to see her as a solution.  Tonight will not showcase her insight, or years of experience on the international stage, nor will it display her failings of private greed and ambition.  Tonight will be entirely about how two cis-gender men define their sexuality in relationship to other women. The debate will begin under the cloud of one candidate having made public what is probably his usual private foul mouthed way of talking about anyone or anything he objectifies (which is most of the world); it will then play out with the reminder of another man’s dismissive, careless and usurious way of treating women (and also the world) as a weapon.  Hillary Clinton could actually stay home tonight, and if this were the 1950’s, that’s actually what would be expected of her.

But in some crucial ways, we are still living in the 1950’s.  Donald Trump should have been disqualified from running for office based solely upon his financial record…if not for that then when he started making blanket statements about ethnic groups.  The level of outrage being expressed NOW seems WAY too little WAY too late.  But then when I hear a Mike Pence, (who is the worst thing to happen to women’s rights on their own bodies since chastity belts) or any other male in this situation speaking about how having a wife and daughters is the main reason they are so offended, I am reminded what’s really going on.  Whether it is Donald Trump’s ability to grab it because he’s famous or Bill Clinton’s ability to hide it at the dry cleaners or Mike Pence’s ability to legislate it because of his narrow view of God, this is all about the male gaze and male power over women.  We don’t need the statue that’s been traveling around the country, Donald Trump and all ther rest of the men who can’t see women beyond their own pleasure are standing right in front of us, stark naked. Even for this gay man, the sight isn’t pretty.

I do not believe that all men are pigs.  But Donald Trump is a pig. Bill Clinton is also a pig.  Hopefully, Hillary Clinton will thoroughly char the barbecue at tonight’s debate.  Then she should seize the opportunity to change the game by pushing that dish aside and diving into a substantive meal of policy, solutions and actually focusing on the business of governing…leaving the boys to be boys.

Thank you gentlemen…you’ve reduced our democratic process to a game of “I bet mine is bigger than yours.”

-ALD