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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 51,146

Journal Archives

2016 Inner-Space Odyssey

I remember when I joined the Democratic Underground in December of 2003. I had read some of the discussions on the forum for months before joining, and found some of them very interesting; most of mild interest; and a few puzzling. On the 29th, however, a fellow named Will Pitt had published an outstanding essay on the Plame Scandal, which was of particular interest to me.

At the time, the corporate media was largely ignoring the Plame Scandal. In fact, even our elected representatives in Washington, DC, were remaining silent about what was clearly one of the most significant White House scandals of our life-time. Although there was evidence, for those paying attention, that the Plame Scandal was related to the two earlier series of scandals -- known as Watergate and Iran-Contra -- the democratic establishment was intimidated by the Office of the Vice President.

For those interested in the rule of constitutional law, the primary sources of information being reported were found on internet sites such as Truth Out; and informed discussions on sites like DU. I remember discussing DU with a couple of my associates -- a small, informal group that operated as a volunteer “think tank”/ activist center -- and learning that this forum had begun as a response to the US Supreme Court’s selection of Bush and Cheney as the “winners” of the 2000 election.

The DU community had begun as a collection of left-leaning Democrats, and members of the Democratic Left. There were a few members who could have been described as moderate Democrats, at least in some areas, but the majority of members were definitely to the left of center. And although there were plenty of heated debates on the forum, I can’t remember any that focused on defining a person’s need to be 100% in support of every Democrat in Washington, DC, in order to belong here.

Over the years, as the forum grew, a number of interesting things happened. DU would become one of the best under-the-radar Plame Scandal think tanks. A few journalists from the corporate media began to pay attention to the infamous “Plame Threads” (primarily those from MSNBC’s evening shows). A few relatives of presidential primary candidates joined DU, including Elizabeth Edwards, as well as relatives of John Kerry and Wesley Clark. A staff member of a NYS Senator -- who many believe will be the next Democratic candidate for President -- contacted me, to try to find the source of some Plame news I posted here, several days before it would be reported in the mainstream media.

Just as the “establishment” Democrats recognized the potential value of this forum -- including as a source of votes, donations, campaign workers, and yes, insightful thinking -- so did that dark force that is known in psychiatric and forensic circles as the “republican party.” Thus, there are at times waves of “trolls” joining to disrupt, much like nasty cluster flies or the biblical infestations of locus. Luckily, their life expectancy here tends to be short. This includes the 39 year old, sexually frustrated republican who inhabits his parents’ basement, as well as the likes of Michelle Munchkin and Sean Hannity.

There has also been an increase in the number of moderate to conservative Democrats. They are good people, as sincere in their social and political beliefs as anyone else here. In my opinion -- and this is admittedly speculation -- some are older folks, my generation, who were more liberal in their youth, and now are part of the middle class. Their contributions are of value, and likely let them get back in touch with their “inner hippie.”

The growth of the DU community has included an interesting number of folks who have diverse interests and values, which has resulted in a large number of “specialty” sub-forums. Each one of these groups adds an important voice to the larger whole.

However, especially in the context of the approaching 2016 elections, we witness some tensions on General Discussion, which is kind of like the village commons, or the city park of the Democratic Underground. Not surprisingly, much of that tension is about the anticipated run of Hillary Clinton for President. It is safe (I hope) to say that Ms. Clinton creates strong emotional responses in many people -- including those who support and those who oppose the idea of her becoming the President of the United States.

What strikes me as the most glaring about the arguments on DU:GD about Ms. Clinton is that so many good people -- people who are normally intelligent and insightful -- allow emotions to block their ability to recognize some of the most obvious of lessons from the past two decades. The single most obvious is that we are not on a fence, where some stand to win, while others lose. The only avenue to victory requires unity. It’s that simple. Yet we witness the pro- and anti-Clinton people engaged in a competition to see who can deliver the “best” insult.

The second lesson is that any President can only operate within the limits that Congress (the House and Senate) allows. If there are weak Democrats, a Bush-Cheney resolution allowing the invasion of Iraq happens. On the flip side, a Congress can handcuff President Obama’s efforts to pass meaningful legislation.

The question arises: realistically, is it easier to elect someone to Congress, or the White House? Again, both require united efforts on our part. And a heck of a lot of work.

It's official!

Mayweather vs Pacquiao will be on May 2, 2015. Both fighters have signed.

DU sports forum members will recall that I said it was going to happen, in an OP last month. Another person mistakenly challenged me on that, claiming it would not happen. Let this be a lesson: never doubt my word when it comes to boxing.

A 2016 Primary Proposal

What is the most obnoxious thing that people such as Sean Hannity do when it comes to differences of opinion? Yep, you got it -- he automatically ascribes the most offensively vile motives to those who disagree with him. If you didn’t like George W. Bush, for example, it was because you hated America. If you support women’s right to health care, you clearly favor the brutal murder of infants. If you favor marriage equality, you are engaged in the war on Christianity.

This is, of course, the weakest excuse for meaningful debate. It shows a lack of confidence in one’s position. The combination of concrete thinking (“if you don’t like A, you must like B”) and disgusting insults (no examples necessary) highlight just how shallow Sean et al are. It is nature’s way of communicating a warning of toxicity.

I said that, to say this: the vast majority of folks who are part of the DU community are good and sincere individuals, fully capable of determining if the will -- or will not -- vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 -- if she is indeed in the primary contests and the general election. There are numerous valid reasons why a person might support or not support her potential candidacy. I believe that is true for even those among the DU community who post foolish things about the ethics and motivations of those who think differently than themselves.

If we keep open minds, and focus on communicating what our opinions are -- rather than attacking other people who honestly think differently (even very differently) -- there is a possibility we may influence others, and perhaps even convince them. More, there is a very real possibility we might learn something, ourselves. Besides that, a closed mind tends to be much like a closed room -- stuffy.

Having been on DU since 2003, I recognize that primary season isn’t a pillow fight here. Yet we have the option of meaningful discourse. Let’s use it.

Square Dancing Sideways vs the 31st Amendment

One of the most offensive possibilities for the near-future is that Jeb Bush could become the republican presidential candidate in 2016, and possibly become President Bush III. While there are several important factors that could prevent that, it is an unfortunate possibility. The very thought of that is enough to make an ethical person vomit.

This is not to say that the other potential republican candidates are not equally vile individuals. But Jeb has family connections to various centers of power and influence that would, almost for sure, allow him to do more damage to the fabric of American society than the other republicans.

For many Democrats, this is reason enough to enthusiastically vote for any democratic candidate. That’s a good thing, that I certainly respect. But for many other Democrats, there remain concerns about what candidate the Democratic Party might run. This is absolutely not because they would ever vote for Jeb Bush -- they are immune to the unhealthy “so you’d rather have Palin/Nixon/Reagan in the White House?” -- but rather, because they understand that party affiliation alone does not define the quality of a candidate. This, too, is a good thing, and I respect it.

Both the media and common sense suggest that Hillary Clinton is likely to be the democratic candidate in 2016. Some good people think this is the best option; other good people think it is the worst option. In the final analysis, it will be up to Hillary Clinton -- if she is the democratic candidate -- to win or lose the election. And that is distinct from it being the responsibility of those from the grass roots, the small towns and large cities, or even of her campaign staff and political advisers. No one is more aware of that reality than Hillary Clinton.

When we consider candidates for President, besides “party affiliation,” there are three areas that should always be of interest: social policy; economic policy; and foreign affairs. In terms of Jeb Bush, it’s humorous to note that his biggest “weakness” within the context of the republican party is that he is considered “too liberal” on social policy. (Among Democrats and Independents, his social policy is viewed as to the right of moderate, at best. And obviously, his family’s name is a huge negative.) Jeb’s economic policies center upon what is best for billionaires; his foreign policy is likewise dictated by corporate interests.

Now, let’s consider Hillary in each of those three areas. Her social policies are likely her strongest point with the grass roots. She is, in many ways, progressively pro-family. I think she may be the most likely person to get “single-payer” through in terms of insurance/ health care. She is solid on women’s health care -- an issue that is important for the entire family. These are very significant pluses in her favor.

On the downside of social policy, and in an area that overlaps with the other two sections, Clinton is not good on environmental issues. She advocates for fracking, an operation that does provide “energy,” but benefit’s the wealthy, and devastates the land, air, and water where people live.

In terms of economic policy, there are connections with Wall Street that concern some Democrats, as well as the Democratic Left. While the Clinton family might be better viewed as part of the (multi-) millionaires’ club, rather than the billionaires’ more exclusive club, their interests place them more in line with both of those clubs, as opposed to the middle class or poor.

I believe that it is fair to say that her social policies show that, to a degree that is far larger than any potential republican candidate, that Hillary is able to identify and understand the middle class Americans. Likewise, I think it is fair for the grass roots to question to what degree she does that. Certainly, this should not include resentment for her making money. But it can include an examination of how she has done that, and how this might influence her actions if elected President of the United States.

Her foreign policy has both supporters and detractors. In the most literal sense, she can be described as someone who fit’s the original description of neoconservative. When this movement started in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, it was not associated with one party. In fact, many of the original neo-conservatism were registered Democrats: liberal on social policy, and aggressive on “defense” -- and a global view heavily influenced by one nation in the Middle East.

Today, there is a tendency to use the word incorrectly, and apply it to republicans -- including some of the tea party -- and even those non-true believers of neo-conservatism, who for example favored the invasion of Iraq, simply because they love violence against “others.” A great example of an early neoconservative was Daniel Patrick Moynihan. By the early 1970s, he was working in the Nixon administration. Nixon was not the first President to pick someone from the opposing party to serve in his administration. And, in theory, Moynihan’s position was limited to domestic policy. But those of us familiar with his career, including his service to Nixon, are aware that he influenced foreign policy, as well.

The Democratic Party does not have a policy that includes a purity test. (I’m convinced the republicans have an impurity test.) There are good people who favor Clinton’s social, economic, and foreign policy stances. There are people who may favor one or two; who might oppose one or two; or may not be interested in one or two. And who are more than ready to support her, based upon any of those interests.

Likewise, there are good people who are opposed to her, based upon one or more of these policy interests. And there are surely people who haven’t really given it much of any thought, in the context of 2016; or who have examined them, but are unsure of how they might vote -- including if there are options in the primaries.

The truth is, that for a lot of people, it’s not a simple, black-and-white issue. But somehow, on DU:GD, the majority of the discussion suggests that it is that simple, and that “black-versus-white.” In my opinion, that discourages the serious discussions that could be part of the upcoming election cycle, for many forum members. One of the least interesting issues being debated might be if a Clinton candidacy is “inevitable.” Certainly, she has to be favored at this point in time. Yet a lot can happen between now and November of 2016. It would seem -- at least to me -- to be at least as important to focus on how a democratic presidential candidate might influence races for the House and Senate, as to view “inevitability” as the key issue.

I also think that, while the folks at the national level tend to be moderate to conservative in two or more of the policy-groups I mentioned, that the liberals and progressives at the grass roots tend to do a lot of the work at the community level. They are the ones who can get members of the Democratic Left to consider actively supporting a democratic candidate, by pointing out the areas where they differ from the republican species. And that can make the difference between experiencing victory versus the “agony of defeat” in state and national elections.

H2O Man

Contact the White House


President Obama needs to veto the Keystone XL bill, which has passed in both the House and Senate.

See petition below:


Please sign the petition; call the White House; and write a letter to President Obama.

(Older DUers might suggest that we do this "RIGHT F__KING NOW!!!!")

Your Opinion, Please (H2O Man Survey #24)

Question: Do you think that the people on Fox News actually believe the things they say?

Context: Last night, I was hoping to catch up on the weekend’s “news.” MSNBC had on re-runs of shows about incarceration; CNN was running a program on Whitney Houston. I hesitated, but then clicked on Fox News. Yikes!

The host of the program was Lauren Green. For the approximate three minutes that I watched her show, I noted that she spoke in a manner intended to de-humanize the population in Iraq and Syria that is known as ISIS. To be clear, I find the beliefs of that group offensive, and their behaviors to be horrifying. I do not pretend to know the answer to how to stop the gross violence in their territory, or the rest of the Middle East. Yet, I question the benefits accrued in identifying any population as less than human.

Because I watch Fox News less than a half-hour per year, I am not familiar with many of that network’s hosts. In fact, my impression tends to be that the network is the host, and that individuals like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity are (human) parasites that feed upon its audience’s ignorance and fears. The network’s ratings serve as an imperfect measure of our social pathology.

However, even after turning the television off, something about the vacant look in Ms. Green’s eyes had caught my attention. Then I remembered seeing a clip of her interviewing Reza Aslan on his book “Zealot.” Non-Fox news sources had played clips of her 2013 attempt to attack Aslan, and exposing her own utter ignorance on the topics at hand.

It’s interesting -- to me, anyhow -- that if it were in the context of an American courtroom, Aslan would be qualified to express an opinion about the topic of his book, but Green would not be. Indeed, her beliefs would be deemed a “bias,” rather than an “opinion.” Yet, in the American media, which often presents as the witness stand in the court of public opinion, she is able to channel her bias to a segment of the public that believes her position reflects some type of expertise. (To be fair, she could qualify as an expert witness on piano, while Aslan could not.)

Yet, Ms. Green believed that, despite his advanced degrees in religious studies, Aslan was disqualified from expressing his thoughts on the historic figure Jesus, because he is Islamic. I suspect that narrow thinking influences her beliefs on everything else going on in the Middle East. Thus, I think she is sincere in her ignorance, fears, and hatred.

Water Cycle Weekend

Some of the more interesting discussions on DU:GD involve the connections between the worlds of politics, social dynamics, science, and religion. An example of this would be the conversations on ISIS, which is, to various extents, more about the politics of war, and economics, than about religion per se. Obviously, aspects of people’s interpretation of the religion of Islam come into play; yet these discussions belong on DU:GD, rather than the DU religious forums, because they are focused on current events in the Middle East, as well as the US involvement in Syria and Iraq.

In the years that I have participated on this forum, I’ve occasionally expressed my belief in the tactics of Gandhi. He was, of course, a lawyer, who believed that the legal system could be used to bring about social justice. Although not formally trained in science, he identified his social-political campaigns as “experiments.” To be fair, Gandhi did express concerns about some advances in technology ; to be accurate, those concerns were focused on three things: the threats posed by atomic bombs; the use of technology to exploit other groups of people; and the potential de-humanizing effects of some technologies.

Gandhi’s campaigns were experiments with what he believed to be Truth. We know that he frequently said, “Truth is God” -- which is distinct from “God is Truth” -- which defined the pathways he believed could bring humanity to higher ground. In many ways, Gandhi lived in the context of his Hindu belief system, yet he often went beyond what was the accepted traditions of his day. The example that illustrated his greatest insight was Gandhi’s recognizing that “God” was most commonly found within the outcasts who were marginalized by society. These two concepts, united with active non-violence, united Gandhi’s social, political, economic, and spiritual beliefs.

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No two historical eras are exactly the same, yet one can learn from history. An interesting example of this might be when we consider the nation of “Iraq.” It was not a nation per say; rather, it was a western concept created after WW!. Indeed, it was a League of Nations mandate, known as the State of Iraq, created to allow the British Empire to exploit its people and natural resources.

In that sense, it isn’t a distinct era from Gandhi’s last experiment in Truth. This resulted from when the British Empire was forced to recognize India’s independence. In the British attempt to maintain as much control as possible, they sought to divide that ancient land into two (or more) different nations -- India and what would become Pakistan -- based upon religious tensions. This is not to suggest that England alone was responsible for all tensions between Hindu and Muslim peoples there. But it was absolutely an effort to exploit those tensions.

Gandhi, as we know, went on his most dangerous and physically damaging fast in an attempt to convince the people to cease killing one another. He would also journey to Delhi and surrounding areas, to commune with the poor as well as the rich, in his effort to create the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood of man. In a relatively short time, his campaign was proving highly successful. Hence, those who sought to capitalize on the hatreds and violence -- a group that included politicians, police, and others in the ruling class -- allowed the right-wing of the Hindu political powers to murder the Mahatma.

Around the time that I joined this forum (2003), my friend Dr. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter called me from the Middle East. Some of you may recall my writing about this previously. Rubin was there with Nelson Mandela, attempting to communicate a message of Truth to leaders in that area, to help them resist the violence brought by Bush and Cheney, which had unleashed more hatred and violence between populations in Iraq and beyond. Such efforts at peace-making remain at most a footnote today -- few Americans are aware of them -- because those seeking to capitalize on the resources of that region are invested in on-going violence.

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Yesterday, as I sat where I am sitting today, typing a letter to my closest associate/ lady friend, I watched the winter precipitation outside my window. I have a huge pile of water covering my property now, which will continue to get deeper through Monday afternoon. It’s cold enough now that the molecules of water are moving so slowly, that I have to shovel them to make use of my driveway.

I told her about one of my favorite sayings from Gandhi: how a drop in the ocean partakes in the greatness of its parent; yet it risks drying up if it seeks an existence on its own. I thought back to when I was in the second grade, and first learned the science of the water cycle. At risk of exposing myself as the simpleton I am, I still marvel at that miraculous water cycle.

I told her about Rubin’s “discovery” that the Earth was a living entity -- something my culture has always known and respected -- and that all organic life on Earth, including humanity, exists for the purpose of the Earth. Our blood stream flows much as the Earth’s waters, without our conscious mind having to think to make our heart beat. Our lungs breath with the atmosphere, again without our thinking about it. We are expressions of the Earth, and of the Universe that scientists study and explore, using the conscious parts of their brains. Many of us also study various sciences, perhaps for work, often for the pleasure of learning from great minds. The sum-total of knowledge gained by scientists who study the Earth, the Universe, humans, our hearts, brains, lungs, etc., has provided huge benefits to everyone, no matter what level of understanding they may have.

The great people in human history -- from distant eras and locations -- known as the Enlightened Ones, have all laid out general guidelines for growth in understanding, and hence, the potential for behaving in a rational, ethical manner. They often use devices such as fables, myths, and parables to teach those of lesser understanding -- just as scientists have to explain complex principles in more easily grasped terms to people like me.

Thomas Merton noted (in his book on Gandhi) that if the higher ethical standards of the Enlightened Ones is combined with the technological genius of scientists, human progress is made. When an opposite happens, and for example people of low moral standards misuse technology, you have George Bush and Dick Cheney invading Iraq, or the brutal acts of ISIS. Or you have people hating and assaulting those of different ethnic backgrounds, skin-colors, sexual identities, gender, or religious belief systems. You could even end up with 1% of a diverse population in control of the entire economic system, and even identifying themselves as leaders of a Christian nation.

One option that we all have is embracing anger, bitterness, hatred, and violence, and aiming our wrath at those who are different than ourselves. Perhaps they think differently. What Gandhi attempted to teach the Muslim and Hindu people in Delhi was to see each other as expressions of the Universe, part of that large and mysterious life-force. Even if their thinking suggests that they are not fully conscious, but are instead behaving as organic machines, to recognize that spark within them.

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A light snow continues to fall. I like to go for walks with my dogs, out in the fields, and in the woods. It is so quiet in the woods when it snows. I love that silence. However, I do look forward to the warm weather returning. I love to sit in the sun light, on one of the huge rocks next to the water falls, listening to that part of the water cycle, while I either meditate or talk with my lady friend.

State of the Union

He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
-- U.S. Constitution; Article II, Section 3

I’ve been watching “State of the Union” addresses for as long as I can remember. At their best, they combine form and substance: all three branches of the federal government gathered for a purpose outlined in the Constitution; FDR’s “Four Freedoms,” and LBJ’s “Great Society.”

At their worst, they feature the farce of Ronald Reagan, or the deformed lies of George W. Bush. As much as I knew that watching Reagan or Bush would result in frustration, I still watched them. Reagan, I believe, knew that he was an actor delivering lines; Bush believed that he was The Man.

There is, obviously, more than a bit of theater involved in State of the Union addresses. Yet that does not necessarily take away from their importance. In a very real sense, they remind me of the closing arguments delivered by prosecutors and defense attorneys in important trials. The formality of the setting, and the attention being paid to the speech, are part of the reason why.

More, no matter if a person is a judge, a prosecutor, or a defense attorney, they are an “officer of the court.” They have pledged an allegiance to the court system, that in theory dictates their behaviors within the process of a trial. For most of our nation’s history, the court system was primarily a white gentlemen’s debating society. A William Kunstler was rare, indeed.

Likewise, the U.S. Senate was -- with some important exceptions -- also a white gentlemen’s debating society. Members of this elite society had a allegiance to maintaining it as a “noble” institution. This has traditionally been less true of the House of Representatives, although it, too, has historically been populated by a very limited selection of the American public. And, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court has a similar history, though it has tended to operate largely as a “secret society.”

Joseph McCarthy remains the poster child for those who violate the accepted, if unofficial, rules of decorum in such gentlemen’s societies. His behavior shocked and offended other club members, reaching a point where the Senate finally castrated him. Today, of course, we see Senator Ted Cruz aping the McCarthy persona, but not quite daring to cross the ill-defined line that could end his career.

In a very real sense, I thought that President Obama’s address last night ranked among the very best of my life-time. It was solid in form and substance. In fact, it was solid enough that one could ask if, considering what the make-up of the House and Senate will be, it can possibly be translated into anything more than the 2016 democratic candidates’ platform? For in truth, we have two houses of Congress inhabited by people of low ethical standards, who have pledged their allegiance to corporations and the 1%.

Yet I do not think the current situation is hopeless -- because I know that the grass roots are not helpless. I am convinced that this nation can make progress towards the basic goals that the president identified last night: strengthening and enlarging the “middle calls,” while empowering the lower economic class. I know that will be difficult, and that Congress will oppose any meaningful efforts at reform. But we can achieve success, not because of the corporate-congress complex, but in spite of it.

Earlier this week, we honored the memory of the late Martin Luther King, Jr. He provided us with the model that we need to be using today: voter registration, public education, and active non-violent civic participation. It’s not a mystery. It won’t happen by way of wringing our hands, and saying it’s impossible. Change won’t happen by way of identifying this generation’s Martin, and looking for someone else to do for us what we need to be doing for ourselves. And it surely won’t come about because of the patriotism and moral fiber of those in Washington, DC. That ain’t going to happen.

But it can happen if the good people in America make it happen. That’s the only way.

H2O Man

Happy MLK Day

Happy “Martin Luther King Day”!

I recently had a young man ask me what book I thought was the most important to read, in order to “really understand” Dr. King? Now, that is an interesting question. I have a rather large “King” section in my library -- books by King, about King, and others in which, while he is not the central figure, his influence is felt throughout. I’ve also collected, over the years, a substantial number of newspaper and magazine articles about King. And I have an old record album of highlights of his speeches.

His best-know writing would be the letter from the Birmingham jail; his most famous speech is the “I Have a Dream” from Washington, DC. Yet, even in these cases, the majority of Americans are primarily familiar with highlights, rather than the full message. Both of these messages are extremely important -- so much so, in my opinion, that is essential that people study them in their entirety. This includes placing them correctly within the context of his other lesser-know, but equally important messages to America.

Anything less actually promotes the marginalizing of King’s life, and helping to create the “safe” version of Martin. The plaster-of-paris saint that never existed. A non-threatening black leader who wanted nothing more than full access to public drinking fountains and toilets. The chocolate Easter bunny: sweet on the outside, but hollow under that thin surface.

Tavis Smiley’s 2014 book, “Death of a King,” challenged that image. The author focused on the last year of King’s life -- a year in which King told America that the only way to make a dream into reality was to wake up, and take the bold, often dangerous steps towards that goal. And, as Smiley documents, a good many people rejected King’s message, and King himself, in those last twelve months of his life. This included not only his enemies and critics, but also many of those who had been part of the Civil Rights movement along side of King.

It would be easy to mistakenly believe that Martin became “militant” as a result of his life experiences in the mid-1960s. However, if one takes the time needed to study King’s thinking while he was a university student -- something that the FBI certainly did -- it becomes obvious that even as a young man, Martin Luther King was far more militant in his thinking than the image of him in Birmingham or Selma portrayed.

Thus, I told the young man who asked my opinion regarding which King book is most important to read, that there is no single answer to that. The 1986 collection of his speeches and writings, “A Testament of Hope,” is a great starting point. But to truly honor King, in a way that opens the possibility of our “waking up America” in order to make his dream real, we should be engaging in an on-going study of his life’s works.

H2O Man

Aesop Story

“Living Christ means a living cross; without it, life is a living death.”
-- Gandhi

Many years ago, I used the above Gandhi quote in a DU:GD discussion about the role of “religion” in “politics.” I do so again today, not in an attempt to discuss religion per say, but rather, as a contribution to the current discussion about the tensions between religion and politics. Hence, my OP is consciously intended for a DU:GD discussion, as opposed to a DU religion/ spirituality commentary.

Call this mere speculation on my part, if you will, but I think that most DU community members recognize that individuals such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., made important contributions to the political world that they inhabited. Even if a person strongly disagrees with the stances they took, or some other aspect of their life -- including their religions -- it should be apparent that they made influential contributions to their nations. More, it is obvious that their personal belief systems influenced their long-term goals, as well as the approaches each took to attempt to reach those goals.

It is also true that “religion” and religious people have been among the most serious of threats to various societies. That definitely has been the case in the United States, from 1776 to the present. The connection between religion and the vicious acts in Paris serve as a reminder of how dangerous and explosive the combination of religion and politics can be.

Indeed, both religion and politics have the inherent potential for violence. This alone does not mean that either are “bad,” in and of themselves. It does mean that each has the potential for being used for good or for bad. It is how people channel their internal being, as individuals and as groups, that determines the potential outcomes.

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I remember when I posted that Gandhi quote, way back when, that another D.U.er found it offensive. Very offensive, in fact. S/he apparently “googled” the quote, but could not find it. S/he then demanded a link to my source. One of my many, many unattractive qualities is a form of stubbornness: if someone demands I do something, I often make a game out of refusing to meet their needs. Thus, I did not inform that person that it was Philip Berrigan who had included Gandhi’s quote from Christmas Day, 1931, in a 1983 letter that he wrote me.

In my opinion, both Philip and Daniel Berrigan made some of the most important contributions to the turbulent politics of the 1960s and ‘70s. Were I a stronger person, I would have used them for the most influential of role models in terms of my own contributions to the world of politics. When talking to them back in my younger years, I remember feeling as if I were in the presence of higher beings, alien to our culture, trying to communicate a better way of life that was essential to our species’ survival.

In recent years, by the way, the person who challenged me on the Gandhi quote and I have become friends. In my opinion, very good friends. We’ve laughed about those long-past disagreements; s/he summed it up quite well, I think, by saying, “Who knew?”

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In my life’s experiences, I’ve never witnessed a fox attempting to eat grapes. But I do understand why a black slave from Africa, living in ancient Greece, would teach truths by way of fables/ parables. It has long been the preferred method of minorities who are oppressed by empire. I do not need to see Aesop’s birth certificate to know he was from Egypt.

Thus, my appreciation for this slave’s wisdom doesn’t include any rituals with fox nor grapes. Likewise, I can appreciate the wisdom of another man who used the same general teaching methods, at the edge of the Roman empire. The inspiration I get does not require stained glass windows, nor a driver’s license from Kenya. More, I do not believe in Santa Claus, any more than I believe that a politician is going to come down the great chimney in the sky, and bring about peace and justice and good will hunting in Washington, DC.

But I am convinced that, if enough of us put our energies into an effort to find common ground, that we will reach higher ground in the process. This cannot happen if we remain focused to the point of an unhealthy obsession with other folk’s belief systems. We should be investing our energies in building up, not tearing down.

This, of course, is just my opinion.

H2O Man
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