Sunday, December 25, 2011

Awakening to Christmas

I had a chance to catch a bit of a terrific program on my local PBS station last week, after the last present for the gift drives was sent. "A Journey of Faith: Judaism and Christianity" explored some of the similarities between the two religions' philosophies too subtle for most of us to understand readily. I was happily surprised to discover that Judaism views the Lord's prayer in an experiential way, in the way that I have since I discovered the omnipresence of G_d when I was 5. I have always loved the reverential way Jewish people undertake life; the first time I attended morning prayer at the Shul where my former philosophy professor was the de facto rebbe I was, like probably some of the rest of the congregation, half asleep and going through the motions of reciting the opening prayers. It didn't take long before I started grousing silently. "Why do we HAVE to express our thanks for TREES?" Thankfully, the answer presented itself directly: without trees - beautiful, bountiful, diverse trees - life on earth wouldn't be possible. They're the lungs of our planet, sucking up and cleaning all the CO2 from the atmosphere. Then it hit me; why WOULDN'T we give our thanks and praise for other of G_d's creations without which our lives wouldn't be as pretty or even possible. All of a sudden, I was AWAKE.

I eagerly scanned ahead, up to the place in the prayers where the rest of the congregation had read while my attention had been diverted, slightly disappointed that I had missed the chance to praise water and whatever else I had inadvertently skipped.  Epiphanies are addictive, and I wanted more.  The prayers were soon over though, and, sadly, I realized so, too, was that moment.  That was the moment I truly understood what the word, 'bittersweet,' meant - and that other, blessed moments awaited other sacred hours, if I was only willing to be fully present.

Jesus could not have been the sage he was, if he hadn't been schooled in a tradition that revered the potential for goodness that inhabits every moment  and evidence of this divine wisdom in creation, and he couldn't have taught us, so succinctly, to abide G_d in every moment, every interaction with another, as he did in what we call the Agape doctrine, if he hadn't been the accomplished sage he was.  Here's hoping your holidays are filled with such moments, too. Cherish them all as the miracles they are.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

More Holiday Cheer

Yesterday, I posted information on a holiday gift drive taking place right now to help the residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation and other native communities. What I didn't realize then was that many of the children who need some holiday cheer are teenagers, whose needs are often over-looked (as well as those of the elders) at this time of year.

Here is information about a unique gift drive being sponsored just for them:

Teenagers are often left out. So this year The Oglala Commemoration is planning "Shoe Box" gifts.  It's simple.  Get a shoe box and fill it with teen stuff (including hygiene supplies, gloves, socks, t-shirts, and other items small enough to fit in the box).  Please place a note on the box indicating whether the box is for a girl or boy and the age range of items in the box.  These boxes may be sent to:

Eileen Janis
PO Box 525
Crazy Horse Ave.
Pine Ridge, SD 57770

If you would like to sponsor some boxes with your friends or organizations, cash donations may be sent to:

Oglala Commemoration 
1939 Wentzville Parkway
Wentzville, MO  63385 

Of course, gifts for people of all ages are always welcome and can be sent to:

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, Belcourt, North Dakota (Leonard Peltier's Nation)
TMBCI Holiday Gift Drive
Attention Cindy Malaterre
PO Box 900
Belcourt, ND 58316  
Oglala Sioux Nation, Pine Ridge, South Dakota
Paul Waha Shields
PO Box 1659
Pine Ridge, SD  57770

Thanks, again, people for your generosity.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holidays on the Res

I just finished watching the IFC documentary, "Reel Injun," which gives a brief account of Hollywood's historical depiction of the indigenous tribes of our land (Tonna Tierra for those of us who live in the southwest, Turtle Island for those who live elsewhere in the North American continent). The good news in terms of depicting native peoples to the rest of the world is that, since the late 1980s, more complex characters have been featured with greater numbers of authentic native voices being heard from. If you haven't seen any of what are considered now classic movies of this genre, they are often deep, insightful, visually beautiful and sometimes funny works of art that can be enjoyed by people of all ages (as with all movies, with adult supervision for children). Still my fave: Chris Ayers' Smoke Signals, though other notables are Ten Canoes and The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat). Adam Beach's performance in Flag of Our Fathers is still heartbreakingly compelling. Catch the documentary if you can; for being less than an hour, it really packs in a lot of cinematic history.

But pretty, well-told stories aren't all that native people have to offer us. If you are a regular reader, you will have no trouble understanding why, living as we do now in the Police State of America, I have an affinity for those people who have lived in just this same way for far longer than the rest of us, and I'd like to ask you to think about helping some of them this holiday season. I understand many of us may not be able to do much, but since these people don't have even the basics such as blankets, socks, and coats, a little here could go a long way - and isn't that what being a Christian is all about? Seeing in someone else's misfortune an opportunity for us to experience the joy of connecting with them in loving, peaceful ways, which Jesus assured us would create the kingdom of G_d? Should you wish to help out families on the Pine Ridge Reservation, please see the instructions in the below letter from one of the coordinators of a holiday gift drive for it's residents. Thank you, and have a wonderful holiday.


Happy Holidays, Everyone!

The Pine Ridge Holiday Gift Project is underway! This year the project holds a very special place in our hearts due to the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Dell Big Crow. Dell was a teacher at the Pine Ridge Elementary School and has worked with us for the past several years on the annual coat drive and the gift project. In her honor we have adopted a new name, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation – Dell Big Crow Holiday Gift Project.

As you may know, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is one of the most impoverished and marginalized regions in the United States.  While we seek to address the underlying causes of poverty on Pine Ridge, we also recognize the importance of building connections between people on and off the reservation.  We continue to work on the reservation throughout the year with Service Learning Projects, a winter coat drive, providing families with firewood, and coordinating the Holiday Gift Project.

Recently ABC News and Diane Sawyer did a Special 20/20 Edition on Pine Ridge called, “Hidden America: Children of the Plains.” To view the episode click on this link:

We have been coordinating the Pine Ridge Holiday Gift Project for eight years now. The first year we placed boxes all over town, collected gifts and then drove to Pine Ridge to deliver them….it was quite complicated! Then David Bartecchi suggested that we ask people to buy gifts and mail them directly to elders and children on the reservation…a simple, direct way of giving…so that’s where we started!  The project is very “grassroots,” since it’s just the two of us Elf volunteers coordinating the project. This year we are working with reservation grammar school teachers and counselors, community organizers, the Lakota Head Start program, Homeless Youth Center,  and the Homeless Veterans’ Center in order to identify children and elders with the greatest needs.

Last year, thanks to the generosity of friends, family, and hundreds of new donors the Holiday Gift Project provided gifts to more than 600 children and elders on the reservation!  Donors forwarded the original project letter on to their friends, families, and colleagues and we received responses from all over the U.S. as well as Germany, Australia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, France, Japan, and Canada!  We’d like to invite you to contribute a holiday gift for a child or elder this year.

Each child or elder on our list provides a few gift options…you may chose items off the list or send anything you think is appropriate.  As always please feel free to add small items such as socks, hats, gloves and mittens in your package if you wish. We would like to gently stress the importance of our recipients receiving gifts of approximately the same value. Most wishes are between and $20 – $35. In these difficult economic times our list is growing every year, so if you wish to contribute more, please consider “adopting” another child or elder so we can provide items for more individuals.

We do have a few individuals and families who have particularly difficult circumstances and need more costly items such as electric blankets, space heaters, coats, etc. and if you wish to provide a more generous gift let us know and we’ll set you up to help them specifically.  If you need a tax receipt, please send us an email with the gift and amount and we will send you a receipt at the end of the project.

Here is how it works:

1.     Email me, Julie Sullivan OR Chris Bartholomew if you wish to provide a gift for one or more children or elders…please don’t cc both of us as we may accidently overlap!

2.     We will email you a child or elder’s name, age, gender and one or two gift options and you chose one gift you’d like to provide.

3.     Purchase the gift, then giftwrap and mail the package directly to the child, elder, or in some cases to our contact on the rez who will distribute the gifts at school and community gatherings.


5.     A note about shipping….if you are an internet shopper, some companies offer free shipping with a minimum purchase.  Last year these companies participated in free shipping: Amazon, Penney’s, Home Depot, Target, Macys, and other large chain stores. You may wish to check out their current offers.

6.     Mail the package to the address we have provided.  Please be sure to ship the package according to our directions as some communities only have UPS while others only have U.S. mail, etc.  Please allow enough time for the gift to arrive by Dec. 18th.

7.     Please, if you wish, include a personal greeting or message…the families enjoy this personal connection!

8.     After you ship the item, please send a return email with the Recipient’s location, name and

number in the subject line.…basically this is the same info in we put in the subject line of the email sent to you.

Thanks so much for taking the time to learn about the project!  We look forward to sharing the holidays with you and our friends on Pine Ridge!

Julie Ann Sullivan

Christine Bartholomew

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation – Dell Big Crow Holiday Gift Project Facebook Page:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Some Lessons You're Not Taught in School

It’s fall, and students here are just finishing their first full week of school, thanks to a late Labor Day holiday, which coincided with Hurricane Irene’s campaign up the east coast and her cleanup. Since I was a young child, I have always been excited at this time of year, though now I find myself some years also getting a bit melancholy. I still keep occupied throughout the year learning as much as I can about contemporary issues and subjects I enjoy, such as the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and as I write this, I’m nearly finished with the third level of Rosetta Stone French (though I can’t imagine actually having a conversation in French about anything other than changing my dollars pour des euros), but sometimes I find myself thinking about a former high school classmate of mine, too.

Her name was Mary Lou Arruda, and she was a cheerleader at Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School the year I transferred into it, 1978. It was our sophomore year, and I didn’t really know Mary Lou more than just to wave ‘hello’ to her in the hallway. My algebra teacher had asked me to tutor one of the jocks who was friends with her, and it was through him that I had met her. Just as we began our junior year, Mary Lou was kidnapped while riding her bike home from cheerleading practice. Her decomposing body was found two months later in the Freetown State Forest, tied to a tree. She was just 15.

I remember Mary Lou as always happy. She had shoulder-length, dark hair and, I believe, dark brown eyes. It was hard to tell then because she smiled so much; I only remember her eyes squinting while she laughed. In recent years we’ve seen all sorts of abominable depictions of cheerleaders in popular culture, some, such as Death of a Cheerleader, based on actual events. Mary Lou wasn’t like any of them. She didn’t know me from Adam, but she nevertheless said hello to me whenever we happened to be in the hallway at the same time, whether or not there was anyone around. She was a genuinely gracious, non-judgmental, carefree adolescent, and she made me feel as though it didn’t matter that I was something of a nerd, or new to the school. She was born to be an ambassador, and I can’t help feeling, even all these years later, the world is a whole lot less better off for her passing. Before I understood anything about the way our country has been turned slowly into a fascist police state; before I learned anything about how our military dictatorship has long persecuted those people who stand up for the rights guaranteed them by our Constitution but long denied them; before I realized that dissent against the fascists who’ve destroyed America simply is not possible, I couldn’t let rest the question, “How could this have happened to one so fundamentally decent?” Because the answer is both so simple and yet so horrific, I’ve resisted acknowledging its patent veracity – until now: fundamentally indecent people do all sorts of nefarious things to fundamentally decent people and get away with it because our society is structured to protect the fundamentally indecent among us. Turns out, crime does pay, and that truth is obvious to a sickening degree in the case that evolved around Mary Lou’s murderer, James M. Kater.

Kater was a part-time donut shop employee who was indicted a mere two months after Mary Lou’s disappearance for her kidnapping and murder. What made it so easy to find Mr. Kater was the fact that he had been convicted 9 years earlier for the bizarrely similar 1968 kidnapping of a 13 year-old North Andover girl, Jaclyn Bussierre, who escaped after also being tied to a tree. She later identified Kater as her assailant. He confessed to that crime and was sentenced to what appears to have been a radically insufficient sentence. At the time of Mary Lou’s disappearance, several witnesses who were on the same highway from where she was taken – including a friend with whom she had just stopped to speak – identified a car they witnessed force a girl on a bike off the road and into the woods. The car was identified as belonging to Kater.

Kater’s first conviction was overturned because of what was later ruled on appeal as inadmissible hypnotically-induced evidence. The state and Mr. Kater’s legal team fought three more times in court before the state achieved an airtight conviction – three times! All told, Kater was given 4 Massachusetts trials, 7 federal trials, and 1 Supreme Court petition for a hearing, which was denied on April 16, 2007, finally ending his bid for freedom nearly 30 years after his indictment. At the time of the Supreme Court decision, Kater’s was the longest murder trial in U.S. history. If you’re now expecting me to excoriate the state for not putting Kater to death sooner, or at all, you will be disappointed. I am proud to live in a state that does not have the death penalty. I do not believe the state should be involved in murdering people simply because the vast majority of people it tells us it needs to murder seem more and more frequently to be innocent of the crimes for which they are convicted. Troy Anthony Davis is scheduled to be executed by the State of Georgia on September 21st, and Stephen King couldn’t write a more terrifying story of horror that is his wrongful conviction, incarceration and impending death sentence. The self-confessed actual perpetrator of the murder for which Davis was convicted is walking around, free as bird, the state’s lone eyewitness. Any system that allows this type of miscarriage of justice ought not to exist – where even one innocent person may be wrongly put to death – but it does, and that’s why I’m against the death penalty. But read the sixth sentence of this paragraph again. That’s right – Massachusetts does not have the death penalty. And it hasn’t had the death penalty since 1951. The last execution to take place in Massachusetts was on May 9, 1947. This is the state that framed two Italian immigrants for a payroll robbery someone else confessed to having committed and wrongly executed Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti because it didn’t like their political views, after all. The judge, Webster Thayer, famously said of Vanzetti: “This man, although he may not have actually committed the crime attributed to him, is nevertheless morally culpable [for organizing workers to strike for better wages], because he is the enemy of our existing institutions.” (Let me remind you that the state’s key witness in the case against Troy Anthony Davis has confessed to no less than three people that he was the actual murderer of the person for whom Davis was convicted of murdering.) The death penalty is always selectively applied, and people of color, poor people and those who contest the unjust, so-called civil institutions in America are always more frequently those against whom the death penalty and tortures such as decades of solitary confinement are applied. That isn’t Kater. Other than the fact he is a psychopath with a predilection for torturing and killing young girls in the most heinous way possible, we still know very little about James Kater. I have a sense of unease about that in today’s world, where any school student in some Midwestern city or town can now freely help her parents kidnap a fellow classmate for sale into a sexual slavery ring, and the police will do nothing to help the kidnapping victim’s family to liberate her.

By now, you’re probably wondering why Kater was given so much legal assistance toward no practical end whatsoever, and this essay might well end here inasmuch as I don’t have an answer to that question. I only have more queries: where does an ex-con-cum-part-time donut maker get the money to finance all those decades of legal wrangling – all the expert witness testimony, all the depositions, all the court fees and lawyers’ fees? Who in their right mind would foot the bill for this, if Kater is unable to pay? Is that where the taxes of Massachusetts’ citizens have gone? Really? I understand some appeals are automatic in murder convictions, and that this type of three-ring circus would never happen today where the death penalty is the punishment to be applied, but, again, that's wasn't James Kater.  Thanks to Bill Clinton's Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which kills the innocent people our system has a predilection for killing even more quickly than ever before, appeals such as Kater's in states with the death penalty exists are no longer possible.  But a whole lot more than the type of public defender advocacy we see at the heart of so many wrongful convictions such as Troy Davis' has gone into serving Mr. Kater – when he was never even in danger of being put to death. Eleven trials and a Supreme Court petition! Why? How?  And Clinton's ATED Act doesn't have any bearing on them.

I worked at a law firm – at the time, Boston’s oldest, continuously operating law firm – for a decade, and I’ve seen some strange and immoral things done with the shuffling of reams of paper, but I still have no answer to this question, and so I must infer, as we must so often do in life, what went so horribly wrong for Mary Lou – and so fantastically right for Mr. Kater, who now sits in a prison cell (presumably, in the psych. unit of Walpole’s MCI-Cedar Junction), no chance for any more excursions to court that he enjoyed for three decades. I once had the opportunity to ask the attorney who represented my mother in my parents divorce why he no longer practiced family law, and he was shockingly candid in his reply: “The money is in defending drug dealers and other criminals. They’re the only ones who pay their bills.” I was not unaware of the manner in which Mother had settled her debt to this man, after she had foolishly bought herself a new car. In addition to receiving half the fee they had agreed upon, he also received all of the stocks and bonds my parents had invested in since I was a child – including original Disney stock. Obviously, crime pays. It pays many people, over and over again, because the money never seems to run out for criminals - which means, we have only ourselves to blame for propagating criminal enterprise. A recent viewing of the movie, The Whistleblower, the story of former Nebraska law enforcement officer Kathryn Bolkovac’s exposure of the sex slave ring run by members of the International Peacekeeping Forces - including, Americans - stationed in Bosnia in the 1990s (which was covered up and even promoted by high-level officials at the United Nations) gave me the sinking feeling that the sadomasochistic manner in which Ms. Bussiere and Mary Lou were treated by Kater probably served an extremely lucrative fetishistic sex and/or porn ring, which later provided the financing for his many bids for freedom. It could happen. It does happen. And it happens just like this untold millions of times around the world each and every day – because crime pays, and in a country and world were values are only disguises worn by fascists who believe each one of us is exploitable for market purposes and cannot possibly be a human being, it will only continue to happen until we’re all finally tearing one another to pieces for our 15 minutes of fame on Bully Beatdown, or in some other artificially engineered milieu designed by the social Darwinists who control us all. Coupled with the volumes of evidence proving that our judiciary has worked hand-in-hand with the secret forces of our military dictatorship to persecute legitimate civil and human rights activists, justice for the average citizens against the malfeasance of others appears to be impossible in America.

Some days, I wish school were as easy as it used to be.

[This is where a copyright would go, if I had the $35 to get one:  ;-) 2011 Saoirse]

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Resurrecting Jesus

[Spoiler alert:  this essay is not an example of my usual skill and élan.  For the past several weeks, the covert warfare directed at me has increased exponentially:  toxic solvent/gas assaults, several unceasing noise campaigns, electromagnetic warfare, and radiation – both of which deplete my energy (and the will to do anything, as well as the cognition to do it, which is doubtless the purpose of them).  In the case of the latter assault, I am left with total body burns on my skin which make me look jaundiced at times (think the type of sunburn you get if you’re extremely Caucasian, go to the beach for the first time in a season and forget to wear sunscreen).  You’ll still want to at least peruse the links, which are, hopefully, uncorrupted, to get the full zeitgeist.  Sorry.  It is what it is.]

When I started this blog two years ago I had intended it to be a more or less regular journal of my thoughts and experiences as an American bioslave and status-less person targeted by our military dictatorship for political reprisal.  But fighting person-to-army this third civil war is, at times, a great distraction from not only this blog, but also from the true work I feel called to do, which is to expose our military dictatorship and its fascist infrastructure for what they are and hold them accountable for the millions and millions of murders they have committed with their bioslavery programs.   That, no doubt, is the intention of the third civil war.  Our military dictatorship’s leaders well know that the person who stops rowing is the one who is free to rock the boat, and that once it has made normal, civil life impossible for its targets, it has to otherwise occupy those targets with as much fighting for sheer survival that it can in order to give them no chance to plan and carry out any type of strategic offense.  It has no qualms about terrorizing and torturing them until they are dead.  What else is there for a target to do once she understands this?  To blog, or not to blog – that is the question nowadays for this target.  There is, though, something to keeping a tradition alive – to embracing what is most fundamentally human – and so, herewith, my 2011 Easter blog.

Today is Maundy Thursday.  When I was a very little girl and my parents took me to church on this sacred day, I somehow got the idea that this day was actually Easter.  I don’t know why.  Certainly, in our evangelical Lutheran church, we never heard such a thing proclaimed, and I was no different than any other child looking forward to the upcoming early morning egg hunt and family supper after Sunday services in a few days’ time.  Intellectually, I knew Maundy Thursday came before Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and egg-hunt-bunny-chocolate-and-glazed-ham Sunday, but there seemed something so odd about marking the day before Jesus’ martyrdom as a Holy day that I almost instinctively knew this day – of all the days of Lent – was actually the most important day of all, the true day deserving of observance.

Developmental psychologists tell us that a person’s personality is set by the time he or she is five years-old, and since I haven’t changed my opinion of Maundy Thursday in the last 44 years, I guess there’s something to that theory.  I suppose I never will stop believing that what’s most important about Jesus’ martyrdom is the very fact that he chose to make it in the first place – that, instead of running away from his persecution as the outlaw that he had been branded by Roman and Jewish authorities, he chose to face them and take whatever persecution they had in store for him.  (“Why am I here, Judas?  I’ve done nothing illegal,” which he actually said before his crucifixion).  That is the central message of the story of Jesus’ martyrdom – that he could have avoided it but didn’t, and instead, chose to die to prove to us that we, too, could die standing up to corrupt authorities in order to create a more just society for everyone; that we could not just live but also die for the sake of others less fortunate than us. 

That’s a loaded message in an age when we’re told – and repeatedly shown – ‘terrorists’ who blow up others along with themselves to prove their devotion to one or another authority:  civil, terrorist, or allegedly other-worldly.  But that’s not the same type of martyrdom Jesus undertook.  Deeply confused and twisted by hate, these backpack-bus bombers and brainwashed hijackers represent for us the very most debased hearts-and-minds corrupted warrior partly because we’re told that’s what they are – brainwashed youth used as fodder by their diabolic handlers – and partly because we choose not to look at how our own military dictatorship works assiduously to promote that image while at the same time undermining the development of true moral conviction by sanctifying and supporting only cults that idolize the image of Jesus as Messiah, or some other equally insidious and destructive type of cult – all at the same time it is becoming the most notorious terrorist organization in the world.  Yet, the message of sacrificing one’s self for the benefit of others who are less fortunate than us - at the hands of those who are vastly more fortunate - is as fundamental to the notion of a justice-seeking community, wherever that community may be, and however anachronistic it may seem to the vast majority of others today, as it was 2011 years ago.  Sadly, it’s relevant.

I haven’t observed Maundy Thursday rituals in a church for many decades.  I usually spend the evening alone, listening to Dvořák’s Stabat Mater.  That’s out of the question tonight, with the noise campaigns in full swing. (You didn’t really think your military dictatorship’s leaders would let a person who understands the Christic concepts as well as I do contemplate and gain strength from them any further on this day, did you?  That’s not how these mass murdering, fascist, arch hypocrites work.)  So I’m not sure where I’ll be this evening, but I do know that wherever I am, I will be meditating on this recent realization:  Messiahs are for the disempowered.  People who have power don’t need to be saved from those with whom they have thrown in their lot, the ultra-powerful.  The rest of us whom they feel they can use and disposed of have to stand up for ourselves and for those less fortunate than us, or face the impotent future, waiting for a Messiah that never comes.  If we could ask Jesus what he would advise us in these circumstances, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t say, “Oh, don’t worry – I’ll be back sometime in the future to kick your oppressors’ asses.

It’s not up to anyone else to stand in our place before the persecuting mob today and take the hits our oppressors have devised for us.  Foreclosed and improperly housed or unhoused; uninsured or insured and without proper medical care; overworked and unable to make ends meet - no matter who we are, or how little we have, each of us is fighting some type of battle today, and each of us is not alone.  We may not know what the interest rate, the unemployment rate, the new home starts will be tomorrow, or what the NASDAQ  is doing, but you can be sure there are always those in similar circumstances and those less fortunate – especially here, in the most powerful military dictatorship in the world, which has the most encompassing technology to wage its declared covert war against its dissidents known to man.  The message that someone else can and will do for us what we are otherwise called to do for ourselves is pernicious in the extreme, promoting a helplessness that in no way comports with the kingdom of G_d.  That’s not the most noble manifestation of the gift of humanity that is given to us.  Thankfully, there are those who are willing to sacrifice everything for themselves and those of their less fortunate loved ones, who are, for example, suffering in the abominable slavery our fascist leaders have devised vis-à-vis the medicoresearch industry, also known as the ‘healthcare’ industry.

Kristen LaBrie is the Lawrence, Massachusetts, mother of the autistic boy from whom she withheld chemotherapy treatment because she felt it was those drugs and not her suffering son’s disease that were killing him.  Ms. LaBrie is now civilly dead.  She was convicted on April 12th of attempted murder, battery on a disabled person and child endangerment for failing to give these universally acknowledged poisonous, so-called drugs to her son for five months after he went into remission.  She faced this absurd kangaroo court – which apparently has once again granted to the state the right to force lethal medical treatments on citizens – after watching her beautiful, already compromised, beloved son die of diseases our military dictatorship has long had the ability to create and for which it has developed only a similarly lethal treatment to which it has, with this type of jurisimprudence, enslaved us.  Kristen LaBrie courageously said, ‘enough is enough.’  She took the responsibility to lovingly and compassionately care for her dying son – and for it she has been repudiated as a murderess by minions of our military dictatorship.  I don’t know what her religious beliefs are, but her moral convictions are no less Christic in the most roundly fundamental sense than those of others who have proved their faelty to the values of Jesus, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and I applaud her for having the courage to act as ethically as she has.  This is precisely the type of state protest in which Jesus sacrificed himself; we would do well to remember that part of the reason Jesus became so irksome to authorities was because he was providing the healthcare to the poor and beleaguered that other social institutions were not, and his followers rightly began to trust him more than they trusted the state.  Ms. LaBrie’s act is precisely the type of act American churches have inexcusably failed to recognize as just such a sacrifice – to its eternal shame and to the detriment of their followers.  Health justice is a piteously under-served social mission by all churches, and so, this Maundy Thursday, as I contemplate the many reasons the life and death of the very human Jesus of Nazareth should be studied with reverence, I pay homage to Kristen LaBrie and her willingness to sacrifice, acknowledging it to be both too profound and deep for me to comprehend fully and yet fully within my grasp as a compassionate, morally convicted human being.  I ask my readers, no matter their religious beliefs, to perform the same compassionate act, and think about how you will bear up under the oppressive conditions with which you will be faced in the coming year.  From what examples of moral strength will you derive the courage to acknowledge your oppression and seek ways to overcome it?  What sacrifice will you be willing to make to create ‘the kingdom of G_d’ with the hands tbat Jesus told us we could create it?  How will you embrace the message of the ‘Messiah?’  Go ahead and dig into the story, deeply, and see if you can find correlations in it to your own experiences.  Are you, too, the persecuted, or are you the persecutor?  Are you the one who needs a Messiah, or are you the hypocrite that sees no purpose to self-sacrifice for those less fortunate than yourself (that’s not the United States military dictatorship, by the way).  What parallels between the class-stratified social constraints Jesus faced and those you are facing today can you draw?  Isn’t this type of contemplation the best way we can honor Jesus this week?

I don’t know how I shall be able to overcome the enormous challenges I am facing today, but I do know this:  when no one else steps forward to be the Messiah, it’s time to be your own, like Kristen LaBrie has been for her son and, by example, other mothers facing the horrible decisions she has faced.  The time to act with courage no matter what condemnation, torture and physical pain we may face is the time when we feel most disempowered, most confused and most threatened.  It is in those times we are called to assert our right to exist as human beings – as ‘children of G_d,’ if you so chose to view G_d as a fatherly figure – in community with our civilized brethren (however few in numbers though they may seem to be at times).  The kingdom of G_d Jesus assured us human beings is possible for us to create is not the social Darwinistic world envisioned and forced upon us by the leaders of our military dictatorship.  It is a reality in which peace is as actively waged for the benefit of each and every individual – and not for the benefit of any mob, such as the American Medical Association and its paymaster, the fascist alliance between the Pentagon and so-called healthcare industry players – by each and every member of the kingdom of G_d.  Resurrect the spirit of Jesus for yourselves.  You are your only hope; I hope that is what Jesus’ martyrdom teaches you this week.

Good Holy Week, everyone - and happy Passover to my Jewish readers, out of the midst of whose ancestors the sage, Jesus, came.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Friendship That Can Never Cease: A Tribute to the Rev. Dr. Rhys Williams

Today marks what would have been the 82nd birthday of my friend and former minister, the Rev. Dr. Rhys Williams.  It seems funny now to say that Rhys was my ‘friend;’ we never spent much time together when I taught at the church he served for over 35 years as senior minister, the former First and Second Church in Boston, and we socialized very little outside the church.  I attended his daughter, Nory’s, wedding. I am still happily shocked today that I even received an invitation to it since I was a very new member of the church at the time it took place.  The Christmas party he and his wife, Eleanor, hosted each year was the only other time I saw him socially apart from a few surreal lunches we shared at his favorite restaurant on Newbury Street, Thai Basil.  Still, Rhys was my friend.  I know that more certainly today than I ever have, and as I think about him today, I realize that he has been the truest, most devoted human friend I’ve ever had though I could hardly appreciate this fact when he was alive.  The famous 19th century social reformer and former Harvard Divinity school intern at the church, Henry David Thoreau, once said, “Friends . . . they cherish one another’s hopes.  They are kind to one another’s dreams.”  Rhys embodied this definition of friendship.

One afternoon after I had finished setting up my classroom for the following Sunday’s lesson Rhys’ inimitable assistant, Susan Twist, and I were talking in the office at Park House about possible subjects for my senior thesis, which was to encompass an aspect of 19th century American history.  Rhys happened to pass through the office to pick up his phone messages during a lull in our conversation, and, peering at me over the top of his glasses as he scanned his messages, he began to casually relate the broad outlines of the careers of the more outspoken of the church’s social reforming ministers, such as that of Thoreau’s friend and mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, encouraging me to consider one of them as my subject.  It seemed preternatural, his intuition at this moment, and I thought, ‘Wait.  He only just walked in.  How does he know we’re talking about my coursework?  Does he remember the majors of all the church’s members who are in college and their matriculation?’  It took me barely a second to realize that he did.  In the deepest parts of his psyche, Rhys cared about others.  He cherished their hopes for themselves and silently cheered for them to achieve their greatest dreams probably just as much as they did, offering whatever help he could as he saw a need.  My own commencement would not have been possible without him.  Having been made ill yet again by a vaccination, which officials at my college claimed was prerequisite to my undertaking a student teaching practicum, I struggled in my part-time transcription jobs to afford my increasing tuition and living expenses.  By the end of my junior year, it looked as though I’d never be able to finish my final two semesters – until Rhys loaned me nearly $900 from the minister’s fund, which enabled me to do so.  He only ever asked one thing of me in return, several years after I had graduated:  to help Susan, who was then in the thick of what would be an almost ten-year battle with breast cancer.  I was pretty sick myself toward the end of her struggle, but I knew better than anyone by then that there’s a difference between giving people the ‘help’ you think they need and giving them the help they actually need.  Having witnessed my declining health even as he waged his own battle with cancer, Rhys recognized that I was uniquely capable of the latter – not least because he, himself, demonstrated this type of empathy time and again, with me and with what I have come to learn have been countless others.  I have come to believe that Rhys was something of an expert at empathy and the friendship it makes possible – another byproduct of his meticulously honed insight into the nature of human relationships.  Though Susan eventually lost her battle on opening day, April 2, 2001, I was honored to lend her what support I could to make her chemotherapy appointments and her life a little easier.  In return, I was privileged to enjoy Susan’s famous hospitality, wry sense of humor and a closer friendship with her than otherwise would have been possible – she, sharing her secret passions for jeopardy and the Red Sox with me while we ‘gardened’ on her small balcony at her Longfellow Place condo, and I, perfecting my favorite holiday recipes with her help.  I still miss it, the friendship Susan and I developed in that last year-and-a-half of her life, and I’m thankful to Rhys for having made it possible.  I suspect he knew I needed Susan’s friendship as much as she needed mine.  His vision of the ministry and friendship he knew we are all capable of when we embrace the noblest of our human characteristics was flawless, and he set an unremitting example of that vision, deftly offering only the subtlest guidance when he saw a need for it.  He could bring out the best in us because he could see in us not merely our own dreams of the best versions of ourselves (he certainly understood deeply that we are all works of art in-progress) but also the best possible versions of humanity in each of us.  That’s only possible in a person with profound humility – a person with a more-than-usually healthy distrust of his own perceptions and judgment.

Others who have been lucky enough to know Rhys have remarked on this particular gift of his, this remarkable ability of his to lead from behind.  I like this testimony from one of the many interns he mentored, the Rev. Dr. Tim W. Jensen (now also deceased), because it exemplifies so well Rhys’ atypical ability to see others in process and yet, as whole, worthwhile human beings:

“Rhys was very much what I like to think of as a ‘Hands-on/Hand-off’ kind of mentor.  He was always there to listen, and to provide encouragement; but he never tried to tell you what to do or how to do it, and whenever you came to him uncertain of yourself or the quality of your own work, his response would inevitably be ‘I’m sure it will be fine.’  Not that it always was, mind you, but he gave you the freedom to learn from your mistakes without necessarily suffering the consequences of failure.  His leadership style was to find the best people possible and to give them the room to discover and do their best; and he was particularly adroit at mentoring younger seminarians such as myself, who may have possessed plenty of ability and ‘potential’ but who were perhaps not quite as sure of themselves as Rhys was of them."

I’ve thought a lot about our first meeting over the years, about the time I first noticed this particular grace of his, that day we first met.  For many years, the only way I could conceive of the experience of being in Rhys’ presence was to liken it to being smiled on by the sun, if the sun were to have a face.  Rhys radiated a deep respect for others.  His focused, yet respectful attention on the person in front of him unsettled me when I found myself facing him in the recession line after services the first Sunday I attended them – until I realized the unsettling feeling I was experiencing came from the fact very few other people with whom I’ve interacted in my life have had the same abandoned yet purposeful approach to others; it was a pure, non-judgmental expectation of what might come from an encounter with another person that Rhys had which captivated me that morning way back in 1985.  I think most people who knew him would agree that Rhys was not the type of person one occasionally sees throughout one’s life but with whom one has no genuine connection.  That observation might shock a lot of people; I’ve heard him described as “conservative,” though I knew him as more self-disciplined than ascetic, more reserved than dogmatic.  Early in my church membership Rhys said to me, “If this country is ever going to be saved, it will be by the work of people who are trained in the Humanities.”  It was late in Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and people then openly feared the prospect of the increasingly despotic administrations that have succeeded it.  One clergy member who I met a few years ago and who claimed to have met Rhys described him to me as “charming,” and I thought, ‘Well, she must be confusing him with someone else,’ because although Rhys was personable, he was in no way beguiling.  Rhys simply had no allure – other than his gentle, albeit stoic, willingness to engage with others, which might easily have been mistaken for not for charm but actual aloofness by those who couldn’t accord him the same space in which to be himself that he accorded others.  He treated me that day as he always did:  as though he believed in my ability to face all of my encounters with the same grace – even those times I gave him controvertible proof of that ability.

Though I rarely took advantage of his open office door and willingness to talk I knew instinctively that if I so chose, I could rely on Rhys to listen to my greatest hopes and deepest regrets, knowing he would accept me graciously into loving communion, no matter how ludicrously high those hopes, or how repugnantly disappointing those regrets.  I have had a chronic pain syndrome – debilitating dysmenorrheal – since I was 11 years-old.  Every 28 to 30 days, five days and four nights of constant, often knife-sharp pain incapacitates me.  I spend these days in stupors, taking 10 to 12, 200 mgs. Tablets of Advil every four hours – whenever possible, in a steaming hot tub – because in 37 years of this torture no doctor has treated me with appropriate pain care.  And I have seen more than my share of doctors.  It’s hard to live a normal life like this – to hold a regular job, to attend school full-time, to plan for a normal social life – but there’s no point complaining about it.  We get by as best we can:  drugged up and lethargic, darting in and out of a regular daily routine as best we can, hoping not to be noticed and missed every fourth week, and then pacing ourselves the following week while trying to recover from the poisonous level of OTC pain killers we must take.  Then comes the exhaustion from trying to live full-out in a week of relative freedom, before the cycle starts again.  It’s a recipe for bi-polar disorder.  Rhys and I collided in the church office again at the end of one of these final weeks for me, when my back was beginning to stiffen, signaling impending disaster.  I was fretting anxiously to Susan about how impossible it then seemed that I could accomplish the coming week’s demanding schedule.  “This is intolerable sometimes, living like this,” I tearfully confided.  Sue’s eyes darted toward Rhys as he approached the corner of her desk from behind me.  “Next Tuesday, when I ought to be here, preparing my lesson for the following Sunday, I’ll be in a bathtub from morning to, well, the next morning, and the next morning, and the morning after that.  It’s torture.”  The only thing that kept me from crying was the shame I felt for my self-absorbed near tantrum.  And then I heard Rhys gently say, “What’s the matter?”

Another woman probably would have been embarrassed, but I’ve always gracelessly subscribed to the ‘misery loves company’ maxim where my period is concerned because I know that I am not a graceful person by nature.  A person as sick as I often am, who is expected to appear and act as does everyone else who is not as sick as I often am, cannot be graceful about it.  She might be for the first decade or so on most occasions, but after that, it isn’t her priority to spare others the discomfort of having to experience her pain vicariously.  It’s not her priority to spare others the disequilibrium that results from having to confront the fact that we live in a society ruled not by compassionate professional people, some of whom occupy gate-keeping positions within the health care industry, but rather, in a society that is run by social Darwinists, who not only have no understanding of Jesus’ teachings but don’t want one either – including, especially, those within the medicoresearch industry.  She could care less about the feelings of others who could care less about her actual torture, and that’s a shame because such a state of mind usually precludes engagement with the compassionate, few though they may be in number.  I say, ‘usually,’ because on this occasion, it didn’t.

Rhys listened, gently twirling his reading classes by the ends of their half-folded arms with his left forefinger and thumb, occasionally rubbing the back of his left hand and wrist with his right hand.  “I’m just venting, I know,” I began.  “But it’s really frustrating, trying to live a normal life while having to carve out huge chunks of it when you can’t live at all.”  I explained about how the next day I would have to start a week of sleeping in a hot tub, gobbling handfuls of Advil.  How, every day between that day and the following Wednesday, it would be the same:  Advil, bathtub, throw up, pass out; Advil, bathtub, throw up, pass out.  The following day, that would be the routine; and the next Tuesday, it would be the same routine.  The day before Tuesday would be the same as Tuesday.  “What do you have planned for next Tuesday, Rhys,” I challenged him.  “I have nothing.  I can’t have anything.  It’s ‘Advil, bath tub, throw up, pass out day.’  Think of me tomorrow; that’s what I’ll be doing.  And any time that you think of me between now and next Tuesday – any time, day or night, on the train, walking through the Garden, in a meeting, at a concert – I’ll be doing the same thing.”  That Sunday, I managed to drag myself into the church long enough to teach, and then I threw myself into a cab I could hardly afford and beat it back home.  The next Thursday was the earliest opportunity I had to get back to the church to work on the following Sunday’s lesson plan, and when I passed by Rhys’ office, I heard him quietly say, “Nice to see you.”  Slightly more civil (and a whole lot more embarrassed) that afternoon, I poked my head into his office, and he looked up from his desk – again, peering over his glasses.  “Hi.  Pretty day, isn’t it,” I muttered.  My face flushed.  He smiled, then offered, “I thought of you on Tuesday.”  It wasn’t the shot of morphine I’ve always known could restore me to normal function, but it was the first time in my life – the very first and ONLY time – another human being acknowledged my unnecessary distress as real (yes – dozens of gynecologists, PCPs, researchers included; the only relief I ever received was after five years of the antiviral treatment that cured the non-HIV/AIDS I had for a decade).  It shocked me near mute, this tiny act of compassionate seeing.  And it also reminded me that I had an obligation to my friends not to inflict my distress on them unnecessarily.  I shook my head up and down.  “Thanks,” I managed to croak, and I skittered up the stairs to my third-floor classroom before the tears started.

I don’t question for a moment Rhys’ commitment to me, or to the many others with horribly unmet health problems I’ve subsequently learned he helped.  He saw people for who they really were – in toto – not merely the trappings of their social roles and their talents and aspirations, their foibles and the challenges they faced, and none was more worthy of his ministry and friendship than another.  I prize it a gift this supremely graceful individual accepted me enough not to hold my meltdown against me.  Only the person who believes in your capacity for grace even when you don’t believe in it (or, rather, especially when you don’t believe in it) yourself can do that for you.

And what else other than this unfailing acceptance of others might anyone have expected from the person who wrote, when he applied for his own ministerial internship: "I wish to become a minister because I believe in the total worth of each person, I believe in a force beyond human understanding and the ethical values of Jesus."  He was, indeed, the truest Christian I’ve ever known, this humble Unitarian-Universalist minister – embracing with his every interaction both tenets of the Agape doctrine with evident and abundant belief in the ‘force beyond human understanding’ to which Jesus had hoped to draw our attention with his dual prescriptions.  He was – and I don’t think I’m overusing this word here – uncommonly graceful.  He could treat others with the respect he wished to receive from them because he believed each and every one of us was as capable of giving that respect to others as we were worthy of receiving it.  Here is a testimony by the (again, very sadly) late Rev. Dr. Forrest Church about Rhys’ unwavering trust in the worthiness of every person:

“I owe,” he wrote, “my own ministry to Rhys Williams.  Taking me under his wing during my years as a master's and doctoral student, he guided me from the academy to the parish.  His direction was so deft that I remained completely unaware of it.”

I feel certain that at the heart of his own ministry was Rhys’ belief that by helping others to be their best selves the best vision of humanity – the ideal of harmonious, peaceful communities of people committed to civilized society and freedom for all – was brought to reality.  In another casual conversation that Susan, Rhys and I had during my protracted deliberations on a topic for my thesis, Rhys said, “You know, the people who founded this country were idealists,” and then he dematerialized from the room, leaving me to ponder what type of people were the people who were then ruining our country.  It’s taken me some years and lots of observation of the brutal changes that have taken place in American culture and society to realize precisely what type of fascist the hypocritical moralists who have controlled our country these 30 years are – and why Rhys felt the need to draw my attention to the difference between our founding fathers and the criminals in control of our country today, no doubt anticipating the deleterious effect on our union of neocons’ political rhetoric on “values.”  One day, after being fed up to the back teeth listening to George W. Bush harp on about ‘values’ as he bombed into oblivion innocent infants, children, elderly and productive men and women in Iraq, I realized that I was listening to an arch-hypocrite – cut from the same cloth as those who had falsely accused as witches, and then hanged, their neighbors in 17th century Salem.  Same thing, his father, with his ‘thousand points of light’ cast, no doubt, by the incendiaries he lit when he set in motion the combining of local law enforcement with the most insidious of our military, the CIA, by proposing the latter share their secret weapons with the former at a time just after his predecessor made military surveillance of American political dissidents a feature of domestic policy.  “Ideals are immutable.  Freedom.  Truth.  Justice.  Everyone knows instinctively what these are, even if we can’t always agree on how to achieve them, but values are always biased.  Neo-cons say LGBT community members don’t have family values; they say, ‘Of course we do.”  Whew.  Talk about hands-on/hands-off mentoring!  One tiny – teeny tiny, if I’m honest – observation to ponder, shared at the most auspicious moment with the most receptive mind.  One itsy-bitsy musing on which to feed, as it turns out, for decades.  I think now Rhys was also a bit of a magician.

Rhys and I never talked about theology.  Church history – Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian controversy of the Puritans; Roger Williams and the history of the separation of church and state – sure.  Not theology.  He cast an appropriately demur look at me the day I brought into the office the issue of Rolling Stone on which the Rev. Matthew Fox, author of Original Blessing:  A Primer in Creation Spirituality, was pictured in the cover art.  But for one, single question he asked me regarding my beliefs, the informal discussions Rhys and I had that touched on theological matters were just that:  informal discussions and only incidentally theological.  I can’t, therefore, say what his thoughts and feelings were about the Agape doctrine, nor would I wish to speculate on them.  We have his testimony, and we have the evidence of the life he lived as a friend to all, denying brotherhood to none.  That’s more than enough evidence of his profound understanding of it.  Still, sometimes I find myself wondering what he thought about the first of the two positive prescriptions Jesus said were the only things we G_d –revering people must do:  love G_d with all one’s heart, mind and strength.  It’s been clear to me for quite some time that Jesus conceived of G_d as the omnipresent, almighty, infinite source of all, just as Moses did, the kingdom of which is “at [our own] hand[s]” and not any type of being, however supernatural. It’s difficult for me to resist seeing Rhys’ unrelenting devotion to creating the ideal human experience as each moment to do so presented itself as evidence he believed G_d to be just as omnipresent and almighty, just as powerful a tool to create the kingdom of G_d that lies within the reach of us all – the “force beyond [ordinary] human understanding.”  He was a much bigger catalyst for creating good than I’m sure I will ever know, but as I look back on our first meeting and I once again realize that what Rhys was offering me in his greeting that day was an opportunity of engagement that might precipitate such a moment for us both, I am comforted that this vision of the kingdom of G_d was likely what he anticipated with each of his interactions.  That’s faithfulness – that act of creating the kingdom.  Sure – I sometimes miss the effortless way he offered a pointed observation to guide me in a particular, more rewarding direction than the one in which I may have been headed whenever he saw the need for it, but more than anything, I miss his presence and the tiny piece of the kingdom I was privileged to enjoy with him.  The memory of it makes me realize how accomplished a mystic was Jesus; you really don’t need ten rules or a library of Midrashim to live a good life.  You just need be passionate -- with all your faculties alert -- revering the ever-present force beyond human understanding, and you need to be respectful of others. 

St. Jerome said, “The friendship that can cease has never been real.”  It seems when I look back on it as though my friendship with Rhys couldn’t be ‘real.’  There are no high-school yearbooks penned with mutual affection; no stories of long nights studying together; no vacation pictures of our two families together; no reminiscences of joyful or sorrowful times we shared, other than the faint memory I have of the beautiful day Nory was married.  But it continues to this day, this friendship I have with Rhys.  Its effects, equally as intangible, are nevertheless vivid and palpable all around me in the confidence I have in my own ability to see truth and relate it soundly in my writing, often relying on the things I learned during my years as a member of Rhys’ church; in the certain knowledge that I have as much right to live in freedom as those who aspired to the same ideal before our country became a closed, police state; even in the righteous way in which my never-prepossessing comportment now fails to hinder my resolve to help others free themselves (I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam).  Graceful in the way Rhys was I shall never be, I know, even though I can see his influence prodding me toward that better vision of myself all the time.  I often feel his patient, serene, subtly enthusiastic energy around me, ready to help bring to fruition whatever dream I feel compelled to contribute to this vision of the kingdom of G_d.  He is in death to me as real and as supportive a friend as he was in life.  The sense of encouragement and support I received from him when he was alive seems to grow in magnitude with each goal I accomplish, and I feel a diffusion of this same loving concern just as much (and often, more) today as I felt it when he was alive.  It never diminishes, or goes away.  I have no doubt the observations he shared with me at those three or four odd-for-so-many-reasons lunches we shared were to guide me as well, and I pray often for the ability to eek out of each of their memories every intersection, conjunction and fractal of possible meaning, implication, motivation and message of which they give evidence so that I may be as effective as I can in my work, which I hope proves me worthy of Rhys’ belief in me.  And if ultimately it doesn’t, if ultimately my work fails today to inspire others as Rhys inspired me, I’m OK with that because I understand now that the greatest testament to my friendship with him is our shared belief in a noble vision of humanity based on Jesus’ values – whatever anyone chooses to name them – and my own belief in my ability to give life to that vision in each moment I am blessed with time-space dimensions -- including by supporting others who share it.  The way is what matters, not solely the final destination.  Today, almost eight years after Rhys’ passing, the exquisite depth of insight, compassion and vision which were his alone continue to inspire in me the confidence to live my life in full faith that each moment in which I find myself is a moment of boundless opportunity for engagement with divinity and perfect therefore, no matter how dark any one of them at times may be.  I hope one day it’s said of me that I was able to befriend others this way.  I understand now, thanks to Rhys’ exemplary life, that this is the only type of friendship there is – the real friendship that lasts forever, true brotherly love.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Myth of Ronald Reagan

I didn't observe the birthday this past Sunday of the greatest fascist leader in all of history.  The record speaks for itself, and I've seen it enough in the last 30 years to know exactly how pernicious this criminally stupid fascist and his legions of minions are.  But if you haven't, I encourage you to take a look at a partial (and impartial) sample of the great dictator's history - before you're no longer able to do so.

"Ronald Reagan must be the nicest president who ever destroyed a union, tried to cut school lunch milk rations from six to four ounces, and compelled families in need of public help to first dispose of household goods in excess of $1,000 . . .  If there is an authoritarian regime in the American future, Ronald Reagan is tailored to the image of a friendly fascist."

Prof. Robert Lekachman

Friday, January 14, 2011

I Hate to Say, ‘I Told You So’ . . .

My mind is still reeling about last Saturday’s shooting in Tucson, in which 22 year-old Jared Lee Loughner took the lives of 6 people and wounded another 13.  Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is still in critical condition, we are told, though, thankfully, she continues to improve.  Today, part of me wants to say, “I told you so,” but another part of me just wants to crawl into a hole and hide.  Initial news reports Saturday afternoon were quick to tell us that Loughner, once he had been identified as a suspect, was a drug- and alcohol-abusing loner who published screeds about the treasonous American government, religion and mind control in his online social network accounts.  They were less forthcoming about the reasons why he did so, and without understanding these crucial facts, I fervently maintain that we are doomed to live with countless many more Jared Lee Loughners being groomed among us.  Therefore, with the sole interest in preventing more tragedies such as last Saturday’s, I boldly propose we look more carefully at the facts we have.

Loughner was troubled – of that, there can be no doubt.  But lost in the endless speculation about him – that he’s schizophrenic, that he’s a racist, that he hates the government, that he’s antisocial – is perhaps the most telling actual fact that has been discretely brushed aside by nearly every major and most minor news outlets regarding his motivation for acting as he did January 8th:  there are records in the possession of the police that demonstrate Loughner went to them for help after a former “friend” had posted an unflattering, fake profile of him on  He was, obviously, ignored by them.  He was being terrorized, and police did nothing about it.  True – this news appears on the most mistrusted news station in the world, Fox news, but that should be enough to give anyone pause; perhaps our mistrust of Fox News is being manipulated so that we likewise doubt this fact as such.  We know for whose benefit Fox always acts; no thinking person trusts them for good reason, which makes it even more incredible that this station is the one that has broadcast the fact Loughner had gone to police for help because his identity had been stolen for nefarious reasons (to portray him as something other than that which he, himself, claimed to be).  In what imaginary parallel universe is Fox ever the sole distributor of facts?  You instantly want to dismiss it, but you ought not to, not least because police complaints are a matter of public record.  In those regarding Loughner, we see not only that he, himself, was the victim of a terror campaign, but that the rest of his family was as well.

For who knows how long Loughner’s identity had been co-opted, but it’s clear that, indeed, it was to some degree and for an as-yet unstated – though apparently nefarious – reason.  Should we take, then, at face value the reports that he was merely a drug- and alcohol- abusing bully?  At the very least, shouldn’t we consider that the all-too-familiar path to becoming a bully is the experience of having once been bullied?  Loughner’s father has allegedly said his son was out of control, but we don’t know if he understood what very well may have been happening to his son – whether or not he knew his son was merely reacting to being a target who was tortured and terrorized each and every day of his life for what appears to be quite some time.  In this covert war our government is still waging against liberals opposed to the military domination of other countries by it, it is highly unlikely it will ever be proved Loughner is the victim of government interference, and for someone unfamiliar with the covert warfare arsenal historically used by our military dictatorship against citizens of this country – among which is an arsenal of the most intrusively designed and insidiously deployed weapons, colloquially called, “mind control” weapons – it can be damned difficult for him or her to understand the malignant perversion which results from the deployment of these weapons against a target’s personality and personhood, the destruction of which is the end goal of them, even if that someone is a more than usually sympathetic parent.  (Turns out the New World Order is actually the same, old world order except with better – in the sense they are less detectable and therefore more indicative of our government’s guilt – weapons.)  If Loughner’s parents didn’t have a realistic understanding of what was happening to their son, why should we expect people who are paid to write scandalous stories to give us one?  Loughner wasn’t born a schizophrenic, or a government dissident, or a white supremacist.  Whether or not he actually became any of these things, has merely been repudiated as such, or was induced to do what he did last Saturday by insidious means of persuasion the average person has no idea our government has long had the ability to propagate in an individual’s mind is unclear at this point.  What I can tell you is that people interfered with by our government in this way are numerous, scared and hopeless.  They also tend to be one other thing:  naively brave.

I am speaking, of course, about the people who risk their lives trying to tell you about the heinous covert warfare your government has waged against you, one of whom may (or may not) actually be Jared Lee Loughner.  They don’t rant about the government because they hope to become famous (or infamous), or because they want to be regarded by you as crazy.  They are, generally speaking, thoughtful, passionate and – yes – distressed.  And they are increasingly children whose normal development has been corrupted.  In Loughner’s case, we heard about his arrest record, his bullying, his drug and alcohol abuse and his dropping out of community college, but we also heard very little about the aforementioned complaint to police.  That’s a shame because before Loughner was any of these things – if ever, indeed, he was the more reprehensible things – he was, himself, being bullied in the most treacherous way imaginable.  His trust had been elicited and then betrayed by someone who may never have had any intention of being his true friend, and, as a consequence, his reputation was crafted into that of the most repugnant and monstrous type of sociopath known – the white supremacist.  That reputation is what caused his alienation from (so-called) decent society – not the other way around – long before he ever thought of purchasing and using a gun against a member of the group of people that has given billions of dollars to defense contractors and security contractors to develop, distribute and use the type of weapons about which Loughner railed and of which he may very well have been a victim.  That this young man chose violence against others (as opposed to the self-inflicted violence which the young, bullied, gay men who killed themselves last fall chose) as a means to mitigate the threats he perceived around him is reprehensible and inexcusable; nevertheless, we must face the fact that normal people do not behave in these ways.  Troubled people behave in these ways.  Normal people must be driven to such desperate acts.  For as little as we know about Loughner, this is without doubt true of him, and this should be the first – and last – fact we hear about him until all other facts are known.  But it isn’t.  What we are hearing instead is the same tired mix of cliché and stereotype, which makes it extremely difficult for us to see that Jared Lee Loughner could very easily be any of our sons.  That’s because the one war you can never win is the one you don’t know that you’re in.

Rush Limbaugh, the most prolific user since Joseph Goebbels of ad hominem disparagements that can only be qualified as hate speech, blamed metal music, in predictably hypocritical fashion.  Mother Jones appears more sympathetic, merely condemning Loughner as mentally ill, a “schizophrenic,” the traditionally common and deliberate misdiagnosis made unprofessionally by health care contractors under the influence of the U.S. military, or untrained casual observers which are then, in cases of public outrage such as this, picked up by professional (that is to say, paid and not necessarily truthful) opinion makers.  TIME,, The Atlantic and Forbes have done just that and offered very little critical thinking about the story being presented to the world regarding Loughner.  We are so anxious to take sides against one another in our debates about who the true Americans are and air our speculations over who are not true Americans, standing beside the bodies of the dead and wounded, we have not stopped to educate ourselves about the very real threats to all of us that the young man who foolishly went to police looking their help because he was aware that his identity had been taken over virtually for nefarious purposes was trying to tell us:  that he, like untold millions of Americans today was being interfered with by an entity with the power to destroy his (and through him, that of others) life.

If Loughner is yet another Manchurian candidate, he is but one of the many millions of actual Americans whose free will has been supplanted using one or more of the many, many weapons in the hands of the military, police and average Americans working with them that are designed to do just that.  As such, both his personality and behavior may very well have been corrupted by these people for their own ends for years and is in no way representative of Loughner’s true personality and behavior.  People such as Loughner are obviously the only ones who are intimately acquainted with how our military dictatorship oppresses its serfs using covert weapons, and I ask you now, to whom should we listen when they testify to their persecution, if we are not willing to listen to them?  Their testimony is all we have that can save us from becoming like them.  The people who wage covert war are not going to tell us this is what they are doing.  As a much-maligned target of this military dictatorship myself, I am inclined to give any first-hand witness of its godless misdeeds the benefit of the doubt because I, too, have been the victim of it.  It’s the least I can do for one who may very well be another tortured and terrorized soul, disturbed though Loughner without doubt is, because I know that people such as he have been robbed of the deepest, most fundamentally human parts of their psyches – the parts that make revelations such as this nearly impossible (I say “nearly impossible” because there is one way in which they are still possible; first commenter whose explanation of precisely how they still are that I receive gets a free copy of Eric Metaxas’s new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Here’s a hint.)

The very same day of the attack, commentators on the wall of one of my more provocative FaceBook ‘friends’ were squaring off:  those defending Sarah Palin’s call to target (and reload as often as necessary) even nominal liberals such as Gabrielle Giffords, and those who were rightfully condemning her for her incitements to violence.  One fellow wrote, “If we could only get all of the bleeding heart liberals to rest their case the world would be a much more reasoned place to live. But no! Sadley (sic) we must all listen to and read constantly the moronic rantings (sic) and blatherings (sic) from a sad little group who just had their asses handed to them in the change of power in the House of Reps; this week. And if we the people will hold those we put in office accountable and vote even more of the liberal socialist out of office then maybe we can all breath (sic) a little easier knowing that morons and idiots that think the government (sic) owes them and those that think like them a higher standerd (sic) of living than they have earned off the hard working backs and out of the tax paying pockets of everyone else,” to which I responded, “I remember deciding when I was about 5 or 6 that it was stupid to waste ergs judging people I didn't know because, well, I didn't know them and what use were judgments about them, then? And since I couldn't meet every single person in the world, it was a supreme waste of energy that could be expended more profitably than forming baseless opinions about people, to make those baseless opinions in the first place.”  Now, I’ve had sporgery before on FaceBook, and perhaps the profile alleged to have posted this comment is not actually the author of them, but as any FaceBook user knows, despite its Rights and Responsibilities agreement that every FaceBook user is obliged to agree to when he or she creates an account, FaceBook sanctions threatening, obscene and disparaging right-wing opinion makers far, far, far less than its moderators (need to) delete comments from those who take more rational positions than, for example, the first in this example.  These are the types of comments being thrown around (and much worse) there, in this war against liberals, and they betray a mindset of domination that in no way represents the ideals of truth and freedom, common humanity, a Christian or other ethic, never mind a patriotic one.  This is the philosophy of the brute ‘social Darwinist’ who believes in nothing but his power to dominate others in the sturm and drang of life.  This is the mindset of the fascist; me against you, no such thing as community (again, Christian or other), or shared, public government.  Surely, the only person that ultimately matters is the one in front of you, but none of these alleged right- (and, sadly, many alleged left-)wing combatants seems to understand this.  Not surprisingly, this fellow’s response was to qualify my post as a rant, just as Loughner’s posts about our military dictatorship have been characterized.  I don’t know if the author of these comments is a fan of Rush Limbaugh’s, or not, but he seems to use the same thoughtless, paint-with-broad-black-brushstrokes tactics as the master manipulator does, who, in one fashion or another, leads all the talking heads with his vitriol.

We may never know truly who Jared Lee Loughner is, and that is the only certainty we should, by today, understand that we have because that certain uncertainty – like the fake white supremacist posing as Jared Lee Loughner on – is exactly the reason for which your government has designed these covert weapons:  to keep you ignorant of what more and more of the persecuted here in America know to be true about our military dictatorship.  Our sympathies today are with those who were shot, the only apparent victims of this tragic event, but I challenge you who claim to be people of faith to think very carefully about what happens to those of us who are persecuted by our government because of our willfully foreshortened scope of vision, and include in your prayers for the victims of last Saturday’s attack Jared Lee Loughner and his pained and confused family as well.

There’s really not much more that needs to be said than this - except, perhaps, that you can expect many, many, many more Sirhan Sirhans and Jared Lee Loughners in the days and weeks to come, unless you who believe you have a right to live free of military interference by your government on the most basic level of your existence stand with those of us who know we most certainly do not possess that right in America today, and you challenge this fascist dictatorship in which we all live.

Boy – do I hate to say, ‘I told you so.’  These essays just keep getting harder and harder to write despite their apparently necessary redundancy.
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