In Praise of Good Kids and their parents…

My friend Liz is growing two incredible sons into maturity. My friends Jane and Ron have raised two great daughters. My wife and I have two really good girls — each special and wonderful in their own way. My children know other good kids and we know their parents.  George and Lourdes are raising a daughter who plays hockey and sings and is smart and. Derek and Dawn are raising two great girls. Rick has raised 3 great kids, whom he is proud of. Jane and her partner have 3 great kids. The list goes on. Ron has 2 and Bob has 1 and Eric and Evelyn have two brilliant incredible kids. Stephanie has 2 great kids. Marilyn and Paul have raised great children who are now raising their own great children. 

For years now, I have gone to work and seen children whose lives are a mess, or for whom safe behavior was maybe 1 day per month. I don’t blame those kids for their issues, though I  often blame their parents who have lived horrible lives as well. Sometimes biology is way off, sometimes the environment does it, sometimes both secure mental illness in place. I also, of course, know thugs and criminals and anti-social environments all of whom I don’t live with. 

And then I come home, and see my own children or a friend’s child and  I don’t know how we got so lucky. I know all of my friends have tried to be decent parents, and raise decent, kind, loving children. I also, from my work, know that that isn’t always enough. Lots of good parents have messed up kids. Honestly, sometimes I think, “there but for the grace of God, go I”. 

And yet, in a world of politics and hatred, of people who seem to prefer ignorance and want to teach their children the same, none of my friends do. I am happy to have them over to the house, happy to see how incredible the world will be when our children run it — and they will run it. The artist, the educator, the writer, the teacher, the social worker, the actor, the singer, the straight out good parent, perhaps a pastor or two. Who knows? 

I know the press portrays the juvenile delinquent as the norm, and I don’t know if it’s true or not. I may be the wrong person to ask. For no particularly good reason today, I just want to counter that narrative with all the experiences I have with incredible kids. If your a parent I know, you did okay for yourself and for all of us.
Resisting with Peace,
John

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I Remember It Very Differently… 

Watching the news on my iPad on CBSNews,  they showed a live feed of the CPAC (Conservative …something). The key speakers were Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, being interviewed by the head of the organization, I assume.  They talked glowingly about President Trump and “the best cabinet ever”, they talked about (I kid you not) “Saint Ronald” Reagan, and they talked about their origins, under that great right-wing leader Barry Goldwater.   Boy, do I remember things differently. And, except for Goldwater, I was there.  

So, here’s the myth that worshippers of Reagan and early skinheads remember:  Richard Nixon wasn’t that bad a guy. Partisanship and that wacky press had him impeached for nothing. Gerald Ford was… Gerald Ford. A nice guy, a human being (aka “soft”).  America was weak under Jimmy Carter. The Iranians took our hostages and it was Game On!. Ronald Reagan came in and the very next day, Reagan gave ’em “what for” and they sent our hostages home. So there. Democrats weak, Reagan strong. (Grunt, Grunt).  America, under Reagan, feels good about itself once again. We’re the land of the free and the home of the brave again. Then Reagan said, “Tear down that wall” and they did — because Reagan said so. When Reagan left office, the world was as it should be.  The debt was reduced. The economy was great. Trickle down economics really worked . Companies made lots of money. The government decreased taxes and people found an abundance of jobs and money. Finally, we were proud of our soldiers again after a few minor skirmishes we called wars and won, for the first time in forever… In fact, things were so great that everybody was happy and we were proud to be Americans.

This is what I remember. Richard Nixon had an “enemies list” of people who opposed  him and he wanted to squash them. Among people this affected: John Lennon, the Black Panthers, peace groups, activists for humanity. He was petty and vindictive and Watergate was a scandal that brought down the White House because we believed that no one, not even the President , was above the law. Nixon was disliked by many, but he was considered a moderate compared to Barry Goldwater, the founder of the coalition now called CPAC. Just recently it came out that he and his cronies sabotaged the peace talks which could have ended the war in 1968, rather than 4 years later. Regardless of how you think we could have done in the war, that’s 4 years of death, destruction, conflicts in this country and in  Vietnam that are on Nixon’s head. I was a kid, but I don’t remember thinking he was a particularly bad or evil man. I will never look at him the same way with this new information.  Using politics to continue a war or any tragedy is immoral in so many ways that I just can’t imagine it. Had people known, Nixon, the “liberal alternative” to Goldwater would never been elected in the first place. As an aside: That many fewer soldiers would have brought back opiate addictions and drugs and much of the war on drugs would have been unnecessary.

Almost everyone agrees that Gerald Ford was a good President. He was mentally stable and a decent man, but Chevy Chase made his career over Ford’s physical clumsiness. 

Jimmy Carter was, and is, a great man. He claims that during his 4 years not one single shot was fired by our military. That said, he wasn’t always the best President. The Arab oil embargo changed everything we believed in the world. The olympics brought terrorism and the PLO to our attention.  The Iranians kicked out the Shah we had enstalled years before and took our hostages. Cuban jails were opened and many criminals came to our shores while Carter thought of them as “asylum seekers”. No one could have seen these changes coming and Carter didn’t have strategies to deal with these events. He was probably naive, but he brokered a peace between Anwar Sadat and Menachim Begin which was unimaginable. I think everyone I know can agree on my assessment of Ford and Carter. That’s the last time, to my knowledge, the country had a shared opinion about history. 

Then came Reagan. After a dispiriting Carter era, Reagan fixed that problem by lying to us, saying that the old ways were best. By “old ways”, he meant “before the Civil Rights movement”. Maybe it was a “great time”, but only if you were a White male, and by extension maybe, a White female. After we, the citizens, worked as a country to include more and more people in democracy, Reagan divided us into “deserving” and “not deserving” even if circumstances were beyond someone’s control. Some homeless people, he said, wanted to be homeless. Under Reagan, free thought was curtailed in a new way: you couldn’t get college loans unless you signed up for the draft because “college kids” had “caused all that turmoil” in the 60’s. Government was bad. Freedom to avoid social progress was good. African-Americans were marginalized and Reagan fostered the “one issue ” voting thing we now see. The “one issue” was abortion. It didn’t matter what other issues were on your mind. Anti-Abortion rights got people to the voting booth to vote for Reagan. Reagan told us we could have won the Vietnam War if we hadn’t stopped ourselves and wanted peace. Suddenly “liberal” was a swear word. 

Taxes were lowered. Yay! We didn’t have to pay for each other! Fire companies suffered, schools suffered, anything the government did was de-funded and with it went the social contract. The poor couldn’t get welfare or food stamps because they “didn’t deserve them”. Blacks didn’t deserve rights or help because they were all a drain on the economy and deserved to be poor (poor being bad), because they chose to be poor.  

And here’s the biggest lie of all: Trickle-down economics never worked, because money never trickled down. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer.

So, here’s the short version of what I remember: American regained a strong national identity by losing its soul. Ironically, as the “Christian Right” came to power, we became less Christian to each other. Patriotism became defined as “agreement” with racism, sexism, and something new altogether: either bashing or letting die gay folks who “deserved” AIDS. This is the world Ronald Reagan gave us: Think about yourself. Don’t think about others. If you do care about others, you’re not patriotic enough.

Homelessness increased under Reagan. The debt went up under Reagan. Compassion went down under Reagan. Ongoing war was encouraged by Reagan. The Drug War started under Reagan. Poverty went up under Reagan. Division went up under Reagan. Deep thought was discouraged under Reagan. “Simple and wrong” was encouraged by Reagan. 

In my view, America –as one countrystopped being great under Reagan. Far from being a saint, Reagan demonized most of America and said certain  parts of America — straight, White, men with jobs — deserved to be great. 

But here’s the even sadder part: Reagan was considered moderate compared to Goldwater. Trump at CPAC represents Goldwater Republicans! Even Reagan wouldn’t divide us as much as Trump/Goldwater/Steve Bannon types! 

Honestly, this is how I remember it and I was there. When people talk about “alternate facts” and “lies”, reconstructing history, they are the ones doing it. I was there, the 20-something or 30-something square-jawed neo-conservative White, hateful and violent folks weren’t Don’t believe them. Don’t let them spread lies. Don’t buy into their BS. 

If that makes me “unpatriotic ” and “unAmerican”, so be it. At least I’m telling the truth. If “making America great again” doesn’t mean making all of America great, I don’t want it. If being patriotic means not caring, (and thus, not a follower of Jesus) then I guess I am unpatriotic. At least I can look at myself in the mirror and not be insane.

Resisting with peace, and truth…
John

 

 

An Open Letter To President Trump 

Mr. President:

Approximately one month ago, you took an oath that you would “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of [your] ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”. A man’s word is his bond. I expect you to live up to your commitment. 

When the Bill of Rights (a part of Constitution)  says 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; it is your job to nor allow Congress to  make laws banning any religion. It is also your job not to encourage such laws. Christianity cannot be our national religion. Islam can not be prevented, nor can any other religion. You took an oath to do this. I expect you to do it.

When the Constitution says, there shall be no “abridging the freedom of speech”, calling people ‘professional protesters”, saying we should “punch people in the mouth” for speaking up, does just that. It is unconstitutional to do such things. You and members of Congress who support such actions must stop doing that. You (and they) gave their word.

or of the press; railing against the press as “the opposition party”, refusing to answer questions asked by the press and so on is Unconstitutional. You must stop this from occurring. I don’t care if you like the press or not. You took an oath to protect freedom of the press. That is your job. Please do it.

 or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, attacking people who are peacefully protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline — or any other site — is  Unconstitutional . You should not encourage this, nor let that happen, nor — in fact — order it to happen.

and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. when people in Congress tell another member of Congress to stop talking, you are required to defend her. When a cause of Hispanics is prevented from meeting with your administration, it is your job to prevent that from happening. You, in order to faithfully execute your office, must prevent that

This is what you swore to do. This is what the President does — protects the Constitution. If you want the authority the office has, this is your responsibility. Do your job, or lose your job!  

Resisting with peace,
John Madsen-Bibeau, US citizen

We Can Be Heroes…For More Than One Day (thinking of Silas)

As you probably know by now, I love comic books and have for years. As comics have migrated to the Big Screen and the little one, something interesting has happened. I’ve see it twice in the last few weeks, and it applies to us as well.

According to the Huffington Post, Melissa Benoist, the actress who plays Supergirl on the new series, said that she “tries to embrace her character Kara Danvers in her own life, pushing to be the best possible version of herself everyday.  “[Supergirl] and Superman are truth, justice, and the American way,” the 28-year-old actress said. “She sets some really high standards to live up to and, playing the role, it has definitely infused itself into my life and helped me to be a stronger, braver person than I ever have been. It’s been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Definitely the most difficult job, but really rewarding in that way. I love it. I love Supergirl.” 

She made a sign for the Women’s March that said”Hey, Donald, don’t try to grab MY p…y. It’s made of steel!”

Today, the news comes that Chris Evans, who plays Captain America in the movies has tweeted taking on former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Evans couldn’t remain silent after Duke gave his support for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ confirmation.The actor tweeted, “If David Duke….DAVID!…DUKE!… thinks you’re right, then you are unequivocally wrong.” And further, when Duke responded, Evans responded with a compilation of quotes that Duke had made in the past. in short, he responded to bigotry with facts.

Now you may reasonably say, “They’re just actors — celebrities who opinions don’t matter”. In that case, you miss the point. It is because they are actors that I call your attention to them. No, they are not real superheroes. They pretend for a living! But the iconic nature of the characters they portray calls out from what Jung termed  “the collective unconscious” and in finding that part of their nature, they become the characters they portray on screen. More to the point, though, is that that part of them guides them. The archetype sets the standard for the person, and the person becomes more than they are. 

When we are guided by the heroic icons within ourselves, we too, can act like heroes or heroines. Beyond prooftexting, no one knows which words of Jesus or Buddha or anyone else are actual quotes. But one could do worse than trying to imitate either of them. Gandhi wasn’t perfect, nor MLK, nor Kennedy either. But using any of them as role models, and striving to live up to the legacy that they left,  can make us more than we think we are. 

Yes, we too, can pretend to be heroes. And in pretending, we can actually be heroes, for more than one day. We don’t need super powers. We need courage, and kindness, and decent treatment of one another. Apparently, those things can be found within us, just as they have within these two actors.

So, maybe you want to find a hero of either gender and try to become like them, to fight back evil with good. This is the time to do it.
Resisting with peace,
John

I Refuse To Be Afraid …

Donald Trump and Kelly Anne Conway want us to fear people who are not from here. Oddly, they’re ok with terrorists who are from here — the KKK and neo-nazis and such. 

I don’t want to be stupid, but I refuse to be afraid. I’ve been here before and I’ll be here again. No, the world isn’t always safe. Yes, there are lots of crazy, violent people out there, but there are far more decent, sane, caring people out there and –according to the statistics, I should be safe. Beside that, as a Christian, even if I die, I live. Not that I want to die, I don’t. I just want to clearly be alive while I live.

Years ago, when I came home from college, there was supposedly a gang war happening in West Covina, California where my parents lived, according to the newspapers. There were random cars, filled with random kids, shooting random people. I was hungry. I walked to the local 7-11, just as I always had done, and have I have since done. I didn’t see any people with guns. I clearly wasn’t shot by one. My experience is that terrorism and crime are over-reported, not under-reported.   We rent out far too much space in our minds for the mass shootings, the murders, the random violence and give kindness far too little coverage. I’m not saying that we don’t have our “Mary got stuck in a well” or “Billy got a nice puppy” stories. We do. But real life decency, kids got good grades or Girl Scouts built a shelter or guy in traffic let you go by — that somehow gets lost. 

Virginia Satir points out that — while fatal driving accidents happen every day — millions of people co-operate, follow the rules, and get where they’re going. Most of us don’t pick fights, most of us aren’t jerks. Most of us want to get along. We just do. 

In the more specific political scene, the number of terror attacks from the 7 countries we’re banning is zero.  Why should I fear them? It makes no sense.

In addition to that, I have seen the alternative — loving community where people I didn’t know sang this song: “Welcome in, take my hand. Let us walk no more and talk no more/as strangers in this land. Let the waters of our lifetime/roll all over one another… Welcome in”. After that, why miss the chance to live life well?

Resisting with peace, 

John 

What The Old Folkies Knew — Woody, and Pete, Harry and Holly

I’ve been listening to an old CD in my car lately. I use it for sustenance now, just as I have for years. It reminds me, as much as reading the Bible, what I believe on my best days, what to watch out for, and how the human condition doesn’t really change — it’s just more or less so at times. There’s hope, and joy, and peace, and bravery, and evil, and good all right there.

The CD I’m listening to now is “A Tribute To Woody Guthrie” and it’s amazingly prescient. Here’s some of the lyrics, all by Woody.

“He said to the rich ‘Give your money to the poor’….If Jesus was to preach/what he’d preached at Galillee/they would lay Jesus Christ in his grave” — from the song “Jesus Christ”

“Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered/ I’ve see lots of funny men. / Some’ll rob you with a six-gun/ and some with a fountain pen”.– from the song “Pretty Boy Floyd”.

And this one of note:
“You won’t get a name when you ride the big airplane/ All they will call you will be… Deportee”. — from the song “Deportee”

And for the women’s march, there’s “Union Maid”
“There once was a union maid, she never was afraid
Of goons and ginks and company finks and the deputy sheriffs who made the raid.
She went to the union hall when a meeting it was called,
And when the Legion boys come ’round
She always stood her ground. Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,

This union maid was wise to the tricks of company spies,
She couldn’t be fooled by a company stool, she’d always organize the guys.
She always got her way when she struck for better pay.”

Finally, there’s this one: “This land is your land/This land is my land/From the Redwood forests/ to the New York islands… As I was walking, a saw a sign that said “no trespassing”/But on the other side, it didn’t say nothing… That side is made for you and me”. (You know where that’s from…)

His friend Pete Seeger was a collector as much he was a creator. He heard beauty everywhere.

In the Bible, he found, “To everything, turn, turn, turn/ there is a season/ turn turn, turn”

In Africa, he found “Wimoweh” a song written by a Zulu man.

In religious humor, he found “Aphrodite in her see-through nightie./Give me that old-time religion”

In Cuba,he found “Guantanamera”, a lovely song.

In the midst of war, he composed this, as part of “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”:

“Where have all the young girls gone, long time passing? Where have all the young girls gone, long time ago?
Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone for husbands everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the husbands gone, long time passing?
Where have all the husbands gone, long time ago?
Where have all the husbands gone?
Gone for soldiers everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?”

Pete performed with next-generation folky Holly Near, who wrote this:
“Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong?”

and he was an inspiration to Harry Chapin, who wrote the song “Old Folkie” about him.

Harry wrote, among other things, a song called “I Wonder What Would Happen To This World”

Now if a man tried to take his time on Earth
And prove before he died
What one man’s life could be worth
Well, I wonder what would happen to this world?

And if a woman, she used a lifeline
As something more than
Some man’s servant mother wife time
Well, I wonder what would happen to this world?

As I look around us there’s such strange things
There’s muggers and there’s jugglers and we are led by clowns
If an answer ever found us, would we change things?
Or are we just a people rotten ready for the ground

And if our future lies on the final line
Are we brave enough
To see the signals and the signs
I wonder what would happen to this world?

We see the people, we see them marchin’ down
Do we join the parade
Or do we try and turn around?”

These are the things that get me through the day. There’s a lot there to draw strength from. Just thought I’d share….

Resisting with peace,

John