Politics

Entries related to things political.

A letter to @senmurphyoffice concerning @senatorsessions

Dear Senator Murphy:

I write to you today to express my sincere opposition to the confirmation of Jefferson B. Sessions as U.S. Attorney General. Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens shout not be elevated to the office of U.S. Attorney General. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For his reprehensible conduct he should not be rewarded with the position as U.S. Attorney General.

I regret that I cannot come testify in person against this nominee. However, I ask that the statement by Coretta Scott King, whose letter of March 19, 1986 is the basis for this letter, be made part of the hearing record.

I do sincerely urge you to oppose the confirmation of Mr. Sessions and speak up against efforts to abridge the freedom of speech or the right of the people to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Sincerely,
Aldon Hynes
Woodbridge, CT

Via Media, Refugees, and The Way of The Cross

The recent Executive Order barring refugees from Syria and certain other Muslim countries has stirred up many reactions across the country, including two responses from the Episcopal Bishops in Connecticut. On January, 30 they shared a Bishops' Letter regarding Refugees which said, among other things, “We cannot be idle as this Executive Order threatens to undermine the values that we stand for as Americans, as Christians, as Episcopalians in Connecticut.”

A few days later, they wrote another letter, Follow-up on Bishops' Letter Regarding Refugees which included, “We have received a substantial amount of communication in response to our letter of January 30. In fact, we have received more reaction to this letter than to any other letter sent by us in the last five years.”

The response felt to me like a capitulation to those who put fear over faith but I suspect it was intended more as a response out of the Episcopal tradition of “via media” or “middle way”. It made me think of The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers Facebook post on inauguration day. I have repeatedly shared this post because I believe it is very important. In it she writes,

Remember that, every time we host or interact with President Trump or any other elected official, we do so first and foremost as representatives of our crucified, resurrected Lord.

As a communications professional, I really like this. When confronting thorny issues in communications it is always wise to return to the mission statement. Representing our crucified and resurrected Lord is a pretty good way of putting it. In the Book of Common Prayer, we describe the mission of the church saying, “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to
unity with God and each other in Christ.”

I believe the intention of the second bishop’s letter was along these lines, but was that really the fruition? I am less sure. Instead,it sounds a little like a letter from the Laodicea church, neither hot nor cold.

The second bishops’ letter goes on to say, “Many of the responses, both in favor and against our letter, noted that we neglected to mention the need for our country’s borders to be protected from international threats of terrorism.” This is an important point, but it falls very close to promoting dangerous misunderstandings about the nature of security. The bishops’ letter talks about the responses being almost evenly split. Yet we must remember, the via media is not a plebiscite, it is an attempt to discern God’s will for us by listening to all sides.

So, what can we say about our safety? First, I will refer to the STATEMENT BY SENATORS McCAIN & GRAHAM ON EXECUTIVE ORDER ON IMMIGRATION. They start off by acknowledging the safety issue: “Our government has a responsibility to defend our borders, but we must do so in a way that makes us safer and upholds all that is decent and exceptional about our nation.”

They then reject the premise that the Executive Order improves safety:

Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism. At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies. Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.

Yet there is a deeper issue. Ultimately, our safety comes from the Lord. What makes us safe is doing God’s will, even if it requires us to do something as unpopular and perhaps even as unsafe as taking up our cross to love our neighbor, including those neighbors who are fleeing war in Syria.

Inauguration and Protest Reflections

There have been a lot of discussions online recently about the Trump inauguration as well as the march the following day. Here are some of the things I’ve been seeing and saying:

One friend wrote about Trump saying he was giving the government back to the people and my friend hoped that the marches would be women taking him up on it.

I wrote:

Adapted from a friend: Trump said he was giving the government back to the people. Here's to the women marching today to take him up on that. Here's to the Muslims, and Mexicans, and people of every shade and color, every level of ability or disability who are also taking Trump up on this. Here's to the old white men, like myself who support those marching, believing in liberty and justice FOR ALL, believing in loving our neighbors, not matter how different they are from us.

Several people shared posts like this:

Posting this so it will come up in my facebook memories:
Inauguration Day: 1/20/2017
Gas $2.29
Dow 19,819
NASDAQ 5560.7
Unemployment 4.7%
Copy and paste so we can see if "America will be great".

I responded to these posts in various ways, ultimately ending up with something like thisL

Is this how we measure greatness? The price of gas and the value of stocks? How about other measures? Infant mortality rate? Suicide rate among veterans? Number of people who are homeless? Number of people uninsured? These are the numbers I'll be looking at. They must all go down for American to be great.

Here are some statistics that I’ve gathered:

Infant Mortality rate: 5.8/1000
Veteran Suicides per day 20
Homeless on a given night: 564,708
Uninsured rate: 9.1%
Happiness Index 7.104 (13th world wide)

Here are some of the sources I used:
CIA World Fact Book 2016 estimate of U.S. Infant mortality rate: 5,8 deaths/1000 live births.

“In 2014, an average of 20 Veterans died by suicide each day"

In January 2015, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night. Most (69 percent)
were staying in residential programs for homeless people, and 31 percent were found in
unsheltered locations

For 2015, the percentage uninsured at the time of interview was 9.1%

For Happiness Index, the United States currently ranks 13th with a score of 7,104

One person summed it up quite nicely:

America does seem great again today. Maybe it's just all those women in Washington.

Grant Ward Gets Touched by An Angel on Inauguration Day: A Meta-analysis of Gavin Stone

It is late Thursday evening, just over twelve hours until the forty-fifth President of the United States is sworn in. I am sitting in a movie complex in a shopping mall in New England with my fifteen year old daughter. I can’t remember what the last movie was that I saw in a movie theatre. Most of the great old art houses showing Kurasawa, Truffaut, Tarkovsky, and Wenders are gone. There is too much gratuitous violence and too little depth for me in most of the movies today.

Earlier this evening, I read a few of my poems at The Ghostlight Project event at a community television station studio, expressing hope that theatre, the arts, could remain a light, a beacon for diversity, in these troubled times.

I am in my late fifties, still trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do with my life. For the past few years, I’ve been exploring becoming an Episcopal priest. I believe it is what I am supposed to do, but the committee that accepts people into the ordination process don’t seem to think so.

My daughter is bright but struggles with her health. She is politically active and especially concerned for women’s rights and gay rights. She loves Brett Dalton and has been talking about this film since it was announced, and so here we are, at one of the first showings.

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone was exactly what I expected. It is formulaic, cliché-filled, predictable, and probably a really important film to see right about now. It is the sort of film that your aunt, who always tells you she is praying for you hopes you will go to. Her comments about praying for you has always made you feel a bit uncomfortable. God isn’t really something you talk about in the twenty-first century, but you know she is kind. She loves you and that she will sit through hours of binge watching Touched by an Angel, or Hallmark Holiday Specials with you as you eat ice cream and try to mend a broken heart.

Not only is the movie formulaic, cliché-filled, and predictable, but it seems like the backstory is as well; some Christian writers and producers getting together to make a movie, hoping to win a few converts to Christ. It hits all the right notes for the conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical crowd. A washed-up Hollywood elite coming to know God through having to do community service. A pastor who is kind, caring, and fixes the hot water heater in the church, not one of these celebrity preachers. The pastor’s daughter, who learns a little bit about grace and forgiveness herself after having been hurt by yet another person in the entertainment industry, and the hero’s reconciliation with the father, but his own father, as well as our Heavenly Father.

The cast is as diverse as nineteen-fifties middle America. There is a black person somewhere in the crowd, and perhaps some Asians or Latinos. If there is a gay person, they are so far in the closet you cannot see them. The references to sexuality are minimal. The stars don’t have sex. The only direct reference is recounting the scene of the woman caught in adultery.

Likewise, the only violence is in the re-enactment of the Crucifixion.

So why should you go see this movie now? Don’t go, to criticize it. Don’t take a friend to try and convert them. Don’t go for the narrative. Go for the meta-narrative, for the movie’s place in the twenty-first century. Take a friend who is seeking Christian Reconstructionism and another who is seeking Moral Revival. Take a friend who has been reading Foucault and Judith Butler.
Gavin Stone tells the folks at the church that a key to acting is listening. It is a message that we all need to listen to. The pastor’s daughter tells Gavin about the importance of humility. That is another message all of us, especially our newly elected leaders, need to listen to.

I am writing this on inauguration day. A lot of people are concerned about what is in store for America over the coming four years. I am actually feeling somewhat optimistic. Actors are speaking up at theatres. Women are marching. The rebellion against political correctness is now being seen for what it is, a lame excuse for self-centered rudeness.

Find someone different from yourself to listen to. You can start by going to see The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.

A New Journey

This week, I am setting out on a new journey. I am taking the online class English Spirituality and Mysticism at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. It is part of a larger journey of trying to make sense out of my experience of God at the ISM Poetry Conference: “Love bade me welcome”, which in turn is part of the larger journey of trying to find God’s will and meaning for my life.

One of the texts for this course is The Celtic Way of Prayer: The Recovery of the Religious Imagination by Esther de Waal. I’ve only read the introduction and the first chapter so far, but I’m greatly enjoying it, and thinking about how it, and the course will help shape my journeys. One quote from chapter 1, which is entitled Journeying puts it nicely into context, “The whole of life itself is for them a journey from birth to death”. The chapter spends a bit of time talking about journey prayers and journey blessings, spending a fair amount of time on St. Patrick’s Breastplate which I have always loved.

I write this all in the context of many journeys going on. Donald Trump’s journey to the Presidency. The journey of many friends to protests against things that President Elect Trump has said, the long foot journeys of two friends, one hiking the Appalachian Trail and another setting out to walk the Carmino de Santiago.

I pray for blessings on each journey that we all may act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

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