Those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to see old political ads recast. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, as I’ve read headlines about Ted Cruz’s comments about carpet bombing.
These are the stakes: To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the darkness. We must either love each other, or we must die.
Vote for Senator Sanders on November 8th. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.
Today, Kim shared the recent Bernie Sanders ad It’s morning in America.
I don’t have the updated statistics, so I’d simply change “This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married” to, “This afternoon, American’s can get married no matter what their sexual orientation is.”
Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. Happy New Year! We perform our rituals, say our incantations in hopes that, somehow, this year will be better. For a day, we forget the quote attributed to Einstein, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, and make the same resolutions.
This year, I’ve been seeing a quote attributed to Mark Twain making the rounds, “New Year's Day--Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”
Last night, we had a YouTube Riff Off. This is a game we play where one person plays a song on YouTube, and the next person riff’s off of that tune, selecting some other tune the first tune made them think of. We go around and around as one tune leads to another and one mood gives way to the next. It is interesting to observe what emerges.
We started off with Auld Lang Syne and went to songs about children growing up, Cat’s Cradle, Circle Game. We went to the sending off phase of Black Parade and Carry on my Wayward son, to remembrances, in “Will you remember me”, “Box of Rain” and “Ode to Billie Joe” The Riff off culminated in a nod to religious coexistence in The Kennedys’ song Stand.
Perhaps it reflected some of the themes for the coming year, as Fiona potentially heads off to school and I explore more deeply my religious calling.
Afterwards, we watched “Ex Machina”. I’ve been interested in AI’s for a long time and remember a saying that AIs would end up looking like their creators. Back then, the folks working on AI were nerdy engineers. In Ex Machina, the guy creating the AI is a reclusive genius. The software for the AI is the large search engine he has created and made his fortunes off of.
It is an idea that has fascinated me for a long time. What if our search engines and social networks are the new AIs, or at least the source of information for these AIs about social behavior? Seem unlikely? It’s already happening.
So, are we now just pawns, nodes in some giant AI? Are the results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign already predetermined? Does it matter who gets elected anyway? Are we just amplifying echoes in the social media echo chamber when we like or share messages about Trump, Bernie, or Hillary?
Can we shape Ava? If so, how?
It seems easy to be discouraged when you look at all the issues our country and our world faces. Will what I write help shift the direction of climate change? Will what I write help bring an end to oppression; to racism or sexism?
I chose to remain optimistic. I think Robert Kennedy’s quote provides some insight.
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Here, we could go off into a long discussion about whether sharing posts that reflect our political or religious views counts as standing up for an ideal. We could talk about slacktivism and whether we are just going back to paving the road to hell. Yet that, too, most likely leads to hopelessness and inaction.
Instead, I think David Foster Wallace presents a more useful way of looking at it in his commencement speech, This Is Water
The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the “rat race” — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.
Perhaps this is the real challenge, for the new year, for each day, in shaping Ava, to challenge the default settings, to pay attention, to be aware, not only to the trending topics on Facebook or Twitter, but to the simple things around us, the beauty of the squirrel running in the woods, probably the same squirrel that has been raiding your bird feeder, the common humanity of the homeless guy you see on the street.
Happy New Year.
I think I’m beginning to see a pattern here. Someone makes a well-meaning comment that seems pretty obvious. Black Lives Matter. Please consider whether your Halloween costumes might offend someone. We need to have more people of color involved in discussions about how we can improve education for people of color. Happy Holidays.
Someone else takes the comment as a personal affront and posts a nasty screed, and we’re off to the races. Next thing you know, we’re talking about freedom of speech, political correctness, and who is allowed to express which opinion, but the underlying issue gets carefully avoided.
As I suggested in my blog post about Halloween costumes at Yale, the underlying issue that is being avoided is how to live in a post Christian White Male dominated culture.
The latest is a selfie the Rev. Shelley Best took at a training session for educators in Hartford, where she observed the lack of people of color in a workshop discussing the achievement gap. A person in the background took offense, and now we see
There have been a lot of posts about this, like Susan Campbell’s White people can be unbearably tender.
She ends up with
I would hope the conversation would veer from “But I’m not racist!” to what it means to live in a multi-faceted, multi-cultural world. We could use a conversation like that.
Well, for me, trying to live in a multi-faceted, multi-cultural world, I like having a discussion with my wife about whether we want Thai food or Mexican food tonight. I try to respect other cultures as much as I can, but know that I will continue to say insensitive things as I try to learn about other cultures and weave parts I like into my own life.
The candidate denounced his detractors
as a brood of vipers
and was met
with similar derision
from them online.
but no one
on either side
was ready to share
their food or clothes
with those in need.
Yet in the midst of all the chaos
and mindless hatred
all passing our feeble comprehension
in this current age,
Many of my friends are posting comments like, “No more prayers” on social media in response to the most recent mass shooting in America. I understand their point, but I think it is misguided, and I chose the title of this blog post to illustrate this.
One person, whom I’ll refer to as a Radical Humanist attacked me on Twitter when I posted “Make straight the way of the Lord, in San Bernardino, in Colorado Springs, In all those places of darkness where God's lLove seems so far away”
I choose my words carefully. As an Episcopalian, I seek to coexist with people from all belief structures. I seek to find common ground and ways we can work together. Unfortunately, there are radicals in every belief structure that fight against coexistence. Some simply pick fights online, others pick up physical weapons. I’m glad that the radical humanist that attacked me chose to do so only with words, and I challenged him to show me where the compassion is in his words. He could not.
My tweet harkened to the season of Advent, which we Episcopalians are currently observing. It is a time of waiting and watching for the coming of the Kingdom of God, of waiting and watching for Christmas. It is a time of recognizing the darkness that is in the world.
To me, this does not mean not doing anything. In a sermon I preached in the summer of 2013, I said
Yet, another issue with prayer is that too often it is viewed as an excuse for doing nothing. Too often, we feel, when we've prayed about something important, that it's all we can or need to do.
Yet I don't believe that is at all what God has in mind for us. Prayer is linked with mission, with going out to proclaim the Gospel. One of the things I've learned from much time working with various well run volunteer and non-profit organizations, is that when a person says, “I think we should....” and goes on to talk about one task or another, the wise leader responds, “Thank you for the great idea. Does this mean that you are willing to head up a group to make this happen?” Suggesting is volunteering. Prayer should be too.
It is an old problem, either/or thinking. It is possible to do two things, like pray, and act on the prayer. I believe this is generally what God calls us to. I went into this in a comment I posted on Facebook:
I think it is a dangerous path to take saying "No More Prayers" or "God' Isn't Fixing This". It sets up a narrative for the gun culture about Godless liberals taking away their guns. It reflects either/or thinking which contributes to so many of our problems and blocks progress in many cases. Instead, Senator Murphy's approach has a nuance that is much more effective. It is a both/and approach. If you're going to pray, back up your prayers with action.
Saying No More Prayers is very much like saying No More Facebook. We all know the problems with Slacktivism, but telling people not to use Facebook until the issue of gun violence in America is fixed just doesn't seem wise.
My two cents, as a candidate who has gone door to door talking with voters about gun violence, and still posts messages of praying for victims.
Instead, we need to promote the narrative that ending gun violence is the Christian thing to do, as well as the humanist thing, and the Jewish thing, and the Muslim thing, and the thing of all religions. We need to stand with Bishops Against Gun Violence to http://www.claimitgc.org/> Claim Common Ground Against Gun Violence. We need to be part of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence. We need to participate in The 2015 National Gun Violence Sabbath Weekend is December 10-14
We need to change the narrative about gun control and gun culture to one of proclaiming God’s love by working to stop gun violence.