bringing it all back home...

Every day brings a new assault on love. I can't help but drift back to Dylan's masterpiece, Bringing It All Back Home and "Maggie's Farm."

Yesterday a young Indian man was shot and killed in a Kansas City bar by a white supremacist who yelled: What is the status of your visas - get out of my country! Earlier in the week, after being rebuffed by the FBI, the White House encouraged other US intelligence leaders to contact the news media in order to reshape the way Russian influence peddling stories are being spun. The free press was denigrated and chastised once again by POTUS 45 And at week's end, Steve Bannon proudly proclaimed to the Conservative Political Action Committee:

Our work is the deconstruction of the administrative state. ... If you
look at these cabinet appointees, they were selected for a reason and that is the deconstruction. The way the progressive left runs, is if they can’t get it passed, they’re just going to put in some sort of regulation in an agency. That’s all going to be deconstructed and I think that that’s why this regulatory thing is so important. (Please read a brief interpretation of Bannon's remarks that are not fake news but authentic analysis stephen-bannon-cpac-speech.html?_r=0)

There should no longer be any illusions about the current regime: it is an ethnic nativist movement driven by ideologues hell bent on dismantling the America so many of us cherish. The nation, however, continues to be simultaneously uncertain but polarized. A recent TIME Magazine poll reveals that 22% of our citizenry aggressively supports POTUS 45 while 35% boldly oppose him. There are also roughly two equal camps of ambiguous American - 22% who are inclined to support the President and give him a chance along with 21% who tend to oppose him but are willing to see what happens next - who feel anxious and choose to hope for the best. 

As this year unfolds, our slow moving checks and balances will call the regime to accountability. Law suits have already been filed against Ms. Conway for her egregious manipulation of the truth. The blatantly racist Muslim ban has been stalled in the courts while our educational institutions join with high tech firms and American hospitals to derail future prohibitions on immigrants. Further, a few key Republican leaders - John Boehner, John McCain and perhaps General H.R. McMaster  - have articulated modest but important challenges to the pandering lies that have shaped the President's first month in office. 

At the same time, more ICE invasions into immigrant communities are a certainty. Along with the dismantling of environmental safe guards, educational resources and public support for the arts, there will also be a class driven effort to strip the Affordable Health Care Act of its goal of making American benevolent and healthy again. Paul Krugman cut to the chase when he wrote:

Why do Republicans hate Obamacare so much? It’s not because they have better ideas; as we’ve seen over the past few weeks, they’re coming up empty-handed on the “replace” part of “repeal and replace.” It’s not, I’m sorry to say, because they are deeply committed to Americans’ right to buy the insurance policy of their choice. No, mainly they hate Obamacare for two reasons: It demonstrates that the government can make people’s lives better, and it’s paid for in large part with taxes on the wealthy. Their overriding goal is to make those taxes go away. And if getting those taxes cut means that quite a few people end up dying, remember: freedom!

So much for all the disingenuous shouting from the Right about so-called class warfare politics from Bernie Saunders and others. For as the "deconstruction" of our national programs of shared compassion continues, real class warfare cannot be far behind. All of which suggests to me that people of faith, hope and love have some work to do in 2017. 

+ Clearly, we must remain active and public allies of our time-tested
American checks and balances. They need our financial resources as well as our physical energy and vocal support. This is an absolute necessity at this moment in time. In a democracy it takes time to challenge the status quo: spontaneous street protests have their place, but it was the slow and focused work of the NAACP that dismantled American apartheid in the 50s and 60s. So get your check books and debit cards out and keep the contributions flowing.

+ At the same time, we need some prefigurative organizing at the grassroots to help us experience and even imagine alternatives. The visual artist and theologian, Mako Fujimura, has written about what he calls culture care.  It is essential that the person of faith and/or vision not retreat to the desert at this moment in time. Rather, we must be at the center of the village (as per Bonhoeffer) rather than at the fringes. Our lives must be engaged along with our intellect and spirit to shape new possibilities.

Many of the streams that feed the river of culture are polluted, and the soil this river should be watering is thus parched and fragmented. Most of these we know, but let me briefly touch on some of the fault lines in the cultural soil (starving the soul) as well as some of the sources of the poisons in the water (polluting the soul). Starving the cultural soul:   One of the most powerful sources of cultural fragmentation has grown out of the great successes of the industrial revolution. Its vision, standards, and methods soon proliferated beyond the factory and the economic realm and were embraced in sectors from education to government and even church. The result was reductionism. Modern people began to equate progress with efficiency. Despite valiant and ongoing resistance from many quarters—including industry—success for a large part of our culture is now judged by efficient production and mass consumption. We often value repetitive, machine-like performance as critical to “bottom line” success. In the seductive industrialist mentality, “people” become “workers” or “human resources,” who are first seen as interchangeable cogs, then treated as machines—and are now often replaced by machines.

This moment in time, therefore, calls for acts of small scale beauty: personal conversations in safe settings, salons, house parties, one-on-one relationship building that evokes our truest stories. Last night, at a small dinner party, we were reminded of how shallow our imaginations can become when caught up in the fear of this present darkness. "When Magellan came to the Americas, the First Nation peoples were unable to "see" his ships. Their minds literally had no experience with such a thing. So as they look upon the water, they were unable to visualize the boats filled with conquistadors coming to kill them."

Earlier, a doctor shared with us a card he had been given that day
by an elderly African American woman who had been encouraged by her share cropper ancestors to "go North and find some opportunity." The hand made card was a word of encouragement and gratitude for the doctor's listening and tenderness. "That's how I spend much of my time," she'd said, "hand writing notes of love to those who might need them."

The care of our culture - the resurrection of compassion - the call to make America benevolent again (thank you Cathleen Falsani) is the call of God's Spirit at this moment in our history. There are players in place to take on the institutional challenges and I give thanks - and some of my limited funds - to their efforts. Now it is time for me to bring it down to the basics of the people I can touch. The 10 foot rule and all of that. In sharing some home made beauty followed up by listening carefully to those close by, the resistance grows stronger.  


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