Saturday, January 28, 2017

I'm Scared

            Maybe this is where I should have been all along. Here, writing, and on my knees, praying for this country, the United States of America. Donald Trump has created more fear and anger in his first week than probably any President in American history, with the possible exception of Lincoln. (There the comparison ends.)      
            Here is what has happened in the first eight days of Trump’s presidency:
·   On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered all regulatory powers of all federal agencies frozen.
·   On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered the National Parks Service to stop using social media after factual, side by side photos were posted of the crowds for the 2009 and 2017 inaugurations.
·   On January 20th, 2017, roughly 230 protestors were arrested in DC and face unprecedented felony riot charges. Among them were legal observers, journalists, and medics.
·   On January 20th, 2017, a member of the International Workers of the World was shot in the stomach at an anti-fascist protest in Seattle. He remains in critical condition.
·   On January 21st, 2017, DT brought a group of 40 cheerleaders to a meeting with the CIA to cheer for him during a speech that consisted almost entirely of framing himself as the victim of dishonest press.
·   On January 21st, 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press conference largely to attack the press for accurately reporting the size of attendance at the inaugural festivities, saying that the inauguration had the largest audience of any in history, “period.”
·   On January 22nd, 2017, White House advisor Kellyann Conway defended Spicer’s lies as “alternative facts” (lies) on national television news.
·   On January 22nd, 2017, DT appeared to blow a kiss to director James Comey during a meeting with the FBI, and then opened his arms in a gesture of strange, paternal affection, before hugging him with a pat on the back.
·   On January 23rd, 2017, DT reinstated the global gag order, which defunds international organizations that even mention abortion as a medical option.
·   On January 23rd, 2017, Spicer said that the US will not tolerate China’s expansion onto islands in the South China Sea, essentially threatening war with China.
·   On January 23rd, 2017, DT repeated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing him the popular vote.
·   On January 23rd, 2017, it was announced that the man who shot the anti-fascist protester in Seattle was released without charges, despite turning himself in.
·   On January 24th, 2017, Spicer reiterated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing DT the popular vote.
·   On January 24th, 2017, DT tweeted a picture from his personal Twitter account of a photo he says depicts the crowd at his inauguration and will hang in the White House press room. The photo is of the 2009 inauguration of 44th President Barack Obama, and is curiously dated January 21st, 2017, the day AFTER the inauguration and the day of the Women’s March, the largest inauguration related protest in history.
·   On January 24th, 2017, the EPA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to freeze all grants and contracts.
·   On January 24th, 2017, the USDA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to stop publishing any papers or research. All communication with the press would also have to be authorized and vetted by the White House.
·   On January 24th, 2017, HR7, a bill that would prohibit federal funding not only to abortion service providers, but to any insurance coverage, including Medicaid, that provides abortion coverage, went to the floor of the House for a vote.
·   On January 24th, 2017, DT ordered the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, while the North Dakota state congress considers a bill that would legalize hitting and killing protestors with cars if they are on roadways.
·   On January 24th, 2017, it was discovered that police officers had used confiscated cell phones to search the emails and messages of the 230 demonstrators now facing felony riot charges for protesting on January 20th, including lawyers and journalists whose email accounts contain privileged information of clients and sources."[1]

Today he began the banning and deportation of people from seven different (Muslim) countries. This act was overturned as unconstitutional, but that probably will not stop Trump from doing more damage. His office also did not mention the Jewish people on Holocaust Remembrance Day (today).[2]
I don’t know what to think anymore. I know there are people who argue better than me, maybe even people who know more than me. Maybe they are even right. But all of the events of the last week seem wrong. This whole week, when reflecting on these events, I’ve felt nothing but fear and rage. Perhaps then I’m not reflecting, only reacting, but I’m scared. Every day, yes, every day, there is something new that scares me. And I don’t know what to do with my fear and rage.
Some say it’s just the media and we should all unite against that entity. Except the media is not one entity. It’s liberal and conservative and moderate and radical left and alt right. It’s television and radio and talk shows and newspapers and, for better and worse, social media, each arm with its own agenda. Perhaps some are doing their best to be impartial, but if even half of what is being reported is true, then things are scary.
Some say we need to fight for or against the current administration. I hate fighting. I hate conflict. But I really wonder if we aren’t sliding into fascism and if I might need to fight. Often, when someone doesn’t like a President, that President is compared to Hitler. Obama certainly was. Now I think we have a President who might really be like Hitler. A family member said I shouldn’t criticize Trump because as a naturalized citizen I could be deported. Will I have to fight for the freedom of speech that was already mine?
Some say things will be fine. I have a friend from the South who said people in his are weren’t worried at all. This was before the inauguration. I wonder how he’s feeling now. A cheerful and optimistic co-worker said things would work out. Maybe they will, but if that belief is based on past American history, I’m not sure. Trump’s election, his complete lack of experience in government, the law or the military, the protests and his low approval rating before he even took office, are all unprecedented. He really does want to build a wall and he’s working on it now. (One thing I will say for Trump is he is doing everything he said would.)
Here’s all I know to do at this point:
·         Study, read, and write.
·         Follow my passions.
·         Love people, even those I disagree with, but don’t take abuse.
·         Love people who need a lot of love during these days.
·         Call or write my representatives.
·         Fight for what I think is right until or unless I see that I am wrong.
·         Pray.
·         Breathe. A lot.
·         Get Started.
·         Keep Going.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Lord's Prayer - Part I

Our Father
Yesterday at church the pastor encouraged us to pray the Lord’s Prayer five times a day for thirty days. Being the kind person he is, he said that if some were not able to do that, they could do it once a day for the first week, twice a day for the second week, and so on. Being the less-than-kind person that I am, I told him praying a simple prayer five times a day would not be too strenuous for anyone[1] and that he should retract that statement and push us harder. He wisely declined my less-than-gracious offer. Despite this small difference of opinion, I thought his idea was powerful and potentially life changing.
Growing up Catholic, I had, like many good Catholics, memorized the Lord’s Prayer (we called it the “Our Father” or Pater Noster in Latin) by the time I was five or six years old. (I also knew the Hail Mary prayer.) But, as Bloom’s taxonomy, a hierarchy of learning, shows us, memorization, while important and necessary, is only the beginning of learning. And, as with many things done by rote, I rarely reflected on this prayer. So, to keep the Lord’s Prayer from becoming a “vain repetition,”[2] and to understand what I was really praying, I decided to reflect on the various parts of the prayer.
The version I am using is from Matthew 6:9-13:
Our Father, which art in heaven,[3]
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done,
in earth as it is in heaven.[4]
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us.[5]
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever.

            The first words I reflect on are “Our Father.” The pastor said that this comes from a Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) prayer. First I think of the word “our.” It is interesting that Jesus did not use the word “my.” He was the only one who could claim being the Son of God but he said “our.” He was sharing.  He also said “our,” not just for His present audience but for anyone who prayed this prayer throughout all time. Our – all of us.
Then there is the word “Father.” The concept of the Fatherhood of God was all but absent in the scriptures until this moment! (Let that sink in.) God as a father was mentioned fifteen times in the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament whereas the concept is used over 165 times in the four gospels.[6] While the term father may not always have positive connotations for everyone, it brings the relationship between God and people to a whole new, more intimate level.
God, then, is our Father, mine, yours, ours, all of ours. He is the Father who helped me to Get Started and the Father who helps me to Keep Going.

[1] I was able to say this prayer aloud and at a normal pace in 23 seconds.
[2] Matthew 6:7: But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
[3] I may have learned it or am remembering it incorrectly, but I remember it saying “who art in heaven,” not “which.”
[4] I also remember “on earth,” not “in earth.”
[5] I remember “those who trespass,” not “them that.”

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Not "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay

“Tell me, what is life without your love?
Tell, me who am I without you
By my side?”

George Harrison – What Is Life?

“Looks like nothing’s gonna change
Everything still remains the same
I can’t do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I’ll remain the same.”

Otis Redding – (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay

Suddenly I’m confronted with numerous challenges, all of my own choosing, for which I am thankful. But they are still challenges. I have decided to begin work on a book. The idea of the book (which I’m not ready to share yet) came to me a few weeks ago and I began some preliminary work on it. When I presented that work to my former professor, she challenged me to go deeper, much deeper, and to work harder, much harder. She reminded me of all the methods I learned in my recent Master’s program that would enable me to write a good book. I’m also working on a couple of other projects that will allow me to use my Master’s Degree in History. But as fun as the ideas are, it is all a lot of work and time and discipline. On top of that I’m still a father. And my job recently became more challenging, requiring more use of my time. 
My life could potentially change and the purpose of this blog is to consider that. Because the truth is I don’t have to let it change. I could get by just as I am doing now (which is barely). I could be a perpetual kid for the rest of my life, occasionally bragging about what I’ve done in the past, but all the while knowing that for whatever I’ve done, the bare, dirty, ugly truth is I have not reached my potential.
Externally that shows up in a lack of money. Someone more enlightened may say to content with what I have and to be grateful. I am but I am not. Sometimes people confuse contentment with complacency and gratitude with acquiescence. I am content with and grateful for how far I have come, but that doesn’t mean I want to stay here. The truth is that a lack of money can create lacks in self-esteem, in relationships, and in a fuller more satisfying life. Being poor by default is not romantic or noble. The calm melody of Otis Redding’s song (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay might lull us into believing that the protagonist is a hero, a rebel, a maverick, a non-conformist. But because he “can’t do what ten people tell him to do,” he has no direction at all except two thousand miles he’s roamed just to make that dock his home. Yes, he’s sitting there resting his bones, and we all like to do that, but the loneliness won’t leave him alone. That doesn’t sound restful to me. It sounds like self-sabotage at its worst. He’s broke, he’s homeless, he’s alone, and he’s lonely. This is not romantic or charming or heroic. It’s frightening. Sometimes we need ten people to tell us what to do. Or maybe just one or two. Or maybe we need to have the courage to tell ourselves what to do…and then do it.
Self-direction is not easy. I’m not good at it. At least I tell myself that. And now that I have all these projects on my plate I suddenly find myself playing a lot of online games. I find myself procrastinating.
I also find myself working. I spent several hours doing research yesterday.
I spent over an hour listening to a book about James Madison.
I’m reading my eighth US President book. (I've made it a goal to read at least two books on each of the U.S. Presidents in the next year.)
So I am getting things done.
Perhaps it will help to write down what I want to accomplish in the three to five years:
·         Get my house on the beach.
·         Have at least three books published.
·         Create a course on US Presidents.
·         Be debt-free.
·         Read at least two books on every US President.

There are other goals just as large, but harder to quantify, but they involve personal relationships and work goals. The best way to quantify them is to say I will put more time into both. Because I tell my Muse, ultimately, what are my goals, what are my dreams, “what is life without your love?” And that’s the most important part. I have set these goals, all these goals, out of love – love for my Muse, love for my children, love for my work and the people I serve and serve with, love of history, and love for myself. I Get Started and I Keep Going out of love. And because while I may want a home by the dock, I don’t want to "make that dock my home."