Monday, March 30, 2015

Religious Freedom = Legal Right To Be a Bigot

otherwise titled, Thanks for nothing, Indiana...

Seems time to trot out this essay again.  I remember nicking it from someone's blog somewhere back in the day.  Apologies... I wish I could remember who actually wrote it, but it pretty much covers what I need to say.  

Essays on separation of church & state, from “Motley_Cool” on FC blogs:

I like the idea of religious freedom. I also like freedom of speech and I especially like the idea of speaking out against theocrats attempting to turn our U.S. into a "Christian Nation". These evangelists have gone so far as to proclaim that anyone who isn't a Christian should not be able to hold high public office.

I remember back in the summer of 2004 when Ron Reagan, the President's son had just delivered an most eloquent and moving tribute to his father. Reagan was the working alongside Chris Matthews at MSNBC as a commentator and was being interviewed by Matthews shortly after his brilliant eulogy. Matthews turned to Ron Reagan and gushed about how great an orator he was and would we be seeing him as a political candidate one day? Reagan Jr. smiled and very matter of factly stated that he couldn't possibly run for public office because he was unelectable because he was an atheist. I was stunned. I mean, it hadn't been put to me in such stark terms before and this is the reality for any can run but you'll never be elected. I've never forgotten that moment. There are stilllaws on the books in seven U.S. states that openly prohibit non-believers from running for office. Here they are...

Article VI.
Clause 3
"... but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

Amendment I
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"

State Constitutions that Discriminate Against Atheists

Arkansas State Constitution, Article 19 Section 1 ("Miscellaneous Provisions")
No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any court.

Maryland's Declaration of Rights, Article 36
"That as it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to Him, all persons are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; wherefore, no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate, on account of his religious persuasion, or profession, or for his religious practice, unless, under the color of religion, he shall disturb the good order, peace or safety of the State, or shall infringe the laws of morality, or injure others in their natural, civil or religious rights; nor ought any person to be compelled to frequent, or maintain, or contribute, unless on contract, to maintain, any place of worship, or any ministry; nor shall any person, otherwise competent, be deemed incompetent as a witness, or juror, on account of his religious belief; provided, he believes in the existence of God, and that under His dispensation such person will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefore either in this world or in the world to come."

Massachusetts' State Constitution, Article 3
"Any every denomination of Christians, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as good subjects of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of the law: and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall ever be established by law."
Comment: Apparently Non-Christians are not "equally under the protection of the law".

Mississippi State Constitution. Article 14 ("General Provisions"), Section 265
No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.

North Carolina's State Constitution, Article 6 Section 8
"Disqualifications of office. The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God."

Pennsylvania's State Constitution, Article 1 Section 4
"No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth."

South Carolina's State Constitution, Article 4 Section 2
"No person shall be eligible to the office of Governor who denies the existence of the Supreme Being; ..."
Note: If you continue reading you will find that (in Section the Lieutenant Governor must also meet the same qualifications as the Governor.

Tennessee's State Constitution, Article 9 Section 2
"No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state."

Texas' State Constitution, Article 1 Section 4
"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being."

P.S. I'll pull up a chair. I think I'm going to like this thread.

Part 2

Christian religion is a gentle one (ok, minus Southern Baptists) which has compatible values with a working democracy. Plus, your founding fathers were all believers in the Christian faith. They were the ones who created the rules about separating church and state, and I am pretty sure they still would be dumbfounded by most comments."

Most of this is just factually incorrect. Christianity is a "gentle" religion? I guess that would be correct if we didn't count the Crusades, the Inquisition and Salem Witch Trials. The myth of the early colonists coming to America for religious freedom is just that, a myth. They didn't come here voluntarily, they were kicked out of Britain for being religious troublemakers. And once here and free of "persecution" they did their own persecuting when they were in a position to do so. And most of the founding fathers were deists who had open hostility attitudes towards religion. This re-writing of history by the pious has been constant and unending. I call it the Walt Disney version of American History. Pious founding fathers praying to Jesus for guidance. Rubbish. Here are a few quotes from our most important and intellectually relevant founding fathers, it would be difficult to misunderstand their intention so let's start with Thomas Jefferson.

Although Jefferson believed in a Creator, his concept of it resembled that of the god of deism (the term "Nature's God" used by deists of the time). With his scientific bent, Jefferson sought to organize his thoughts on religion. He rejected the superstitions and mysticism of Christianity and even went so far as to edit the gospels, removing the miracles and mysticism of Jesus (see The Jefferson Bible) leaving only what he deemed the correct moral philosophy of Jesus.

"I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies."

-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Woods (undated), referring to "our particular superstition," Christianity, from John E. Remsburg, Six Historic Americans: Thomas Jefferson, quoted from Franklin Steiner, Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents (1936), "Thomas Jefferson, Freethinker"

"We find in the writings of his biographers ... a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of things impossible, of superstitions, fanaticisms and fabrications."

-- Thomas Jefferson, to William Short, August 4, 1822, referring to Jesus's biographers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."

-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823, quoted from James A. Haught, "Breaking the Last Taboo" (1996)

"The priests of the different religious sects ... dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight, and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subdivision of the duperies on which they live."

-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Correa de Serra, April 11, 1820

"If by religion we are to understand sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, then your exclamation on that hypothesis is just, "that this would be the best of worlds if there were no religion in it."

-- Thomas Jefferson, in a reply to John Adams' letter, quoted by Joseph Lewis in his address "Jefferson the Freethinker," delivered at a banquet of the Freethinkers' Society of New York on the evening of April 13th, 1925, at Hotel Belleclaire, 77th Street and Broadway, New York City, in honor of the 182nd anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson.

"I am not afraid of the priests. They have tried upon me all their various batteries, of pious whining, hypocritical canting, lying and slandering, without being able to give me one moment of pain."

-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Horatio Gates Spafford, 1816

How about James Madison? This should be interesting...

"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."

The Madisons by Virginia Moore, P. 43 (1979, McGraw-Hill Co. New York, NY) quoting a letter by JM to William Bradford April 1, 1774,

"During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."

James Madison, A Biography in his Own Words, edited by Joseph Gardner, p. 93, (1974, Newsweek, New York, NY) Quoting Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments by JM, June 1785.

And Benjamin Franklin...

"As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion...has received various corrupting Changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his Divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble."

He died a month later, and historians consider him, like so many great Americans of his time, to be a Deist, not a Christian.

"If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. These found it wrong in the Bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here [England] and in New England."

From an essay on "Toleration."

There is no doubt that some of our founding fathers were overtly religious but most of the framers of our Constitution were not. Our country was inspired by the Enlightenment and by the concept of religious freedom but it was not founded on Christianity. The Treaty of Tripoli is a little known but legal document written in the late 1700s explicitly reveals the secular nature of the United States to a foreign nation. Officially called the "Treaty of peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary," most refer to it as simply the Treaty of Tripoli. In Article 11, it states:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

I guess I could cite more examples but I think this is sufficient. Much of our history is being deliberately nowadays by religious conservatives for their own partisan and vested interests. I hope to burst that bubble when and where I can.

Local Mysteries

What does it all mean? 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015

It's for those who want it.

"It's for those who WANT it."

That's what the old crocodiles say.

"It's not for those who need it.  Lots of people need it.  Trouble is they either don't know they need it or don't think they deserve it or maybe they think it's too late for them."

You hear it all the time.

Then every so often you get news like tonight, that this guy went and hung himself, and was found by his 7 year old son.

Horrible, right?  It's more common than you want to think about though, and you look around the room and you can tell from the faces.  Everyone there knows the feeling.  Every last person in the room has at least skated around edge of the hole and given it some thought.  What keeps so many people from going for it is anyone's guess.   Lots of people think about it though.

Sometimes you want to die.  Other times you don't really want to but your shit is so out of control that you're just plain weary of wondering when it's going to happen.  That's what the disease is like.  It's like those stories you hear of the Japanese prison camps in the Philippines, where the guards drag you out every morning and line you up and shoot over your heads.  Then every so often they aim lower and take a couple people out, just to show that they're the ones with the power.

Just to keep you guessing.

Just to fuck with your head.

That's what the life i like.  Some people get tired of not knowing and can't figure out any other way.  It's almost an act of defiance.

But in the end, you're just plain, old dead and you get no more chances, and that's just sad because it doesn't have to be that way.  It twists me all up inside every time the word goes around that someone didn't make it.  The feelings are all over the place, from grief to anger and frustration to even guilt.  You wonder if you could have said or done something differently but that's not even the point.

It's for those who want it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

For a second back there...

Every so often, way back then, there would be a bright light and a bang, like a blue flash gunshot in a dark room, an idea that it could really happen.  One of the guys who wrote lyrics and sang songs that spoke of change would run for office and he'd win, and the whole dream would come true.  You'd miss it if you blinked but for a second it might seem that we could actually pull it off.  We could change the world.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Pretty much...

Rebooting March

What day is it?  Friday... March 6?  Yes.  March 6.


I can do Friday.

I can make it to Friday night, and hopefully sleep.

Last night wasn't so great.  The night before was nothing to write home about and who knows what that was about, but last night was a kicker.  Last night was a beast.

The bruja upstairs started hollering at about 10 pm.  I'm used to it by now.  Her orishas seemed to have left her high and dry a while back, for one reason or another.  Maybe she didn't keep up her end of a bargain.  Not my call, but I can say that she is not going gently into that good night, so to speak.  She is not well.  She is not giving up.


Again, and again.  I'm not making fun.  I've heard it before at any given time of the day when powerlessness overtakes her.  It's becoming a familiar feeling so maybe she's echoing something inside me.


Over and over but louder than usual.  I'm not making fun.  Not at all.  It was harrowing.  Same words but louder and more desperate than I've heard her in the past.  Maybe that's the way it is as you get closer to that inevitable moment.  Maybe that's what happens to all of us.  Maybe that's going to happen to me too.  Foxhole prayers?  Calling out to the Guy in the Sky now that the little statuettes in her front hallway are exacting their payment.  Do I sound superstitious?  Funny how that works.

Perhaps fantasmas... like maybe she's being revisited by her past.  Maybe they've come to bring her home and she's not ready to go.  She tells people that Henry, her dead husband, comes and sits by her bed daily and talks to her.  He is playful and sneaks in and scares her, like before they found him dead on the sofa that morning a couple years ago.


Until after 11.  I had already knocked on her door several times with no answer.  You couldn't even hear her from the front hall.  I was tired.  It made me question that there had been any sound at all.  I went back downstairs and got into bed again, but there she was.


Dressed again and this time upstairs to some people that know her daughter and we went back down to try to get into the apartment.  Hours later, and a fire department and EMT visit later, she was being wheeled out to an ambulance.  All my conjecture, and "ai dies mio ayudame" translated to merely...


Again, not making fun.  The old bruja, once spoken about around the neighborhood in hushed tones, feared and revered for all her powers, had fallen and couldn't get up.  Abandoned by her deities and seemingly ignored by The Other One, she had dropped between the bed and the radiator and gotten stuck.

And sometimes that's just the way things go.  That's the way most of us go out.

I'm hard pressed to say, having witnessed so may other people in my life age and die (and some die without aging) why watching Dominga la Bruja's decline these last couple years has impacted me so. It gives me chills.  It is hard evidence that despite having always prided myself on being Mr. Acceptance... as Mr. Zen Stormtrooper... Mr. In The Moment...

That's it's all kind of a lie.

So I'm sitting here in a waiting room tapping this out.  I'm tired beyond words and feel like crying.  I'm about to be poked and prodded and inspected and injected, or whatnot.  I'm to be examined for yet another ailment that doctors all call standard for a man my age.  They call me middle aged and that's also standard for men my age but it's really a joke, isn't it?  I'm 53 years old and some of those are dog years given how most of those years were lived.  It's not like that 53 is the middle.  The most likely scenario, and this is being optimistic, is that I'm beginning the last third of my life.   I'm living in a body that I don't really recognize.  I stand in front of the mirror and can't quite reconcile the MacGregor in my head with the sagging figure before me.  None of it jives.

And I'm terrified.

It seems that time is really short and I can't slow down the passage and there is still so much I've yet to do.  Of course there is no shortage of ego and vanity in this.  I've done an awful lot.  It's just that nobody has recognized and rewarded me yet for my obvious genius.

I'm sitting here frightened.  This all sounds so silly but I'm waiting for a man in rubber gloves to stick a finger up my hole and tell me, "This doesn't feel right.  We're going to need to do more tests."

I'm afraid that what's ailing me, and there is quite a bit ailing me, is just time and we all know that you can't roll back time.

I'm afraid of that moment when I fall and can't get up.

This has been a strange March so far.  Most of it has been spattered with bouts of not feeling anything approaching right.  There is nothing to do but what I am sitting here doing.  The rest is in my head.

I have to reboot.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Hurdy Gurdy Man

Guilheim Desq

It's not a question of curiosity so much as it's driven by need.  It requires something different to cut through the static and break the surface.  I don't know much about the hurdy gurdy.  There was an old movie where an old seaman, or rather a caucasian actor dyed brown and speaking with a fake accent, played one for the other sailors.  I saw one in a music store once.

But then there is this.

Bryant Park March 5, 2015


Doctor, you say that there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Parisand what I see is an aberrationcaused by old age, an affliction.I tell you it has taken me all my lifeto arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,to soften and blur and finally banishthe edges you regret I don’t see,to learn that the line I called the horizondoes not exist and sky and water,so long apart, are the same state of being.Fifty-four years before I could seeRouen cathedral is builtof parallel shafts of sun,and now you want to restoremy youthful errors: fixednotions of top and bottom,the illusion of three-dimensional space,wisteria separatefrom the bridge it covers.What can I say to convince youthe Houses of Parliament dissolvenight after night to becomethe fluid dream of the Thames?I will not return to a universeof objects that don’t know each other,as if islands were not the lost childrenof one great continent.  The worldis flux, and light becomes what it touches,becomes water, lilies on water,above and below water,becomes lilac and mauve and yellowand white and cerulean lamps,small fists passing sunlightso quickly to one anotherthat it would take long, streaming hairinside my brush to catch it.To paint the speed of light!Our weighted shapes, these verticals,burn to mix with airand changes our bones, skin, clothesto gases.  Doctor,if only you could seehow heaven pulls earth into its armsand how infinitely the heart expandsto claim this world, blue vapor without end.

Monet Refuses the Operation, by Lisel Mueller

Some kinda way...

It's that nausea that comes from being up all night for no apparent reason and compensating for the lack of rest with too much Bustelo.  This too shall pass.

It's the annoyance that comes from hearing the tool in the elevator griping, "This is Biblical!  I can't believe this!  Can you believe this?  It's snowing AGAIN!"  Yes, it is all believable.  No it is not Biblical, or even biblical in lower case.  It's winter.  It's New York.  It snows in winter in New York.  Please shut the fuck up before something horrible comes out of my mouth.

It's the detritus of sitting up in bed all night thinking about nothing at all helpful to be thinking about.

It's standing on the train platform rubbing the coin in my pocket.  The wee velvet bag it sits in is worn nearly smooth.  Thinking, thinking, thinking and trying to slow it down but with no sleep the barn door is wide open and all the critters are loose in the yard.

I've spent years sitting in one place and not moving but have very little practice sitting still.  That's either going to make sense to you or it's not.  Don't get hung up on the words.  Think about what it means to be still.  Think of the surface of a pond.


No disturbance.  No current.  No ripples.


Think about the clearing surrounding the pond before anything has started to move about.  No breeze.  No insects moving or making noise.


I can sit in one place forever, but keeping still is another story.  There are currents.  There are ripples. There are disturbances.  There is a painful awareness of even the smallest movement around me... the tiniest sound.  There is a calculator in my head, adding, subtracting, dividing and mostly multiplying. I am powerless to slow it.

My head hurts.

No, I don't think so...

Yah, I think I'll have whatever kind of day I damn well want to have.


There are 100 different spins you can make on this metaphor, but let's right-size it.  Your time here on the planet is a lifeboat sometimes.  Just sit down and row.  Know who is in your boat.  Some people will sink their own boat.  It's not malice.  They just can't help it, but they will take you down with them.

I keep my circle smaller than most, having learned it just works out better that way.  This isn't advice.  This is just what works for me.

Don't assume you're in my circle.

Don't assume you've got a seat in my boat.  You have to not only want to row.  You have to understand that everybody else in the boat is depending on you to do so, and is doing their part too.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

The City of Brotherly Love Gets a Paint Job

Streets Dept (click here)

RIP Rodney King, RIP Justice

Rodney King

I was married on March 2, 1991 and on March 3 I was sitting in a hotel on the beach in Cancun watching the news with the sound turned off.  I was viewing this video footage absently and I remember remarking to my new wife, "Kind of makes me glad we live in the United States."

She turned to the TV and watched for a moment, reading the captions in Spanish and replied, "That's not Mexico.  That's Los Angeles."

And that was the wake-up call for me.  It wasn't that I was entirely ignorant of the problem with police brutality in black and brown communities.  It just seemed apocryphal and distant -- the distance of white privilege really.  Another level of racism was revealed to me.  It's not just about how you think about other people.  It's every bit as much about the privilege of not having to think about other people.



I had hope as the investigation into the Rodney King case got under way that justice would be done.  It all seemed pretty obvious.  It was all on video, plain to see, right?  There was a tighter media focus on other cases. More information was revealed.  The numbers were staggering.  This was supposed to be it though.  This was supposed to be where the tide was turned back.

Yet despite the clarity here, nobody was charged except the victim.

And we've seen time and time again since March 3, 1991 that no amount of evidence, whether it be video, audio, eyewitness, statistics or otherwise, is enough to make the case.  People see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear and those with the power continue to do exactly what they want to do.

2014 was a rough year.  There is no indication that 2015 will be better.  I'm not going to rewrite the list here.  I just don't have the energy.  The things I've seen with my own eyes, since they were opened on March 3, 1991 are crushing.

I can't breathe.

Rodney King passed from this mortal coil in 2012 but I think perhaps an important part of him was murdered on an L.A. highway 20+ years before.

As for me, I don't know why I didn't see before that video.  It wasn't willful.  I could have bored you to death with examples of injustices in the Middle East, or Asia or wherever.  I prided myself as someone who gives a shit about things like equality and justice.  I knew racism existed and pointed fingers left and right at examples of it, so did it take so long to really, really see?