No Room at this Inn? Shame on Us.

While the eyes of the world have been understandably focused on Paris this week, it is important to remember that what is happening in the world as, literally, happening in the World.

In the past year,  people in over 30 nations have been killed by terrorists.

Some of the 30+ nations hit by terrorism in 2015

Some of the 30+ nations hit by terrorism in 2015

At least 17 nations have been hit by Daesh (ISIL) or splinter groups/lone actors claiming association with Daesh, most notably its West African affiliate, Boko Haram. France is no longer even the latest. The other day, 32 people were killed in a bombing in a Nigerian market, and today there were reports of terrorist activity in Mali, Malaysia, Tel Aviv, and on the West Bank.

That each and every attack is a horrible assault on humanity is an understatement. But as a matter of numbers and facts, over 80% of those attacks have taken place in just 5 nations, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Syria. Nations torn by years of war, internecine strife, and outside interference. (Note: This does not take into account the terror inflicted on indigenous populations in the name of on-going conflicts, such as the persistent actions by Israel against the Palestinians.)

While there is much talk of the horrors in Iraq and Syria, Lebanon and Afghanistan – horrors for which the West bears considerable responsibility in decades of both action, inaction, and colonial stupidity – the persistent bloodshed in Western Africa is largely ignored. And both pale in coverage compared to nonstop coverage of recent events in Europe. The reasons for this are surely racial and cultural: Americans are historically Euro-centric as well as being much more likely to travel to Europe than to Abuja or Kuala Lumpur. But, woefully myopic as this is, it’s the subject for another day.

On a daily basis, whole populations live in fear we here in the United States cannot even imagine. Fear which has driven millions to flee their homelands, risk their lives, seeking safe haven from torture and death. These are families, children, women, the vulnerable of the vulnerable.

Most are heading to Europe. It’s the only practical option. To get half-way round the world to the United States is a much more difficult and expensive proposition. Not to mention that the US has not been exactly welcoming to these people.

Finally, though, President Obama has said he will open our shores to 65,000 Syrian refugees. A drop in the bucket of terrorized humanity. Each and every one would be screened and vetted. Contrary to right-wing fearmongering, no one will  just be stepping off ships or airplanes and vanishing into the countryside.

Of course, in light of recent events in Paris, this oh-so-modest proposition has made the GOP lose its puny, collective mind. Aside from the fact that terrorism in the US is of a largely home-grown variety (Charleston and Boston) and that no refugees have been connected to Paris, the right’s knee-jerk response is to play right into ISIL’s hands, and move to close our borders to all Mideastern refugees. This only  confirms what the terrorists are saying, that the West hates and fears all Islam.

Syrian refugee child.

Be very afraid: Syrian refugee child.

And it gets worse.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, two men seeking the highest job in the nation, have suggested a religious test for refugees, i.e. Christians only [How very Christian of them!], and lawmakers in Missouri and Virginia are talking internment camps. [Ask the Japanese Americans of WWII or the Palestinians how well that works.]

Most disturbing of all, to resounding cheers, Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner has proposed closing Mosques, a Muslim registry [but not one for gun owners!*], and special identity cards for people of the Muslim faith.

From a party that throws  Nazi analogies at President Obama and the Democrats at every turn, this is truly Hitlerian.

Not to mention unconstitutional and utterly un-American.

As the President said, this bold-faced bigotry is the recruiting tool ISIL has been dreaming of.

And every American should stand up to them and say, “No!” No to prejudice and fear, no to cowardice hiding behind the inflammatory rhetoric, no to shredding the Constitution because the world is not perfectly safe.

Nothing is perfectly safe. In the grand scheme of things, though, we here in the U.S. have far more to fear from our good Christian neighbors with their guns or, if people of color, from some cops on the beat, than from orphans seeking shelter from a deadly storm.

There is a saying, when you value your children more than your neighbor’s, war is near. The world has to come together, not to rain fire from the skies, but to find another way to value all our children. To live together. Without fear, without hatred, without violence.

Shame on those who turn their backs on a world crying for refuge and peace. Shame on those who let fear win. Lady Liberty would weep.

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*In this country alone, over 12,000 people were lost to gun violence in 2014. In that same time, only 6 people were killed in the US in 2 “terrorist” attacks; only one such attack was connected with radical jihadis and none were carried out by refugees. Americans have more to fear from home-grown militias and right-wing racists than refugees or immigrants.

Remember, Remember….

The 5th of November.

Tis Guy Fawkes Day, once more. A day whose meaning has been muddled by popular culture through the years, notably Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s graphic novel, V for Vendetta and the 2005 anti-fascist film it inspired. G8yHZyP

The hack-anarchists over at Anonymous picked up the banner (and mask) and a modern anti-tyranny, liberal-leaning legend was born.

But how do these representations stack up against the historical Mr. Fawkes?

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My first introduction to Guy Fawkes was when I was 8 years old and we were living in Devon for a year. I knew little of the history then, but certainly enjoyed the fireworks and bonfires – what kid would not? It was only later, as my fascination with history grew, that I looked beyond the sparkling festivities to the story beneath.

Guy Fawkes – aka Guido Fawkes, aka John Johnson – was a Catholic at a time when being Catholic in England was not easy. The Church of England was less than a century old and anti-Papist feeling was still running high. Catholics were still being imprisoned, having their lands confiscated, and worse. It was the 17th century, after all.

After fighting with Spain against his king, James I, and country, Fawkes fell in with a group of provincial Catholics who were convinced the only thing to do was to bring down the government and restore Catholic supremacy across the land. King, ministers, Parliament, the whole shebang, had to go. Thus was launched the ill-fated Gunpowder Plot. Because of his years in the military, the cabal put Guy in charge of the powder.The_Gunpowder_Plot_Conspirators,_1605_from_NPG

So it was that on the 5th of November, 16o5, Fawkes was caught guarding kegs of explosives beneath the Houses of Parliament. Following a seriously enhanced interrogation, he gave up his fellow conspirators, and, in the gruesome fashion of the day, all were executed for High Treason.

So, the question remains, was he a hero or a religious zealot? Were he and his fellow plotters striking a blow against a royal tyrant or looking to unleash anarchy on their homeland? While James I wasn’t a perfect monarch, there had certainly been greater despots before and since. And, aside from their religious convictions, one would be hard pressed to find a cohesive political motivation for the plotters’ actions. They simply wanted to replace the authority of a lawful monarch with that of the Pope, without regard for the loss of life or social upheaval. Religious wars are like that no matter what the age or faiths. Hmmm. In the end,  it can be said that the attempted assasination of the King gave James a period of good will he might otherwise not have had. Certainly, in full, the poem we know of the day is pro-James/anit-Guy.

THE FIFTH of NOVEMBER

    Remember, remember!
    The fifth of November,
    The Gunpowder treason and plot;
    I know of no reason
    Why the Gunpowder treason
    Should ever be forgot!
    Guy Fawkes and his companions
    Did the scheme contrive,
    To blow the King and Parliament
    All up alive.
    Threescore barrels, laid below,
    To prove old England’s overthrow.
    But, by God’s providence, him they catch,
    With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
    A stick and a stake
    For King James’s sake!
    If you won’t give me one,
    I’ll take two,
    The better for me,
    And the worse for you.
    A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
    A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,
    A pint of beer to wash it down,
    And a jolly good fire to burn him.
    Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
    Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!

In terms of modern politics and those who have latched onto Guy Fawkes as a symbol, in the United States the fundamentalist “religious liberty” types seem to have more in common with him than any liberal faction. After all, they believe their religous faith trumps anyone else’s rights, regardless what the law and Constitution say. They would likely be shocked by this link. But then again, over here ignorance often leads people to get their history wrong. Just look at the Tea Party. Never let something like history or facts get in the way of a little good old fashion demagoguery. God knows the current flock of GOP presidential candidates don’t.

For myself, I must admit to having a bit of a soft spot in my heart for the traitor Fawkes. And, being anti-totalitarian to my core, I am especially fond of his Fawkes-as-V incarnation. Is it historical, no. But it is good storytelling. And that – along with fireworks and rousing overtures – will always appeal to the rebelious 8-year-old lingering inside me.

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ACCEPTING DIFFERENCE

'maggie the cat'

by ‘maggie the cat’

Those who are so concerned about what others are doing in their life, and then condemn them if they are different, show a lack of compassion for the individual and the ever aspiring enlightenment of the universe. “They” lack the warmth to truly know the Goddess or God. I can’t imagine a Higher Power who would support a bigot, homophobe, racist, violent, repulsive person who wants to see the destruction of the world, secretly or openly supporting the total obliteration of the Middle East so “They” can ascend in the Rapture.

Apocalypse by Vasnetsov 'Attention Deficit Delirium'

Apocalypse by Vasnetsov ‘Attention Deficit Delirium’

Some may say what I have just written is silly but on the contrary, it is quite serious and why the Tea Party and Right-wing Republicans do not support something so peaceful as the Deal President Obama made, with the help of Kerry and others, with Iran, to end their capability to create nuclear weapons. It is why they support the barbaric actions of Israel over the Palestinians. They want the strife to get so out of hand, that the bombs will be used and the area with be totally destroyed. It is part of Revelations and the end of time. Only those who are faithful to Jesus as their Savior with be called up to Heaven.

This is bizarre thinking but I respect the rules in the Constitution everyone has the rights to their beliefs. But actively encouraging and supporting the destruction of a people and their countries b/c of ulterior motives goes beyond believes. It effects everyone in the world if a world who has bombs uses those bombs to settle permanently a dispute that could just as easily, with patience and time, eventually be resolved. But those who don’t want the resolution are dangerous to us all.

atom bomb exploding

Where Intolerance Leads – Atom Bombs Explode

Using your beliefs for hate and intolerance is not what the signers of the Constitution meant by separating Church and State. Beliefs are meant to be practiced individually or in a consenting group but it should never be used to force ideas onto others who do not believe in the same manner. There is room for all that people believe. We all just need to learn acceptance.

I cannot leave Kim Davis out of this discussion. She is a bully filled overflowing with Intolerance and she was using her job to be a tyrant; to strike down a Supreme Court Ruling of Legalizing Marriage for same-sex couples and giving them Equality and the Pursuit of Happiness. What right does she have to deny anyone a marriage license. It was her job. She was placed in jail b/c she refused to follow a court order. And when she was released stating she would follow the court’s ruling. She continued to find ways to make the marriage licenses invalid by altering them with the words: BY ORDER OF THE COURT. To me that is flaunting her beliefs once again and knowingly invalidating the Marriage Licenses that were issued.

kim davis believing in the sanctity of marriage

Kim Davis won’t issue same-sex marriage licenses-they violate the sanctity of MARRIAGE

What makes people hate? Or to show intolerance and become bullies, wielding power to prevent people from having their own happiness. Does Kim Davis get pleasure out of interfering with the lives of Gay LGBT men and women, by denying them (us) their (our) rights, whatever they may be. Who is this person and where does she get the gall to be so self-righteous?

Kim Davis so wanted a prize for her belligerent, bigoted, and uncharitable behavior, she dumped her membership in the Democratic Party and became one of those Republicans we have to watch out for. She felt the Democrats no longer represent her. Of course we don’t. We as Democrats try to be fair and care about everyone, not like those who condemn and sometimes kill those who are different and live their difference openly. Too many lives have been lost due to murders by bigoted homophobic racist bullies.

The award Kim Davis is to receive is “The Cost of Discipleship Award”, and it is coming from the Family Research Council. FRC is considered a Hate Group, Pro-Life and Anti-Gay. They are Fundamental Extremists to the core.

hate matthew shepherd

Remembering Matthew Shepherd

There are almost no more closets. LGBTQI are burning their closets. tearing them down. We are proud of our difference. Some may hide, with good reason, there are so many Kim Davis’ in the world who don’t just deny same-sex marriage but murder anyone who is different, especially if they fall under the category of sexual preference that is other than heterosexual. “LGBTQI are here, we’re Queer. Get over it.”

Gay-Pride Parade

Gay Pride Parade

And get over all the other differences in the world, like someone following a different religion, being from a different country, having a different skin color, speaking a different language, speaking out against injustice, being a women (this is about violence and the inequality women are subjected to constantly), not having money, having way too much money (this needs some alterations), what job we do, how smart we are, being an artist, not being beautiful, being beautiful, being large, being small, being short, being disabled, being any color but white, being white and thinking that makes you superior (you’re not), not being perfect, being mentally challenged… A list that is endless. Accepting Difference is the way and the path toward peace.

peace-symbol-many-faiths-blue

Peace Symbol In Many Faiths

Let go of the Hate and Fear that Difference is going to do you harm or those who are different are out to harm you or will infect you with some alien disease from outer space. Not accepting Difference is where the Harm begins and festers. Grow in awareness and accept the Differences in Everyone. Filling up with Love and Compassion is a Good Way to Be and to Live. –  ‘maggie the cat’

Tropical rainbow on the Big Island, Hawaii

Rainbow in Hawaii

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‘maggie the cat’

When Did God Become So Small?

Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos
stir us – there is a tingling in the spine,
a catch in the voice, a faint sensation
of a distant memory, as if we were falling
from a great height. We know we are approaching
the greatest of mysteries.  …Carl Sagan

I have…a terrible need…shall I say the word?…of religion.
Then I go out and paint the stars.   …Vincent van Gogh

cool-wallpaper-11

Hubble wonders

I am not a religious person. Call me pagan or spiritual, cosmically wowed, if you must, but not religious.

I was never indoctrinated to believe in a paternalistic sky-guy who knows when I’ve been bad or good (except for Santa Claus, of course). This doesn’t mean I have a problem with others’ belief systems. In fact, on a metaphysical level, I appreciate the idea of something in the universe that’s…metaphysical.

In my curious quest for this – and to better understand the magical thinking of the religious – I’ve read everything I could. Sacred tomes eastern, western, traditional and non, Bullfinch, Joseph Campbell, The Golden Bough – their comparative mythology was my catechism. While the notion of a Big G god never suited my tastes, the storyteller in me was definitely hooked. After all, life’s full of mystery and, in the absence of science or philosophy, we fill in the blanks from the wild and woolly recesses of our imaginations. Yeah!

One thing I took away from this study was that our gods – especially the old gods – were magnificent.

They would knock your socks off – if you had socks. That was their purpose in the cosmic picture. They were creators of galaxies, shapers – and destroyers – of worlds. They were Super Natural in every sense of the word, large enough to swallow the sun and drain the oceans in a single draught. They were truly metaphysical.

Cosmic dragon - Dido6

Cosmic dragon – Dido6

And that not only made sense, it was also so cool. Our ancestors took no half-measures when delving into the realm of cosmic movers and shakers. If we need gods to solve mysteries, to give shape to human existence, inspire us to raise ziggurats and cathedrals, to create music and art that shake the soul, they should be jaw-droppingly awesome. Be they many or one, male or female, great mountain or marvelous beast, to teach us anything, they must be extraordinary.

The ancients understood this.

They also understood that “religion” could provide social, political, and ethical structure. It could give form to a culture in its nascence, and the veneer of anointed authority to those who would claim power. And, indeed, the wisest, most resilient tenets are echoed from creed to creed, around the globe. But that’s power, politics, sociology, and sometimes good hygiene. Not god.

Even as science began explaining the previously inexplicable, for the faithful, god was still supposed to be ineffably awesome. The alchemists and mystics embraced this, realizing that figuring out the universe can make it – and its creator – all the more remarkable. As Terry Pratchett said, “It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done.”[1]

Nautilus-Hitchster

Nautilus

So, when did god become so small? Because it doesn’t take a theologian to see that religion and the people who wield it – the fanatic faithful around the world – have sucked all the cosmic wonder out of the divine. They have turned their gods into petty bureaucrats, micromanagers of the absurd. This is all wrapped up in a bundle of personal prejudices and violent convictions which trump civil law and common decency, not to mention, for many, the prime directives of their faiths. They walk through life with the certainty of the zealot, burdened by a “personal” relationship with god that sets them above the rest of us poor mortals. But hey, they’re prophets in their own minds, with a veritable Keystone Pipeline direct to their Supreme Being.

Naturally, this means they know what is best for the rest of us: god speaks to them, tells them who is worthy of being president, or a marriage license, or knowing what to do with their own body. They know – because their god tells them – that an embryo is more deserving of care than the person carrying it or the person it becomes, especially if that person is gay or transgender or poor or not white or a pro-choice physician. That’s the sort of thing he (for this god is invariably “he) worries about.

The glaciers are melting, the oceans are dying, species are disappearing at ELE rates, and human beings are spending inordinate amounts of energy and resources trying to devise bigger and better ways of wiping each other out. But, despite what the Pope and the Dalai Lama – men with official hot lines to god – might say, god doesn’t really care about any of these things. He’d rather poke around in your neighbor’s bedroom (never your own) than worry about climate change or millions facing poverty, illness, and war. He’d rather smite the loving than the murderous, the generous socialist than the avaricious capitalist.

palmyra

Palmyra

These are divine priorities according to fundamentalists in the know. They are convinced with an archaic lack of scientific reasoning, that one gay couple with a marriage license or one Roman ruin left standing in Palmyra will piss off god, forcing him to smite the lot of us.

And of course, they know this because he tells them, and it is their duty to tell the benighted rest of us lest we sully our souls and can’t get into heaven – though why they would want to hang out in heaven with all us sinners is a question for someone smarter than I.

The very people who insist they know god up close and personal, and want to thrust him into everyone else’s life, have diminished him into the mean-spirited second cousin of the neighborhood yenta. Why would they want to? What has made them so afraid?

For so much intolerance surely comes from lives lived in a place of divine dread.

The notion of god-fearing people used to be considered a good thing. They were the up-right, moral types in their emerging civilizations, following divine rules because those were the rules at hand.[2]

But here’s the thing: We no longer live in the ancient world, and divine retribution has no place in a rational modern scenario. Especially in secular societies. (And yes, Virginia, despite the protestations of every Republican running for the presidential nomination, the United States is still a secular nation.) We have legislatures to pass laws and civil courts to punish those who break them. We have outgrown the need for Olympian thunderbolts, and Pentateuch admonitions.

In short, we have evolved. And I think, if there is some great cosmic creator out there, they would applaud our progress. They would also weep at those who would gut the joy from their creation and make them so much less than they are.

Believe what you wish. And if yours is a cruel, narrow, parochial god, you have my sympathies. Just keep him out of my life.

I shall be out noticing a field full of the color purple, flying with dragons, and painting the stars.

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[1] William Blake, e.g., could see “a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

And as Newton said, “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.”
[2] Yet if, as some say, we are all children of the divine, “god-fearing” translates into living in a state of constant parental terror that would have DCF on the case in a New York minute. Surely this isn’t what a mind-blowing cosmic creator intended. Such a magnificent, perfect guardian wants their children to be happy, to find love and fulfillment. They would care for all of their children equally, without judgment or rebuke. It’s Good Parenting 101.