Barbara Streisand and G.K. Chesterton

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G. K. Chesterton, by Ernest Herbert Mills, 1909

00-PEN-777x437Posting Barbara Streisand’s “Don’t Lie to Me” last night brought to mind the hymn lyrics from G. K. Chesterton’s “O God of Earth and Altar”on which my generation was raised in the church of my childhood. In times like this, I return to it often for solace and strength.

O God of earth and altar, bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter, our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us, the swords of scorn divide;
Take not Thy thunder from us, but take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches, from lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men;
From sale and profanation of honor and the sword;
From sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord!

  • G. K. Chesterton

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 14, 2018.

Don’t Lie to Me

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Thank you, Barbara Streisand, for speaking the truth in a way only an artist can. Suffer through the short ad to get to the video. Then share with your friends.

Everyone answers to someone. Share with your friends. Leave a comment. Vote!

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 13, 2018.

Supreme Court Chief Justice refers Kavanaugh ethics questions

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Chief Justice Roberts

A friend drew our attention to this article in Forbes  — IMHO, worth the read. Click the link below.

Chief Justice Roberts requests tenth circuit investigate Kavanaugh ethics questions.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness” — Desmond Tutu.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 13, 2018

Why I Wake Early

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This photograph of early dawn and Mary Oliver‘s poem “Why I Wake Early” greeted me early this morning, as did Aldous Huxley‘s wisdom about walking more lightly, thanks to David Kanigan‘s “I Can’t Sleep” post.

Photograph by spanishlandia re-blogged on Live & Learn

I’ve been feeling heavy lately. Not on the bathroom scales — that weight is down — but on the scales of the soul, the psyche, my spirit. That weight is up. Every day I get heavier. I don’t know what to do. Maybe you don’t either. The news is dark and heavy. The UN climate change report just gave us a decade to act before we trip over the edge of global warming. These are scientists with no vested interest in producing conclusions that would make us smile. Meanwhile, as the latest storm weighs heavily on the hearts of people across the country, a President who insists that climate change is a hoax calls the press and television camera crews into the Oval office to show his concern and assure television viewers that he’s on top of it.

Mike (a retired federal investigator) and I catch a bit of the live coverage. The President is sitting behind his desk. Two members of his Administration are standing near his desk. The President crosses his arms over his chest. “He’s defensive,” says Mike. “He’s hiding something. He’s feeling threatened. He’s feeling exposed.” Later in the day, while Hurricane Michael storms its way through the South, the President boards Air Force One for another photo with a cheering crowd in Erie, Pennsylvania. Before the crowd, the cameras again focus on the President. His arms no longer fold across this chest. His hands are free. His face is smug. I feel sick. I feel heavy. I go to bed. I toss and turn. I can’t sleep.

This morning I rise at 4:00 A.M., go downstairs to make a pot of coffee and check my emails. David Kanigan’s post on  I Can’t Sleep: Live & Learn is waiting to greet me. I open it. The beauty of the photograph lightens my spirit, chases away the heaviness. I read Mary Oliver’s “Why I Wake Early” and Aldous Huxley’s words, written just for me, or so it seems, and, maybe just for you.

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them” — Aldous Huxley.

I’ve finished my third cup of coffee and determine to try not to try so hard, to walk more lightly, even when feeling deeply.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 11, 2018.

Lightly Child, Lightly

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Earlier today we re-blogged this Lightly Child, Lightly post and promptly moved on to write a reflection it inspired. We moved too quickly. We forgot to “stick it” on Views from the Edge’s “front page”. This afternoon, we’re making amends by putting it on our front page with an apology, and with deep thanks to our friend up in Canada, David Kanigan, host of Live & Learn.

lest we would sift it down
into fractions, and facts
certainties
and what the soul is, also
I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,
but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
softly,
through the pale-pink morning light.

-Mary Oliver, from “Bone” in “Why I Wake Early


Notes:

  • Photo: spanishlandia
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

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The Urgent First Priority

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This morning I went back to see what we’ve said about climate change. Here’s an audio guest commentary from June, 2010 on All Things Considered. Click the red link below for  the Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) site with the commentary.

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A lesson learned out on the Gulf of Mexico. Then click LISTEN to hear the three minute reflection prompted by the day on the skipjack with Earl, the oysterman.

November 6 mid-term election opens the door for the American electorate — irrespective of party affiliation — to demand of candidates that they their parties, and the nation itself make climate change action their urgent first priority.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October

Climate Change and the Golden House

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256px-ShipTracks_MODIS_2005may11Have you sometimes felt you’d be better off not knowing? But you can’t help knowing what you know, or think you know?

This is a time like that. It doesn’t just feel like that. It is a time like that. I know, for instance, that the over-riding challenge of our time is climate change. I also know that the ruling party in my country denies that climate change is real, and that neither major party sees climate change action as Priority #1. I know from articles like the one in yesterday’s Phys.org (“Carbon tax gets renewed attention but still faces resistance“) and the U.N. report that the clock is ticking. We’re fiddling while the Earth burns.

NeroThe story of Nero burning down Rome appears to be apocryphal. I know that now. But before I knew that, I wondered what the Roman Senate was doing. Did the members of the Senate follow Nero’s lead? Did they light their own matches? Did they applaud? Did any of them head for the well for the water buckets to douse the fire?

The real Nero Claudius was much different, but also, it turns out, much the same as the one I thought I knew. Britannica speaks as “infamous for his personal debaucheries and extravagances.” Its biography of Nero offers the following on the burning of Rome and the aftermath.

The great fire that ravaged Rome in 64 illustrates how low Nero’s reputation had sunk by this time. Taking advantage of the fire’s destruction, Nero had the city reconstructed in the Greek style and began building a prodigious palace—the Golden House—which, had it been finished, would have covered a third of Rome. During the fire, Nero was at his villa at Antium 35 miles (56 km) from Rome and therefore cannot be held responsible for the burning of the city. But the Roman populace mistakenly believed that he himself had started the fire in Rome in order to indulge his aesthetic tastes in the city’s subsequent reconstruction. — “Nero: Biography and Accomplishments,” Britannica.com.

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Trump Hotel with gold-infused glass, Las Vegas, NV

Today, Nero and the U.S. Senate mock what I know: climate change is real and action on climate change should be priority #1 for every political political party and nation. Knowing Jesus’ parable about the foolish man who built his house upon the sand, and the wise one who built his house upon the rock, I keep hammering on the door of the Golden House that’s built on sand. “Our prayers are hammer-strokes against the princes of darkness,” said Jacob Christoph Blumhardt long ago. “They must oft be repeated. Not a single stroke is wasted.”

I add my little hammer-strokes to those of Governor Jerry Brown, Bill McKibben, 350.org, the Sierra Club for the rescue of the rain forests, the oceans, and all things green from the Golden House that threaten to entomb us. I can only live by what I know: the cry and hope that the hammer-strokes are not too late.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam,” canto 54

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 10, 2018.

A Prayer for Courts & Legislators

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The language is from an earlier time in America culture. Monday, October 8, 2018, the sentiment is on the cutting-edge.

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Walter Rauschenbusch, “father of the Social Gospel Movement”

 We beseech thee for those who are set to make and interpret the laws of our nation. Grant to all lawyers a deep consciousness that they are called of God to see justice done, and that they prostitute a holy duty if ever they connive in its defeat. Fill them with a high determination to make the courts of our land a strong fortress of defense of the poor and weak, and never a castle of oppression for the hard and cunning. [Walter Rauschenbusch, Prayers of the Social Awakening, 1910].

–Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 7, 2018

Faith, Patriotism, and the Administered Consciousness

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After a week of contentious struggle in the U.S. Senate that left the nation not just red and blue, but black-and-blue, I harkened back to “the administered consciousness” (Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man) that mutes Cain’s question after he had slain his brother Abel: “Am I, or am I not, my neighbor’s keeper?” And “who is my neighbor?”

Government by Minority Rule

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115th Congress Senate party membership by state. Vermont and Maine have one independent senator each, Bernie Sanders and Angus King respectively. [Wikipedia]

INTRODUCTION: Views from the Edge publishes “Government by Minority Rule” with the kind permission of its author, Constitutional law scholar David Rudenstine.

“A minority of the national population now controls all three branches of the nation’s government. Or, in other words, in a democracy where the majority presumably rules, current American politics has turned this basic rule upside down and permits the minority to control the majority.

“The president lost the popular vote. The senate is in the hands of senators representing a minority of the overall population. While one-person-one vote requires that the election districts in the house be equal in population, gerrymandering permits the minority party — the Republicans — to control the house. And now the Supreme Court is in the hands of justices four of whom were nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote and who were confirmed by an undemocratic institution — the senate.

“The US constitution was designed to be anti-democratic in nature. Every state regardless of its population has two votes in the senate; the electoral college selects the president without constraints imposed by the majority vote; a majority of the Supreme Court justices invalidates legislation adopted by politically accountable legislators. The intention was to build safe-guards into the governing system to counter the effects of populism and the mobilized public mob.

“But it is unlikely that anyone who designed the system in the 18th century had the current radically distorted allocation of political power in mind, and I cannot recall the last time the current condition existed — perhaps in the 1920s and1930s. Certainly not since Hoover lost to FDR in 1932.

“And now Kavanaugh will be on the high court joining Roberts, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, to make a conservative majority that will more than likely be pro-business, anti-environmental laws, against abortion, hostile to climate change laws and rules, opposed to rights of the LBGT community, rejecting of affirmative action, favoring of the entanglement of religion and government, favoring presidential power, rejecting of the rights of immigrants, and more.

“But after his screed on the left wing Democratic Party political conspiracy Kavanaugh claimed was out to destroy him, his career, and his family, how can Kavanaugh possibly participate in these and other cases which are laced with divisions that mirror Kavanaugh’s own conspiratorial views?

“That was the point that former Justice Stevens made a few days ago. The Supreme Court is possibly hog-tied if one of the nine frequently must recuse himself because of the appearance of a conflict of interest, and it would seem that is what Kavanaugh must do if finally confirmed — not participate in any case that his political screed encompased.

“Unfortunately, the answer may be that Kavanaugh may just tough it out. Scalia did that in a case involving Cheney after Scalia and Cheney went duck hunting together. Rehnquist participated in the design of an Army surveillance program aimed at domestic civilian political dissidents and refused to recuse himself in a 5 to 4 vote almost a half century ago.

“Impeachable? Not likely. Activities that are impeachable are four — treason, bribery, and high crimes and misdemeanors. Of course, Jerry Ford famously stated that those words mean whatever congress says they mean. But then we don’t want Democrats paying games with the impeachment power.

“Now it is true that Kavanaugh’s situation is different from Scalia and Rehnquist’s. In his screed, he has taken on the Democratic Party establishment, and, properly understood, that should cause him to recuse himself in many cases that will be routinely on the Supreme Court’s docket. That in turn will greatly injure the Supreme Court.

“But I doubt if Kavanaugh will recuse himself, and his failure to do so will do great damage to the Court’s legitimacy, as did its 5 to 4 decision in Bush v. Gore.

“Is there a remedy if Kavanaugh does not recuse himself? Perhaps, but I cannot now point to one with any confidence except to secure preferred political outcomes in 2018 and 2020, and then assess matters when Democrats may hold political remedial power.”

— David Rudenstine, Sheldon H. Solow Professor of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, author of The Age of Deference: The Supreme Court, National Security, and the Constitutional Order (2016, Oxford University Press).

 

Hope in dark times

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In times like these, I often turn to the hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” Isaac Watts’ paraphrase of Psalm 90 from 1719. Today I turned to it again for solace and hope. All the singers are white, but, hey, so am I, and there is hope even for the likes of I.

Psalm 90 in its entirety is a song of lament, but hope — and a call to personal responsibility — rise from despair.

Years ago I was given a copy of The Book of Psalms and Scottish Hymnal (1879) with the cursive signature of the man who used it: “John Campbell, Blair Mill, 1886.” (My middle name is Campbell.) I dusted it off this morning to read it through. The rendition of Psalm 90 John Campbell sang in 1886 ends with a prayer that recognizes our own responsibility for “the works of our hands”:

“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: Our handy-work establish Thou, establish them each one” (Psalm 90:17).

  • Gordon Campbell Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 7, 2018.

Elijah plays Peek-a-Boo!

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BOO! And a good day to you. Sixteen-month-old Elijah’s strapped in his carseat for the drive to day care. Mom initiates some fun. Elijah imitates her babbling. Then, on his own initiative, he suddenly takes off his knit cap to play Peek-a-Boo, like the children in Georgios Jakovides‘s 1895 Peek-a-Boo painting from Germany. Some games are timeless and ubiquitous. Peek-a-Boo!🤗

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 6, 2018

Lightly Child, Lightly

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David Kanigan’s post arrived this morning. I’m turning to it after events this afternoon. P.S. David writes from Canada.

I pause under that summer tree, the one that feels like a friend, as my dog wonders why we’ve stopped. She was trotting in such rhythm. But when this still, I wonder what part of me, way down, remains untouched by dream or memory? What drop of being remains out of reach of the opinions of others? When up close, each thing reveals its shimmer. And it’s the unexpected closeness that holds everything together. The light spreads across my dog’s face, her eyes so devoted to wherever I want to go.

Can I be this devoted to the pull of life?  

Mark Nepo, from “Speechless” in Things That Join the Sea and the Sky: Field Notes on Living


Notes:

  • Photo: Bill Leslie with Groovy Times
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying…

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What’s at Stake in the Kavanaugh Decision?

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The Senate’s vote on the confirmation of the President’s appointment to the Supreme Court is more than a partisan matter. At stake is the trust of the American public in its most basic institutions.

Reasons to consider irrespective of partisan interests and loyalties:

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First Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay (1785-1789) — Gilbert Stuart portrait

1. Public confidence in the foundational institutions of the American republic has plummeted. The success of a democratic republic depends on its citizens’ faith in the integrity of the Senate, the Presidency, and, most of all, the U.S. Supreme Court.

2. Any appointment to the Supreme Court should increase rather than erode public confidence in the Court as the final arbiter and interpreter of the law.

512px-Panorama_of_United_States_Supreme_Court_Building_at_Dusk3. The myth of the Supreme Court as standing on the lofty heights of objectivity is a myth, but it is a myth and aspiration worth preserving. Without public trust in the Justices’ commitment and disposition to rule without prejudice, the Rule of Law is viewed as the partisan Rule of Power and Prejudice.

4. Judge Kavanaugh’s behavior during last week’s hearing violated the standards of judicial ethics re: nonpartisanship and calm judicial temperament. Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment will further erode trust in the Supreme Court as an objective arbiter and interpreter of the law.

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Dr. Christine Ford

5. While the President declared publicly to the press that the FBI was free to go wherever it needed — with no restrictions placed on its background check — the White House already had limited the FBI to a handful of people. The President’s statements were duplicitous and deceptive.

6. Names of corroborating witnesses provided during the FBI interviews with the nine people the White House had authorized were ignored. They include high school and college classmates who publicly refute Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony regarding excessive drinking and allegations of sexual misconduct.

7. The majority party’s and the president’s shifts from belief in Dr. Ford’s credibility to public mockings of Dr. Ford and angry allegations of a partisan plot to destroy Judge Kavanaugh raise red flags about a predominantly male Senate’s ability to take women seriously.

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Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens official portrait

8. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (Ret.) yesterday urged disapproval of confirmation based on the nominee’s partisan and aggressive testimony before the Judiciary Committee. Retired Justices don’t do that. Stevens did, for the sake of the Court’s reputation and integrity.

9. Senate confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee who has declared his position that the law prevents a sitting president from being indicted, and who, in his testimony, refused to say he would recuse himself on such a case, gives the appearance of prejudicing the Court in favor of any case that might come before it.

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Yale yearbook photo of Brett Kavanaugh

 

10. Judge  Kavanaugh’s op-ed in The Wall Street Journal is welcome. The admission of inappropriate conduct before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week neither erases the behavior nor qualifies him for appointment to the Supreme Court.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 5, 2018.

Elijah asks for Bumpa

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During a recent visit to our house, Elijah’s mother had taped a moment between grandson and grandpa. Yesterday, Kristin wanted to show Elijah the video. He calls Grandpa Gordon “Bumpa” — take a peek.

 

  • Grandpa Gordon (Bumpa), Chaska, MN, October 4, 2018.

My Dog’s Happy Hour

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Barclay smiling in the car

There’d been no intention of a Happy Hour yesterday when I decided to go to Target for a short errand. “Barclay,” I asked, “wanna go for a ride in the car?” Barclay cocked his head, ran for the door to the underground garage, and leaped for joy. We drove to Target. I cracked open the windows, left Barclay in the car. In the parking lot, I see my friend Chuck, whom I’d been with an hour earlier on a business matter where I’d asked whether he’d ever been to Ike’s. He hadn’t. “Why do you ask? Is it good?” “I don’t know. I’ve never been there,” I’d said. “My neighbor Michael tells me it has the best Martini in town — not one of those tiny Martinis you get at most places around here. It’s big, and they give you the shaker, too.”

Inside Target, Chuck and I take our places in the line for picking up prescriptions. The line is long. Neither of us is good at waiting. We decide, on the spur of the moment, to go to Ike’s Happy Hour for a different prescription. We leave Target and join Barclay for the trip to Ike’s. At Ike’s I again leave Barclay in the car, opening all four windows a little more than I had at Target. As he always does, Barclay smiles. He knows the routine. He lies down on the driver’s seat.

Sitting at the bar for our nonprescription drugs, we notice the wind has come up and it’s pouring rain outside. “Do you think Barclay’s okay?” asks Chuck. “He’ll be fine,” I say, “nothing flusters him. He’s not afraid of storms.” The Martini is everything Michael had said it would be. So is the Happy Hour food he’d recommended: two mouth-watering beef tenderloin sliders with grilled onions and horseradish sauce, one on pumpernickel, the other on sourdough, for $7.50. We love this place!

We pay the tab and head back to the car. Barclay is calm until Chuck opens the passenger door. Barclay sits up, smothers Chuck with kisses, and says, “I was worried about you guys!” Both seats are partially wet from the storm. Barclay is dry. We are not.

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Barclay

We leave Ike’s parking lot and drive back to Target where Chuck had left his car. Chuck goes in for his prescription. Barclay and I call it a day and head home. Safe at home in the underground garage, Barclay stays put like a petulant child. “Dad, why can’t I stay in the car? I love Happy Hour!”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 4, 2018

 

 

A Responsible Electorate

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Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

During last Sunday’s “60 Minutes” interview, Sen. Jeff Flake was asked if he could have done what he did last week in the Supreme Court confirmation process if her were running for re-election. He was quick to respond. “No!” He and his colleague from the other side of aisle, Chris Coons, confirmed what many Americans have come to lament: the tar and feathering of compromise — the art on which a democratic republic depends.

In the simplified mindset of good versus evil, there is no room for compromise. The Judiciary hearing room was a room like that. But the behavior we saw in the hearing room wasn’t really about good versus evil. Jeff Flake’s “No” tore off the mask. It’s about money — the ability of candidates to secure financing for their campaigns on both sides of the aisle. Any candidate running for election in 2018 would be foolish to reach across the aisle, even though conscience might lead to do so. Sen. Mitch McConnell later put it bluntly: any Republican who votes not to confirm Kavanaugh will no longer receive campaign money. The Republican National Committee (RNC) will turn off the faucet.

256px-GOP_SquareMeanwhile, RNC money and dark money pours into the race in Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District. I’ve waded through mud many times over the years, but this is the dirtiest campaign I’ve ever experienced. Yesterday’s snail mail, for example, contained TWO slick negative ads funded by the Republican National Committee, slandering the Democratic candidate. These same ads leap out from my computer monitor whenever I open a YouTube video. Someone has mastered cyber analytics, and it’s not the Russians. The RNC-sponsored, complete with “I [Erik Paulsen] approve this message,” approved by Erik  paint Dean Phillips, as a monster, A hypocrite. They twist facts. The real message? Erik is the “good guy”; Dean is the “bad guy”.

Yet only Dean Phillips refuses to accept money from the PACs, special interests, and lobbyists that elects partisan loyalists who surrender conscience and the courage to compromise. The “good guy” refused to join the “bad guy” in that pledge. The money is pouring into the 3rd District from outside Minnesota — like fire trucks and rescue squads responding to a 5-alarm fire. The hoses spew mud.

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It’s the responsibility of the electorate to slog through the mud and take off our waders before entering the voting booth.

Gordon C. Stewart, Minnesota 3rd Congressional District, October 3, 2018.

The Two Parts of Wisdom

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A Facebook comment led me to recall the words of a 16th century theologian most people today regard as an old fuddy-duddy. First the old fuddy-duddy:

Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.

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John Calvin (1504-1564) was no more a Calvinist than Jesus was a Christian. You can’t follow yourself. He didn’t. He sought wisdom. Many times his search led him to disconcerting conclusions, and actions that trouble me. But the quotation from the very first paragraph of the first page of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is pure gold. It’s stayed with me as priceless. They could have come from Carl Jung!

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The return of the prodigal son – Rembrandt drawing

Recognition of the inseparable connection between the knowledge of self and the knowledge of God is as old as philosophy and theology themselves. Augustine of Hippo wrote about coming to the knowledge of God through the knowledge of himself. “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee,” wrote St. Augustine after leading an unsavory life like the one portrayed in Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son. Only by delving into the self that was deeper than his squandering was Augustine able to write his Confessions and The City of God. The search for knowledge of himself and for the knowledge of God were of one piece.

Anticipating the FBI’s expanded background check of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, I began to wonder what we’re seeing and how we’re seeing it in light of the two kinds of knowledge that give birth to “the true and solid Wisdom.” Then, almost by accident, I stumbled across a remarkable personal reflection on sexual abuse and sexuality on Facebook. I’d never heard of the writer until this morning. But I do know his mother, a ministerial colleague, who appears to have raised him to search for two parts of wisdom.

With the writer’s permission, we share here the LINK to the personal reflection on Facebook. It’s long, but well worth the read.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 1, 2018.

 

 

Find your Fire

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Fire, in this case, is passion. If you want to be a successful blogger, find your fire.

The advice comes from The Art of Blogging. I wish I’d read that before launching Views from the Edge years ago. But, hey, it’s never too late, right?

Thanks to fellow-blogger Marilyn Armstrong for the photo. I’m musing on the lily pad!

So, what, I’m asking myself, is my passion? What’s the fire in my belly? The thing that makes me tick? The thing that makes me come alive? It’s a simple question. A clarifying question. But the answer’s not so simple. Not so clear.

Writing that last incomplete sentence led me to my fire, my life passion: To see more clearly!

Life is strange. Truth is almost always strange, sometimes stranger than fiction (Lord Byron). Searching for what’s real — cutting through the appearances, illusions, shams, and socially acceptable convictions and beliefs — has always been my fire. I am naturally skeptical of things that seem normal and claims that call for my allegiance.

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garden fish pond

Since the day I plunged to the bottom of Dickie Tinsley’s fish pond after Mrs. Thomas told our Vacation Bible School kindergarten class that Peter could walk on water because he had faith, my fire has been a quest to get to what is real — to see more clearly.

I used to be a preacher man. Now I’m a blogger. According to The Art of Blogging, anyone who wants to be a successful blogger needs to pay as much attention to a post’s ending as to its beginning. I need to end not with a preacher’s declaration but with a philosopher’s query that invites readers to engage and respond from their own experience. So here’s the question that invites your response:

What’s your fire? What’s your passion?

  • Gordon, Chaska, MN, September 30, 2018.

Elijah the 16 month-old walks the dog!

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Elijah and Kay swingYesterday 16 month-old Elijah and his mom came by to visit Grandma and Bumpa (Grandpa). But mostly he wanted to play with his friend Barclay, the five year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He took Barclay for a walk and a little conversation on the parking lot, stopping to point to the sky, step up to the sidewalk, leash in hand, and walk Barclay as no one else ever has.

  • Elijah, Barclay, and Bumpa, September 30, 2018.

I’D RATHER BE A JUDGE THAN A MINER: BEYOND THE FRINGE – Marilyn Armstrong

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It’s been quite a week! We need some laughter. Here’s hoping Marilyn Armstrong’s post will lighten your day as it did mine. Click the link below — Serendipity: Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth — to open the post and view the video of Peter Cook’s droll humor.

Serendipity - Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

We now, after almost 350 years of nationhood, have a president who thinks mining — coal mining — is a good idea and a fine way to make a living. Oddly enough, someone else had this idea years ago.

It was hilarious — and stupid — then. It is no less stupid and hilarious now.

BEYOND THE FRINGE – Peter Cook
Why I’d Rather Be A Judge Than A Miner


I think it might really be funnier now than it was in 1964.

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The Leap from the Wall

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Mutter Erde photo of “thinking nude boy” at the entrance of Friedrich-Paulsen-Gymnasium, Berlin-Steglitz, Gritznerstr uploaded from Wikimedia Commons.

A childhood memory flashed to mind watching the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings this week.

I’m seven years old again. My mother is screaming. She has gone down to the cellar to do the laundry. A rat stared at her from the huge hole in the cellar wall that connects our home to the open cistern. My mother is terrified.

My father grabs the shotgun he’d borrowed for just such an occasion. Dad goes down the stairs to the cellar. I follow him. It’s scary, but it’s exciting. What if the rat leaps at my father before my father shoots? Filled with fear, I watch from the bottom step.

The rat is staring from the wall, his beady yellow eyes shining in the dimly lit cellar. My father is perhaps eight feet away. He takes aim and fires the shot. The rat leaps through the air for my father’s jugular. My father ducks. The rat died. My father cements shut the hole and the cistern.

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar official portrait

Yesterday Sen. Amy Klobuchar fired the question at Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The Judge leaped for her jugular. Amy ducked. Senator Klobuchar survives. The nominee is alive on the floor, but badly wounded.

I’ll always be a “thinking nude boy” trying to make sense of life.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 29, 2018.

No one can burn the truth

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The most telling point in yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing was the sudden shift away from Rachel Mitchell, the experienced prosecutor of sex crimes whom the Republican all male majority had appointed to examine the accuser and the accused on their behalf. It was an unprecedented protocol.

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Professor Christine Blasey Ford

All morning, during the testimony of Professor Christine Blasey Ford, the members of the majority ceded their five-minutes to Ms. Mitchell. She, not they, did all the questioning. Then, early in the afternoon session with Kavanaugh, the protocol disappeared.

Ms. Mitchell’s impartial inquiry came to a sudden end when Sen. Lindsay Graham lit the match that shifted the focus from Ms. Mitchell’s methodical inquiry. The protocol for “getting at the truth” went up in flames. Ms. Mitchell never was called upon again. The men who had brought her from Arizona to Washington, D.C. brushed her aside without explanation or comment by anyone of the committee. She was no longer useful to the majority’s purposes.

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Sen. Lindsay Graham (R)

Experts in the field of sexual violence have eyes and ears — and a sixth sense — most of us don’t have. They know the typical behaviors of victims and perpetrators. Belligerence is one of the behaviors of perpetrators. Judge Kavanaugh’s less than judicial demeanor — his unrestrained anger and belligerent attack on Sen. Klobuchar’s legitimate, pertinent  questions about the use of alcohol — would have rung a familiar bell. Ms. Mitchell’s attempt to get at the truth had gotten too close.

The Judiciary Committee appears ready to recommend confirmation. Majority Leader McConnell has pledged to push it through the full Senate.

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The Universal Man, Liber Divinorum Operum of St. Hildegard of Bingen (1165)

Last night the American Bar Association, which endorsed Judge Kavanaugh as highly qualified, called for what the chair, majority members, and the nominee himself have steadfastly refused to do: suspend the process and call for the FBI to re-open its independent investigation of the facts.

It’s enough to make me hope that Mechtild von Magdeburg, the lesser known medieval mystic contemporary of Hildegard von Bingen was right:

“No one can burn the truth.”

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 28, 2018.

Elijah gets an alignment

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Elijah and conceal and carry

Elijah and Bumpa

Bumpa, I’m 16 today!

Elijah, I’m so proud of you on your 16th birthday.

Me, too, Bumpa. Let’s go get my driver’s permit! I’m tired of my carseat!

No, you’re 16 months old, not 16 years old, and yesterday you had a meltdown at Target.

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Target Corporation Logo

Yeah, Grandma had to take me out of the store and walk me around outside Target to calm me down. She was crying, too. I couldn’t tell why. I was too busy screaming. But I saw tears in her eyes. I love Grandma!

I’m so sorry, Elijah. Grandma loves you too. And you have the best Mom in the world!

I know. But it was two o’clock, Bumpa! I was tired. We’d been out since 7:00 A.M. We’d been out all day getting Mom new tires, new brakes and an alignment, then lunch at Panera, and then shopping at Target. I was really good until a half hour tromping around Target. We should have gone home right after the alignment. I needed a nap. I want my own car!

At your age that’s a long time to be good. It was time to hit the brakes.

Mom and Grandma thought so, too, before I grabbed that thing off the shelf and didn’t let go and wouldn’t stop screaming when they tried to take it away.

I’m so sorry you didn’t get your nap. You’re only 16 months old. You need your naps.

I love you, Bumpa! You understand better than Mom and Grandma! They don’t take a LONG nap every day like you and me. You’re 76. I’m only 16. We get an alignment every afternoon at one o’clock, right Bumpa?

Right, Elijah. Sometimes our wheels get out of alignment. Sometimes we need new tires. And when the tires get worn, we need an alignment. Nothing aligns a person better than a nap! A good nap is a good brake.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, “Bumpa”, September 27, 2018.

 

 

 

 

Grandpa’s car is 15 years old. Grandpa’s car got an alignment yesterday.

The Kavanaugh Nomination and the Founders’ Hope

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512px-Panorama_of_United_States_Supreme_Court_Building_at_DuskMost deeply at stake in the decision regarding Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation is the further erosion of public trust in the institutions on which this democratic republic was founded. The Supreme Court was the one institution intended to do its work high above the cock fights of special interest, prevailing winds, and partisanship.

256px-Constitution_of_the_United_States,_page_1Democratic republics are built on trust. The American people’s trust in the republic’s institutions was the bedrock on which the U.S. Constitution was framed and adopted. The genesis of American independence and sovereignty lay in a hope yet to be tested: whether the American experiment would meet the test of being a nation “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The experiment would depend on the American people’s readiness to trust — and the trustworthiness of those institutions.

No institution of government was more important than the U.S. Supreme Court. While the legislative and executive branches are blown by the winds of the American electorate, the Supreme Court was to more objective, above the influence of partisan agendas and popular winds. The Supreme Court was the guardian of the Constitution, the final decision-maker of cases of that came to it from disputed cases in the lower courts.

In previous eras of the American republic, the justices of the Supreme Court worked behind the screen of public scrutiny. As America morphed into an entertainment culture, the justices’ personal lives and views came out from behind the screen of the legal holy of holies onto the stage of public scrutiny. They made speeches. They heard applause. They became either heros or villains. Like the Wizard of Oz, their humanity frailty came was eposed. A sacred hope — the trust in the Court to stand above the cockfights down the in the valley — died.

Judge_Brett_KavanaughTomorrow (Thursday) the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing will be at the top of the news. One of the three women who accuse Judge Kavanaugh of sexual assault or abuse will be examined by an prosecuting attorney selected by the ruling party majority. The cameras will then turn to Judge Kavanaugh expected denial, the equivalent of a court rebuttal. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has scheduled a vote Friday morning.

One need not be a partisan to object to the process. One need only think of the bedrocks of the people’s trust in their government’s institutions and our perception of their trust-worthiness. The founders’ hope for the American experiment is at risk because of the very institutions established by the U.S. Constitution.

Hope is IN SPITE OF Troubles!

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Kosuke Koyama - RIP

Kosuke Koyama (1929-2009)

“You have to be hopeful; you have to give them hope.”

“Okay,” I said, “but I can’t give anyone else hope. Hope comes from within.”

Hope seems harder in 2018 than it was when Kosuke Koyama advised the younger preacher to stay positive. Years later, it was to Dr. Koyama that Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness was dedicated for many reasons. Maintaining hope was one of them. His humility was another. His characteristic kindness and compassion reached out when friends were scarce. But nothing became more impactful than the statement he made over lunch: “There is only one sin: exceptionalism.”

Years before his death in 2009, Koyama (“Ko”) had begun to view the environmental crisis through the lens of humankind’s presumption: the mistaken belief that we, the human species, are the exception to Nature. For Ko it was a form of idolatry.

In light of this week’s avalanche of news, I’ve wondered what Ko would say. He still would bless us with his smile. He would encourage us to resist the claim of American exceptionalism, the confusion of nationalism (worship of country) with patriotism (love of one’s country), any border policy that takes children from their parents arms in the name of national security, every energy policy that feeds the coffers of the fossil fuel industry (“God is green,” said Ko), every exaltation of greed, every distortion of truth, every tax policy that keeps the poor poor while lining the pockets of the 1%, and any President and Congress that reminded him of Emperor Hirohito and the cult of national exceptionalism he grew up with in Tokyo. The god of empire, he observed, never says no. The God of the Bible says no: “You are a stiff-necked people!”

But amid all the issues that deserve our attention, I believe Ko would urge us to keep our eye on the biggest of sin — the mega sin — the sin against Nature that imperils the planet as we know it. His legacy invites us to bow our stiff necks to that which is bigger, longer lasting, and more encompassing than ourselves. Everything less is built on sinking sand.

Ko spoke in metaphors and parables. I believe he would remind us of Jesus’ parable of the wise man who built his house upon the rock versus the foolish one who built his house upon the sand. “And the rains came down, and the floods came up, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”

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NASA satellite photo of clouds created by the exhaust of ship smokestacks.

 

He would rally behind Bill McKibben’s declaration that “climate change is the single biggest thing that humans have ever done on this planet. The one thing that needs to be bigger is our movement to stop it.” The only way to stop it is to turn from the the mega sin — the idol of human exceptionalism, the worship of ourselves.

“[T]hrough endurance, to feel that life is surrounded by the warm approval of God, will that not be the experience of hope? Hope is in spite of troubles. There is not hope apart from troubles. There is no automatic hope, no easy hope. Hope is hope against all odds.” — Kosuke Koyama, Three Mile an Hour God.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 25, 2018.

 

Finding Bigfoot

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“Americans are the best entertained and least informed people in the world.” – Neil Postman.

AmusinghknI still watch football. I’m sorry — mea culpa — but I do. Always have. But it’s different this season. Though my hopes for my teams have always been subject to injuries, something worse gets injured every two years: truth.

Watching the Gophers (University of Minnesota) and Minnesota Vikings (NFL) last weekend, most of the ads were what we’ve come to expect. They sell us products by entertaining ads that create our appetites for what we don’t need.

But there were other well-placed ads during breaks in the action: “information” ads meant to stir my righteous anger by painting Dean Phillips (D) — the candidate running against Congressman Erik Paulsen (R) in my district (Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District) — as an immoral hypocrite. It’s not information; it’s carefully crafted disinformation meant to evoke outrage and fear. The campaign season and football season are a lot alike with one big difference: football has penalties. There are referees and umpires.

Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business appeared way back in 1985, years before Citizens United uncorked the tightly secured laboratory vile containing the life-threatening, infectious virus of unaccountable slander, and released the contents into electoral stream of a democratic republic.

We Americans pride ourselves in being a nation “under the rule of Law.” Everyone is equal “under the rule of law.” Citizens United exposed the dirty little secret that we’re not. Slowly over time, the American democratic republic has become an oligarchy. Dark money — big money from unnamed deep-pockets, vested interest sources — was legitimized under the rule of law by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision. The rule of law became more explicitly the rule of oligarchs, who buy presidencies and congresses with their campaign contributions, and who spend big money for ads like the one they hope will keep Rep. Erik Paulsen in the House of Representatives.

Congressman Paulsen represents my district. I know him. Well, I don’t really know him. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet him face-to-face. During his eight year tenure in Congress, he never held a town hall meeting before candidate Dean Phillips made an issue of his inaccessibility to the people who elected him to represent us. While others across the country held town hall forums in their districts, Rep. Paulsen refused to hold one. Finally, after increasingly public criticism, Rep. Paulsen offered an alternative: a telephone conference call. My phone would ring at 7:00 P.M. “Hello, This is Congressman Erik Paulsen inviting you to join me in a live conversation . . . Press 1 to participate….” I couldn’t bring myself to press the button lest I contribute to his claim of accessibility. Finally, after his unwillingness became a bigger issue in the Paulsen-Phillips debate, Erik Paulsen held his first face-to-face town hall meeting in eight years.

Yesterday we shared the ads that interrupt my football watching. The Paulsen ads interrupt far more often than the Phillips ads. There’s a reason for that. Money. The Paulsen campaign is well-funded by the unaccountable deep pockets uncorked by Citizens United. The Paulsen ad we posted yesterday is dark in tone and slanderous in content. The Phillips campaign refuses PAC, special interest, or federal lobbyist money. They too are carefully crafted to tell the truth with humor.

Football couch potatoes in MN District 3 are the best entertained voters in the country.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 20, 2018.

Falsifying Reality: the Road to Power

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[George] Orwell saw, to his credit, that the act of falsifying reality is only secondarily about changing perceptions. It is, above all, a way of asserting power.” – Adam Gopnik.* Here’s an example from my congressional district.

Big money for Erik Paulsen‘s re-election is pouring in from PACs, special interests, and federal lobbyists. Dean Phillips refuses dark money. Ads like the one below are funded by small donations from little guys like me who don’t like falsifying reality.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, courtesy of the coffee shop wifi, 20 minutes away from the cabin by the wetland, September 19, 2018.

*Adam Gopnik is author of “Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Trump’s America” Click the LINK.

Thanks to William (Bill) Britton’s Wisdom from the Margins: Daily Readings for bringing my attention to the quotation, one of several by Gopnik, Thomas Merton, Noam Comsky, and the Apostle Paul (“Be transformed by the renewal of your mind”). Bill’s daily menu is worth the price!

The Spiral Staircase

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Simone Weil (1909-1943)

French playwright-novelist-philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote about “the hole” in me, the hole in you, the hole of nothingness in the midst of mortal being. To live authentically is to live courageously in spite of the threat of nothingness. Sartre’s French contemporary Simone Weil offered a similar observation: “All sins are attempts to fill voids.”

Today their perspectives speak to the greatest challenge of our time: climate change. The spiral stairway we climb up toward the mastery of nature also spirals down to dust and ashes — the death of the planet as we know it.

512px-Mangkhut_2018-09-14_0750ZWe are not content to live as mortals on the plain of nature, along clean streams, rivers, and oceans, or in lush valleys, in the desert or on nature’s mountaintops. We must go higher, higher, higher — up, up, up — to no real anywhere.

Our climb to mastery reaches where no other species can go — above the storm clouds, where we look to DNA manipulation to rid us of nature’s mistakes, and where satellites search for other sentient life light years away — above the clouds of Mother Earth’s torrential storms and rains that remind us of the void. The higher we climb, the closer we get to the bottom, the irreversible plunge into Jean-Paul Sartre’s ‘nothingness’, Simone Weil’s ‘sins’ that attempt to fill the void’, the Bible’s ‘dust and ashes’.

António_Guterres_in_London_-_2018_(41099390345)_(cropped)U. N. General-Secretary Antonio Guterres calls for immediate international action on the Paris Climate Change Accords and much more. Days ago, he tweeted:

My condolences to all those affected by storms in East Asia and the United States. We need urgent #ClimateAction to prevent an irreversible spiral into catastrophic climate change. bit.ly/2MHvZkV

Here in the United States the White House and Congress ignore his plea. Funded by dark money legitimized by Citizens United, and forgetting the Wall Street financial crisis of 2008, our elected officials and dominant political parties continue to measure the nation’s health by the stock market’s rises and declines. Crony capitalism provides the electorate with what we demand: positive thinking, silence about the void, and the stuff that keeps us busy shopping at the mall.

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“America’s favorite weekend activity,” writes American Quaker Robert Lawrence Smith, “is not participating in sports, gardening, hiking, reading, visiting with friends and neighbors. It’s shopping…. We leave boredom and emptiness behind as we browse through (the mall’s) glittering corridors of stuff. Yet many of us have learned that acquiring too much stuff can get in the way of happiness, lead us back to boredom and emptiness, corrupt our children’s values.”

We stay on the stairway, deaf to the Secretary-General’s startling cry, and blind to the planetary clock ticking closer to midnight. We Americans are positive thinkers who disdain the idea of nothingness and the void that belong to the French philosophers and other negative thinkers. We dare not stop to think.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, on the wetland, September 18, 2018

PS. “The economy’s never been better.” I think I’ll head over to the mall or swing by the Porsche dealership.

Bumpa, what’s faith?

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Elijah and Bumpa (i.e. Grandpa) are talking after the Vikings-Packers game.

Elijah and Grandpa talking

Bumpa, what’s faith?

Why are you asking about faith, Elijah?

Mom just said it. She said that word again, just like she did last week.

Said what?

She said “You gotta have faith.” Maybe you should turn up your hearing aids.

I see. Mom was talking about Bumpa’s attempt to lose weight.

Yeah. I hate to wait!

Well, waiting is different but it does require faith. Bumpa can’t just wait to lose weight. I have to work at it.

You’re drivin’ me crazy! I asked you a simple question: “What’s faith?”

Okay. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

What’s assurance?

It’s a little like confidence, Elijah. Or believing things will turn out well even when everything looks bad.

So that rookie kicker needed faith, right?

Yes. He lost his faith right there on the football field…THREE times. He lost his confidence. He didn’t believe it was going to turn out well, and he blew nine points. Nine points!!! All because he lacked faith.

Yeah, his coach lost faith in him and he lost faith in himself, right Bumpa?

Right. But faith is about more than football, Elijah. It’s about life. It’s the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.

What’s conviction? So we believe in ghosts?

No, Elijah. Remember when Barclay let you play with his ball and didn’t bite? It’s a little like that. Faith is trust. I hope you never lose your faith!

  • Bumpa and Elijah, Chaska, MN, September 17, 2018.

 

 

 

 

Living with Myself

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Antoni-de-melo

Anthony de Mello (1931-1937)

Living with myself is hard sometimes. Almost as hard as it is to live with me. I need lots of help to be a better person.

This morning, Anthony de Mello‘s and Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s reflections featured in William Britton’s Wisdom from the Margins: Daily Readings brought me up short.

Saʿdī of Shiraz tells this story about himself: “When I was a child I was a pious boy, fervent in prayer and devotion. One night I was keeping vigil with my father, the Holy Koran on my lap. Everyone else in the room began to slumber, and soon was sound asleep. So I said to my father: ‘None of these sleepers opens his eyes or raises his heart to say his prayers. You would think that they were all dead.’ My father replied, ‘My beloved son, I would rather you were asleep like them than slandering.’” (Anthony de Mello, The Song of the Bird)

My own father and Saʿdī’s father were much the same. I can’t help wondering what Dad might say today of all the slandering and the sleeping.

To my unredeemed slandering heart and mind, the sleepers (those who refuse to stay awake to what is happening in America) are readily identifiable by their choice of a news channel. The sleepers, I say to myself, are not awake…like me. Oops! The voices of Saʿdī’s father and mine alert me to my habitual slandering. They call me to a lead a more gracious, fuller, life.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

But the way of living with myself and others consciously and respectfully seems impossible. It’s not simple. Slander is a sin of commission. Consenting to evil is the sin of omission. One is still called to act, but without slandering.

“Who stands firm?” asked Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his German prison cell following a failed plot to assassinate Hitler to end World War II. “Only the one for whom the final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these, when in faith and sole allegiance to God he is called to obedient and responsible action: the responsible person, whose life will be nothing but an answer to God’s question and call” (Letters and Papers from Prison).

While the masses had fallen asleep to the horror of the German Third Reich, Bonhoeffer “stood firm” and paid the ultimate price — state execution — for committing the sin of commission: resistance to Hitler and mass madness and slaughter. One might suppose that a man like Bonhoeffer’s disdained the character of those who fell asleep. But it was this same Bonhoeffer who instructed the students of his underground seminary the lesson Saʿdī’ father and mine tried to teach us.

“By judging others, we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace to which others are just as entitled as we are” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship).

It’s hard to live with myself! I need all the help I can get. Bill Britton’s Wisdom from the Margins: Daily Readings is a hidden treasure worth the price for anyone feeling the need to “stand up” without slandering.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, on the wetland with the Trumpeter Swans, September 12, 2018.

9/11/18: A Defining Moment

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WTCmemorialJune2012Today, the 17th anniversary of 9/11, the subway station that was buried by the fall of the World Trade Center towers, has reopened to loud cheers. Hope survives! So does the question “What have we learned since we trembled in horror and disbelief 17 years ago?”

The 9/11 Anniversary in 2018 coincides with the release of Bob Woodward’s FEAR exposing the moral abyss that is the White House; National Security Advisor John Bolton’s “America First” attack of the legitimacy of the international court; and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s statement urging immediate action on climate change.

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U.N Secretary General Antonio Guterres

Climate change is the defining issue of our time, and we are at a defining moment. … Far too many of leaders have refused to listen.

If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change. [Antonio Guterres]

The collapse of the World Trade Center brought us to a dead stop. We could see it. First responders touched it. NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani became “America’s mayor”.

We Americans wondered what sense of morality would lead someone to highjack commercial aircrafts and turn them into weapons of mass destruction. All these years later, morality is still the question. “America’s mayor” today declares that truth is not truth, while we ignore a greater threat, less visible to the naked eye — climate change — exceeds the geographically limited horror of 9/11. 9/11/18 is a defining moment in a sea of moral amnesia requiring a voice from beyond the spiritual-moral morass America has become.

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Václav Havel

“The worst thing,” wrote the Czech writer and former President Václav Havel, as though peering ahead into the American of 9/11/18, “is that we live in a contaminated moral environment. We feel morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility or forgiveness lost their depth and dimension” (bold added by Views from the Edge).

In this defining moment, hope again rises against hope with its own kind of prayer for the end of the planetary moral madness:

“There is only one thing I will not concede: that it might be meaningless to strive in a good cause.”
― Vaclav Havel, Summer Meditations

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, 9/11/18.

 

 

 

A Window of Opportunity: Rosh Hashanah

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Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that celebrates the birth of humankind with the blowing of the shofar (AUDIO LINK).

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Rosh Hashanah’s meaning takes me back to last week’s Jewish wedding in Boston Symphony Hall, the kind of joyful occasion that’s good for the weary soul. Although I might have anticipated meeting a Holocaust survivor in his/her 90s, I did not expect the survivor to be my age.

Stephen and I were born two months apart in very different words — the Warsaw ghetto under Nazi occupation, and the U.S.A., respectively. Stephen and his mother survived. His father and the rest of his family died in the gas ovens of Auschwitz. His father arranged for two-year-old Steve and his mother’s to escape and survive under the clandestine protection of Polish Christian. How Stephen’s father made the arrangements is a mystery lost in time and the ashes of Auschwitz.

Rosh Hashanah is marked by the blowing of the shofar that starts the 10 High Holy Days leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

What is Rosh Hashanah all about? In addition to its meaning as the “head of the year”, we also refer to it as the “Day of Judgment”. What, in fact, did the Rabbis tell us to do on Rosh Hashanah? Curiously, there is virtually no mention of our own personal judgment in the Rosh Hashanah prayers. Instead, the prayers are all about the general condition of the world. – Rabbi Asher Resnick.

The Jewish sense of time is different from the dominant understanding of time in the West. Time spirals. It loops back and forward. Rosh Hashanah cycles back in order to spiral forward. It is, like every other Jewish holiday, “a metaphysical window of opportunity” (Rabbi Asher Resnick).

Meeting Stephen, the retired doctor in Princeton, New Jersey, in Boston at a Jewish wedding opened a different kind of metaphysical window of opportunity. The rapport was immediate, the window of opportunity opened between us as if we were long-lost friends. Such times redefine time. They spiral back to fetch hope for a new humanity and carry it forward in another dark time. This Rosh Hashanah I sound the shofar for Stephen, his family, all victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and the Polish Christian family that protected Stephen and his mother until the horror was (more or less) over and a mad world repents.

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the shofar (ram’s horn)

Shana Tova!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 10, 2018.

 

 

 

 

Elijah and Grandpa Walkin’ and Talkin’

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Elijah and Grandpa are walkin’ and “talkin'” on the way to his car seat.

“I’m walkin’, yes indeed, and I’m talkin’ ’bout you and me
I’m hopin’ that you’ll come back to me (yes)
I’m lonely as I can be, I’m waitin’ for your company
I’m hopin’ that you’ll come back to me….” – Fats Domino

Click this link — I’m Walkin’ – Fats Domino (1957). All these years later, I’m walking’ and talkin’ ’bout Elijah, hopin’ he’ll come back to me.

  • Gordon C. Stewart (Grandpa). September 10, 2018

Elijah with Johnny Cash and Grandpa

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Elijah sways to all kinds of music from Verdi’s Te Deum and Widor’s Toccata to Johnny Cash at San Quentin. He moves his body to the rhythms. Always has. After a YouTube of The Flight of the Bumble Bee, I turned to Johnny Cash. “San Quentin, I hate every inch of you!”

Elijah doesn’t know that Grandpa and Grandma Stewart each served among the inmates of maximum security prisons like San Quentin in New York and Trenton, N.J.  It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Elijah already dances to the music of justice. Whenever I’m with Elijah, I experience a joyful Toccata!

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Clinton Correctional Facility, Dannemora, NY (“the hell hole of the New York prison system”) where Grandpa once led weekly programs for inmates (1975-1977).

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 9, 2018.

The identity of the NYT op-ed author

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“Treason Toddy” cartoon (1865) of Benedict Arnold and Jefferson Davis with Satan.

For the moment, the Trump cabinet member alleged to have written the NYT editorial remains anonymous. His or her identity is unknown to the public and to the president. But can one really suppose the author’s cry was not part of a larger strategy to remove the president from office?

25th_imageThe president’s immediate response was expected, a silly reprise of Muhammed Ali: “I am the greatest!” Ali was having fun. The president is not, and this morning he is serious, though increasingly isolated and without friends in the search to identify his betrayer. The cabinet members may all turn out to be accomplices of the anonymous author, the  first cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Presidents don’t gain personal loyalty by calling members of their cabinets names. Woodward’s book is filled with quotes in which the president belittles his own closest colleagues, the men and women he himself has appointed to serve the country with him as the Trump Administration.

Whether the NYT author is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Chief of Staff John Kelley, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, White House Counsel Don McGahn, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Director of National Security Dan Coats, or — sound the alarms — Director of National Security Bolton, or someone else makes little difference.

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Nathan Hale (patriot spy) postage stamp

Was the NYT op-ed anonymous because the author is a cowardly traitor like Benedict Arnold? Or is s/he an American patriot like Nathan Hale (“I regret that I have only one life to lose for my country”) but choosing temporary anonymity for the purpose of preparing the American public for the Trump cabinet decision to invoke the 25th Amendment?

Bob Woodward’s new book, FEAR, cites former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus calling the presidential bedroom, where Trump’s early morning and late night tweets originate, “the devil’s workshop,” and dubbing early mornings and Sunday nights in the White House bedroom “the witching hour.”

The next few days may tell the story. If the cabinet votes for allegiance to the country over allegiance to a deranged president, it will happen very quickly. If it succeeds, we will see “A Proper Family Re-Union” welcoming a fourth member of the club. If not…America and the world can expect something far worse than a twitter storm, the likes of which we’ve never seen. Perish the thought!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 6, 2018

Trump Cabinet invokes 25th Amendment

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25th_imageViews from the Edge published this tongue-in-cheek “news release” in January. It was a spoof. We were a little early, but can anyone suppose that the Trump administration author of the NYT op-ed doesn’t know the difference between a tactics and strategy? Published on the heels of Bob Woodward’s FEAR is a tactic that prepares the American public for what’s coming: the Trump cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office. Here’s the spoof we published in January at the time of the president’s medical exam.

NEWS RELEASE

The Dissociative Press
January 7, 2018

Today White House Chief of Staff John Kelly announced the decision of the Trump Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remove President Donald J. Trump from office.

The decision to begin the process of removal from office follows the Cabinet members’ review of the report of the president’s medical examination by an Army physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, a report and decision that move the country closer to  a constitutional crisis.

While the Cabinet was acting on the Army physician’s conclusive medical findings of a personality disorder, rapidly progressing early dementia and other evidence of cognitive impairment, President Trump sent out a series of tweets calling the Walter Reed report a conspiracy by the military, the FBI, and the CIA, the equivalent of a military coup, and declaring he will not leave office under any circumstances.

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Mr. Trump immediately fired Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the retired Generals at the center of what Mr. Trump called the military establishment, declaring that the Generals had ordered the Army physician to issue the faux report. Moments later Mr. Trump fired his lawyer and his entire Cabinet with the exception of Attorney General Jeff Session, who had abstained during the 25th Amendment vote, citing potential conflict of interest. Vice President Pence was out of the country for the week.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders quickly called a 10:00 A.M. news conference but was escorted off the White House grounds at 9:31 A.M. by members of the Secret Service. Loyal to the President, Ms. Sanders met White House correspondents on the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue beyond the gates to the White House property while the President continued to tweet from the White House living quarters to which he and the First Lady had retreated.

Ms. Sanders confirmed Mr. Trump’s assertion that the medical report is a hoax, arguing that the president had reluctantly yielded to General Kelly’s insistence that the medical examination be done at Walter Reed rather than by Mr. Trump’s long-time personal physician to avoid any public perception of a fraudulent report. Ms. Sanders drew the White House correspondents’ attention to Mr. Trump’s 9:47 A.M. re-tweet from his personal physician in New York declaring full confidence in Mr. Trump’s mental competence. “Donald Trump is the sanest man I’ve ever met,” he said. “He’s a genius, and a very stable one, at that.”

A further incoming tweet at 10:07 A.M. quoting First Lady Melania Trump interrupted Ms. Sander’s remarks, which Ms. Sanders read aloud to the press corps:

“I am a political prisoner. Politics is nothing but a cops and robbers game. I know dirty things. I saw dirty things. I am not going to stand for all those dirty tricks that go on. I am sick and tired of the whole operation.They threw me down on the bed, five men, and stuck a needle in my behind. A doctor stitched my fingers after the battle with five guards.”

martha_mitchellHearing Ms. Sanders read aloud the words alleged to have come from the First Lady, a member of the press whose White House coverage dates back to the Nixon Administration opined that the First Lady’s words sounded vaguely familiar before realizing the tweet was a verbatim quotation from Martha Mitchell, wife of the Nixon Administration Attorney General John Mitchell, claiming she had been kidnapped.

“It’s a hoax,” said the White House Correspondent. “Those aren’t the words of the Mrs. Trump. They are the words of Martha Mitchell during the Nixon Administration. The tweet is plagiarism!”

Ms. Sanders replied that she had no idea who Martha Mitchell was, that she wasn’t even born until eight years after Nixon resigned, and that the reporter was making stuff up to cover up the faux medical exam and the coup taking place inside the White House. She ended the conference by calling on President Trump’s supporters to take to the streets in defense of the Constitution and the greatest president ever to serve the country.

220px-Charlottesville_Unite_the_Right_Rally_(35780274914)Within minutes the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue was crowded with arm-to-arm Trump supporters carrying guns and signs with photos of the President’s personal physician, Dr. Strangeglove, and the confederate flag, calling for the resumption of the revolution to Make America Great Again that had been delayled in Charlottesville.

  • Gordon Stewart reporting for Dissociative Press, Jan. 7, 2018.

Elijah’s Fist Puddle Play

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Do you remember your first puddle? Do you remember splashing around in a puddle? Elijah will. His mother taped the moment so he’ll remember his playful self when he grows old, forgetful, and not so naturally playful, like Grandpa (“Bumpa”).

Puddle stomping is child’s play. Avoiding puddles is adult play; joy and the smiles are fewer. I hope Elijah playing in his first puddle brings out your inner child and a smile.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Sept. 5, 2018

Spam, Scrapple, and Stocks

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“We’re having SPAM tonight!” my mother would announce, as if it were a rare treat.

Spam_can By Qwertyxp2000 [CC BY-SA 4.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Mom was a genius at making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear at the end of the month. Her children never knew our family lived from paycheck to paycheck, or that the paychecks were often late. When they were late, she’d announce with enthusiasm, “Tonight, we’re having Scrapple!”

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Spam and Scrapple were part of our vocabulary. Stocks? Only from the news. Mom’s shopping at the Acme in working class Broomall created little family interest in the stock market. Wall Street and stock portfolios were for people a few miles away in Bryn Mawr, Merion, and Wynnwood on Philadelphia’s Main Line.

My brothers and I had no idea what Spam and Scrapple were. We knew Mom bought them at the Acme. They came in cans. They smelled delicious while frying, and we devoured them as though they were filet mignons. It was many years later we learned that scrapple is made from hog offal, i.e., what remains of a pig after the ham and bacon are removed, and the makings of Spam are only a little better.

We knew even less about the stock market than about the Spam and Scrapple Mom served up in a pinch. People with stocks didn’t pinch pennies at the Acme or buy their children’s back-to-school clothes at the Bryn Mawr Hospital Thrift Shop. We didn’t feel bad about having no stocks; we just knew stocks weren’t meant for us. The closest we got to the stock market was driving through wealthier Philadelphia Mainline neighborhoods, admiring the Christmas light displays of showcase homes. At school we imagined living in one of those wealthier communities.

Today, all these years later, I have a stock portfolio. I no longer eat Scrapple or Spam. But I know spam when I see it. It arrives every morning in tweets that equate the country’s wellbeing with today’s stock market value, and spams illusions of filet mignons to the Acme- and thrift shop-shoppers who still pinch pennies on Spam and Scrapple.

MomMom would have a cow!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, September 5, 2018

 

 

 

Trapped in the Schemes They Have Devised

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Carl Jung

Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)

Over the years I’ve had a problem with the “us versus them” voice of some psalms of the Book of Psalms. The division of humankind into the ‘righteous’ and the ‘wicked’ leaves me cold. Often I have wanted to recommend to the psalmist a session or two on a Jungian analyst’s couch to get in touch with the ‘shadow’. But, in other times, like the one through which we’re living in America, the psalmist’s poetry is without parallel in giving voice to what I feel. Psalm 10 is one of them.

Psalm 10 is a cry for help in a time of trouble when God seems far off, as though hiding, while “the wicked arrogantly persecute the poor” (v.1), but it also holds a conviction that the persecution is only for the moment. Why? Because, already, the arrogant “are trapped in the schemes they have devised” (verse 2).

Their ways are devious at all times; 

Your judgments are far above out of their sight; 

they defy all their enemies.

They say in their heart, “I shall not be shaken;

no harm shall come to me ever” (v.5).

….

Their mouth is full of cursing, deceit, and oppression;

under their tongue are mischief and wrong (v. 7).

…. 

They lurk in ambush in public squares

and in secret places they murder the innocent;

they spy out the helpless. 

They lie in wait, like a lion in a covert,

they lie in wait to seize upon the lowly

they seize the lowly and drag them away in their net.

The innocent are broken and humbled before them;

the helpless fall before their power (vs. 7-9).

Sometimes the most poignant insights come from the psalmist’s couch. I read the Psalms most every day. I still remember what I’ve learned from Jung about my ‘shadow’ and the fear within me that paints ‘the other’ as wicked, wrong, or wretched. I know that the finger that accuses others often points back at my own sorry self. But the faith I was taught and still practice equally reminds me that anger has a rightful place when the lowly are broken, humbled, and dragged away in the net of the powerful. I remember the ‘righteous’ anger of Amos and the rest of the prophets. I remember Jesus.

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Grandson Elijah safe at home.

I see my grandson, Elijah, safe at home with his family in Minnesota, and think of all the children wrenched from their parents arms at the Mexican border. I live in hope that, though innocent children have been carried away to unknown places by the Administration’s net, it is only a matter of time before those who have made them orphans are themselves “trapped in the schemes they have devised.”

– Gordon C. Stewart in the wilderness, August 29, 2018.

GROWING UP WITH McCARTHY – Garry Armstrong

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Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame journalist Garry Armstrong shares a very personal memory that casts a light on the current moment of American history.

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Antoine (l) and Gary (r) Armstrong at the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame ceremony.

Like Garry, I remember Eric Sevareid. I also remember Garry for his reporting from Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Garry’s SERENDIPITY memory came to my attention this morning after a McCarthy type threatening comment appeared in response to Views from the Edge‘s post contrasting the character and behavior of Senator John McCain and the president who disdained him. Garry and I are the same generation. Our experiences are parallel. We both wear hearing aids, but we still believe our eyesight is as keen as it was when Joe McCarthy threatened a democratic republic. – Gordon C. Stewart, August 28, 2018.

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This is one I never intended to share. It had been buried in the deepest part of the memory chest I never planned to revisit.

I was branded a “pinko” as a kid.

I grew up in an era when the name McCarthy was first associated with Edgar Bergen’s puppet pal,  Charlie McCarthy. We followed Bergen and McCarthy on their radio show, religiously, along with Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Bob Hope and the other funny people of a more innocent era.

All of that changed when “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy unleashed his witch hunt of everyone in the guise of ferreting out Communist sympathizers. It was part of a bleak period when Cold War angst followed World War 2.

McCarthy is news again because of the current White House occupant and his apparent fondness for McCarthy’s tactics.

I didn’t understand why people shied away from talking about something called “The…

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The Straw that Breaks the Camel’s Back

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256px-John_McCain_official_photo_portraitIt’s a familiar idiom from the old proverb that “it’s the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

The last straw is not the only straw. It’s the seemingly insignificant weight added to all the accumulation of straws. Wikipedia describes it as “the seemingly minor or routine action that causes an unpredictably large and sudden reaction, because of the cumulative effect of small actions. This gives rise to the phrase ‘the last straw’ or ‘the final straw’, meaning the last in a line of unacceptable occurrences, provoking a seemingly sudden strong reaction.”

 

The American public is deeply divided. Though the number of straws placed on the president’s back increased daily with the straws of guilty pleas and convictions of his inner circle, his support remains strong among his base. The president can do no wrong. He can lie. He can cheat. He can slam the press. He can belittle the disabled. He can blame ‘the deep state’. He can paint himself as a victim. But, then, something happens. One more straw appears that draws a gasp. Even on FOXNews, as in Brit Hume tweet yesterday, “Still not a kind word about McCain himself.”

Whatever one’s political leanings, people have learned that you respect the dead. You don’t speak ill of the dead. However much you may not have liked the deceased, common decency demands something different.

Donald Trump, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

President Donald Trump listens to a question during a town hall with business leaders in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Tuesday, April 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

This morning the Washington Post reports that an official White House tribute prepared in advance of John McCain’s expected death, was squelched by the president. In its place the president issued the insensitive tweet that may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

No matter what other news the president creates this week, John McCain’s casket in the capitol rotunda and the funeral to which the president has been disinvited will dominate the news irrespective of any particular medium’s political bent. John McCain, the POW whom the Donald Trump viewed as a loser, the former Republican Party candidate for president, will lie in state with nothing more than a disrespectful tweet from the President and Commander-in-Chief.

Some things are deeper than politics. Some things we can all understand. Some things — like the violation of the most basic civil code most Americans understand — have a way of provoking a seemingly sudden reaction.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 27, 2018.

 

Elijah Shares with his Younger Cousin

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Elijah joy IMG_9566Elijah is the apple of more than two eyes. Long before he’s old enough to do anything for which he might merit his Views from the Edge fame, he exhibits a spirit of joy and generosity that runs against the grain of grumpiness and greed. Not only does he strut (see yesterday’s post); Elijah SHARES.

He doesn’t have much, but he shares what little he has. He shares his ‘Cheerios’ with the less fortunate, and it seems to come naturally. Like a mother Robin stuffing worms in a baby Robin’s mouth, Elijah shares his Cheerios with his six month younger cousin, Calvin (10 months). Take a look.

“Love has its own color, Share it with someone before it fades away.” — Nishan Panwar

“All who joy would win must share it. Happiness was born a Twin.” — Don Juan Canto II, Lord Byron ((1788 – 1824)

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 27, 2018.

Elijah Struts with Grandma

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Elijah is now 16 — sixteen months, that is — but walking like the boss. He struts, hands behind his back, swaying to the music in his head, waving his arms while making a guest appearance with the Boston Symphony to conduct the debut of his latest composition.

“Grandpa, isn’t life great!” he seems to say. Then he throws out his arms to be picked up and give Grandpa a kiss. “I’m gonna be like Winton Marsalis, Ray Charles, and Stevie Wonder. Grandma says maybe I’m a Mozart or a Benjamin Britton. Mom says J.S. Bach but I say Bach’s too boring, too inside the box. I’m a composer but I’m no Bach, and I’m a conductor, too.

Spike_Jones_1948“I play outside the box, Grandpa, like Spike Jones! Spike was both a composer and a conductor. Maybe I’ll be like Spike, pick up some trash at the park, bring back the City Slickers Band, and take America back to the 1950s! But Spike was weird, and he didn’t move his arms like a real conductor. He just put together some old tin cans and junk and pulled together some honky instruments and band members that made America laugh. I like making people laugh, but I’m no Spike Jones. I want to be Leonard Bernstein.

Grandpa and Grandma will be in Boston next month for a wedding in Boston Symphony Hall. As we witness the exchange of “I do’s”, we’ll imagine Elijah as a City Slicker with a baton in hand, strutting to the stage to conduct the debut of his latest composition with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Grandpa (“Bumpa”) Gordon, August 26, 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Profile in Cowardice

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News of Senator John McCain’s death highlights the contrast between John McCain and Donald Trump, who belittled McCain’s service, never mentioned his name at the recent announcement of the defense bill that bears McCain’s name, and sent a terse condolence to the McCain family on the occasion of his death:

My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!

The ‘respect’ was for the family, not for the Senator, one more back-handed slap at the now deceased senator. What kind of person expresses ‘respect’ for a grieving family?

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President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

President Trump’s disrespectful tweet calls to mind President Kennedy’s autobiography, Profiles in Courage. Whatever one thought of JFK’s claim of war heroism, and whether or not one supported John McCain’s politics and candidacies for president, the chasm between the two men of courage and Donald J. Trump is unfathomable. But fathom it we must.

Can you imagine John McCain announcing his decision to fire a staff member with a tweet without a face-to-face meeting? Announcing a firing in a tweet, as Trump has done repeatedly, violates the most basic moral norms of common decency. Firing someone in cyberspace without meeting eyeball-to-eyeball in real space and time is not only insensitive. It is everything John McCain was not; it is cowardly.

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President Donald Trump

Senator John McCain was no fan of Donald Trump and Donald Trump was no fan of John McCain. The late Senator criticized Mr. Trump openly on matters of public policy; the president impugned McCain’s character as a loser. Big difference.

Before his death, Senator McCain requested that President Trump not attend his funeral and asked that Mr. Trump’s predecessors, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush deliver the eulogies. Click this link for more information.

President Obama’s condolences to the McCain family include the following tribute to Senator McCain:

[W]e shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed.

Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt.

The American people salute John McCain’s honest character, and his courageous service to his country before and after he endured five years as a POW. The late senator leaves office as a winner.

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Photo of newly elected members of Congress.

Meanwhile, the president who disrespected him remains in the White House until Congress fires him face-to-face, and Presidential historian Michael Beschloss publishes the biography of Donald J. Trump, Profile in Cowardice: High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 26, 2018.

 

The Day America Changed

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How did we get here?

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The National ENQUIRER and other tabloids at a supermarket checkout counter

Looking back at what led to the election of Donald J. Trump, historians and cultural anthropologists may mark the day in the 1960s when the National ENQUIRER first appeared at supermarket checkout counters, where Americans buy our groceries, as a turning point in American culture.

The National ENQUIRER (click the link) is not a newspaper. It’s not the New York Times, Washington Post, or Los Angeles Times. It’s a tabloid that substitutes sensational photos and titillating headlines for responsible journalism. The National ENQUIRER and the Star, both owned by American Media, Inc., are not driven by the search for truth. They’re driven by profits that appeal to shoppers’ appetite for entertainment — sex, scandals, and alien visitations — purchased at check-out counters across America.

The story of the ENQUIRER’s origins and sudden omnipresence at America’s checkout counters one day in the late 1960s is captured in the following summary of Paul David Pope’s book, The Deeds of My Fathers. The book’s subtitle — How My Grandfather and Father Built New York and Created the Tabloid World of Today” — tells the story of those deeds.

Thrown upon his own devices, Gene [Pope] spies a newspaper he wants to run, the New York Enquirer. With a loan from “Uncle Frank”—mobster Frank Costello, his real-life godfather—Gene buys the paper, reinvents it as the National Enquirer, and forces its distribution onto grocery checkout counters nationwide. With an unerring sense of his audience, Gene sees his newspaper as appealing to a prototypical female reader dubbed “Missy Smith.” Increasingly tyrannical and eccentric, he scolds reporters who hand in weak copy: “I’m not crying,” which meant Missy Smith wouldn’t be, either. Gene gives readers what they want, as he covers the paranormal, medical cures, celebrities, ever mindful of the dreams and fears of everyday Americans. The result: a new species of modern media—the supermarket tabloid. Circulation soars, peaking with the 7 million copies sold of the Enquirer’s 1977 exposé on the death of Elvis Presley.

This week we learned that David Pecker, CEO of American Media, Inc., the parent company of the ENQUIRER, has accepted immunity from federal prosecutors in New York for agreeing to cooperate regarding the ENQUIRER‘s “hushing” of salacious stories about Donald Trump in the run-up to the 2016 national election.

American Media, Inc describes the ENQUIRER’s editorial mission on its website.

Enquiring Minds Want To Know!

The National ENQUIRER has a proud 92-year history. Insatiable headlines, scandals and unforgettable stories have made this title a household name! We report the unvarnished stories about celebrities: their antics, celebrations, loves, mishaps.

Plus, the ENQUIRER covers high profile national and international scandals like no other with exclusive breaking news. If it’s a gritty true crime story, or political scandal, no matter what is reported, National ENQUIRER readers are first to know!

Enquiring minds might wish to have read Karen McDougal’s suppressed story before casting votes in November 2016. But money is money, profits are profits, and supermarket tabloids like the National ENQUIRER remain indebted to “Uncle Frank”.

 

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“Uncle Frank” — Frank Costello, American mobster, testifying before The United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce (Kefauver Committee), 1950.

How did we get here? We got here as a result of contracts with supermarkets and drug stores that slowly erode the fabric of the culture on which a democratic republic depends. The ENQUIRER’s longer history includes open support for fascism and a not-so-open deal with Uncle Frank whereby the ENQUIRER would never criticize the mafia.

The 2016 national election says as much about the change in American culture — our obsession with entertainment and entertainment culture’s preference of crying over thinking — as it does about the National ENQUIRER or about a sitting president who rants about “fake news” while whittling away at what still remains of our respect for truth, decency, real news . . . and the rule of law.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 25, 2018.

GARRY DESERVES THE DUKE, BUT WHAT ABOUT ME? – Marilyn Armstrong

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Marilyn Armstrong’s story of retired journalist Garry Armstrong and his dog Duke offers a great way to greet a Saturday. I’ve often wondered lately whether canines are superior to humans. The joy on Garry’s face leads to a different conclusion: humans and canines are meant for mutual play with no thought of superiority or species exceptionalism. Enjoy!

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Duke is not our first dog. We’ve had a big selection of hounds, terriers, and mutts of various backgrounds, sizes, ages. Somehow or other they have all fit in here because anyone or anything can fit in here, assuming they want to. For years, there has been great howling and yapping and barking in this house and that’s the way we seem to like it.

Duke

The thing we’ve never had, however, are truly obedient dogs. We don’t demand obedience, so we don’t get it. I wasn’t a very good disciplinarian as a mom, either.

Discipline makes me feel guilty. Who am I to demand obedience? Who do I think I am anyway?

Garry is worse. Garry was born with a gene that says “whatever you tell me to do, I won’t do it.” It’s a special piece of DNA that screams “Oh yeah? Who’s gonna make me?” Even in…

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Trump Cabinet invokes 25th Amendment

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25th_imageViews from the Edge published this tongue-in-cheek “news release” in January. It was a spoof. We were a little early, but can anyone suppose that the Trump administration author of the NYT op-ed doesn’t know the difference between a tactics and strategy? Published on the heels of Bob Woodward’s FEAR is a tactic that prepares the American public for what’s coming: the Trump cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office. Here’s the spoof we published in January at the time of the president’s medical exam.

NEWS RELEASE

The Dissociative Press
January 7, 2018

Today White House Chief of Staff John Kelly announced the decision of the Trump Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remove President Donald J. Trump from office.

The decision to begin the process of removal from office follows the Cabinet members’ review of the report of the president’s medical examination by an Army physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, a report and decision that move the country closer to  a constitutional crisis.

While the Cabinet was acting on the Army physician’s conclusive medical findings of a personality disorder, rapidly progressing early dementia and other evidence of cognitive impairment, President Trump sent out a series of tweets calling the Walter Reed report a conspiracy by the military, the FBI, and the CIA, the equivalent of a military coup, and declaring he will not leave office under any circumstances.

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Mr. Trump immediately fired Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the retired Generals at the center of what Mr. Trump called the military establishment, declaring that the Generals had ordered the Army physician to issue the faux report. Moments later Mr. Trump fired his lawyer and his entire Cabinet with the exception of Attorney General Jeff Session, who had abstained during the 25th Amendment vote, citing potential conflict of interest. Vice President Pence was out of the country for the week.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders quickly called a 10:00 A.M. news conference but was escorted off the White House grounds at 9:31 A.M. by members of the Secret Service. Loyal to the President, Ms. Sanders met White House correspondents on the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue beyond the gates to the White House property while the President continued to tweet from the White House living quarters to which he and the First Lady had retreated.

Ms. Sanders confirmed Mr. Trump’s assertion that the medical report is a hoax, arguing that the president had reluctantly yielded to General Kelly’s insistence that the medical examination be done at Walter Reed rather than by Mr. Trump’s long-time personal physician to avoid any public perception of a fraudulent report. Ms. Sanders drew the White House correspondents’ attention to Mr. Trump’s 9:47 A.M. re-tweet from his personal physician in New York declaring full confidence in Mr. Trump’s mental competence. “Donald Trump is the sanest man I’ve ever met,” he said. “He’s a genius, and a very stable one, at that.”

A further incoming tweet at 10:07 A.M. quoting First Lady Melania Trump interrupted Ms. Sander’s remarks, which Ms. Sanders read aloud to the press corps:

“I am a political prisoner. Politics is nothing but a cops and robbers game. I know dirty things. I saw dirty things. I am not going to stand for all those dirty tricks that go on. I am sick and tired of the whole operation.They threw me down on the bed, five men, and stuck a needle in my behind. A doctor stitched my fingers after the battle with five guards.”

martha_mitchellHearing Ms. Sanders read aloud the words alleged to have come from the First Lady, a member of the press whose White House coverage dates back to the Nixon Administration opined that the First Lady’s words sounded vaguely familiar before realizing the tweet was a verbatim quotation from Martha Mitchell, wife of the Nixon Administration Attorney General John Mitchell, claiming she had been kidnapped.

“It’s a hoax,” said the White House Correspondent. “Those aren’t the words of the Mrs. Trump. They are the words of Martha Mitchell during the Nixon Administration. The tweet is plagiarism!”

Ms. Sanders replied that she had no idea who Martha Mitchell was, that she wasn’t even born until eight years after Nixon resigned, and that the reporter was making stuff up to cover up the faux medical exam and the coup taking place inside the White House. She ended the conference by calling on President Trump’s supporters to take to the streets in defense of the Constitution and the greatest president ever to serve the country.

220px-Charlottesville_Unite_the_Right_Rally_(35780274914)Within minutes the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue was crowded with arm-to-arm Trump supporters carrying guns and signs with photos of the President’s personal physician, Dr. Strangeglove, and the confederate flag, calling for the resumption of the revolution to Make America Great Again that had been delayled in Charlottesville.

  • Gordon Stewart reporting for Dissociative Press, Jan. 7, 2018.

Hammer-strokes against the darkness

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We are living in what J. C. Blumhardt called “the wasted fields of mankind.” The fields of humankind are being laid waste in our time, as they were in his (1805 – 1880). What to do?

I’ve made phone calls. I’ve written. I’ve posted here and on FaceBook. I’ve written a book on collective madness. I’ve even tweeted! But none of it seems to have mattered much until I remembered the words of Johann Christoph Blumhardt, the German pastor who pioneered in the field of religion and mental illness at Bad Boll.

Our prayers are hammer-strokes against the princes of darkness; they must be oft repeated. Many years can pass by, even a number of generations die away, before a breakthrough occurs. However, not a single hit is wasted; and if they are continued, then even the most secure wall will fall. Then the glory of God will have a clear path upon which to stride forth with healing and blessing for the wasted fields of mankind.

Write. Write, Write. Make phone calls to congressional representatives, the White House, the princes who exercise public power and authority. Phone again if the voicemail box is full. Write again. But sustain all the activity with the hammer-strokes of prayer against the princes of darkness for the healing and blessing of the wasted fields of humankind. Live by the hope that not a single hit is wasted and that even the most secure wall will fall.

Thank you, Mom, for the faith to hammer on. RIP.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Mother’s Day, May 14, 2017