Barbara Bush and President Chance

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The day following former First Lady Barbara Bush‘s death, we offer these clips of Chance (“Chauncey”) Gardiner, the gardener of a rich estate whose simple answers are thought to qualify him as the political leader who can fix the world. Barbara Bush had no use for the current occupant of the Oval Office whose world is shaped by television, as was Chance Gardiner’s (Peter Sellers) in Being There (1979). “I like to watch,” said Chance.

In February of 2016 the former First Lady pulled no punches. She said she was “sick of him [i.e. Donald Trump]. He doesn’t give many answers to how he would solve problems. He sort of makes faces and says insulting things. He’s said terrible things about women, terrible things about the military. I don’t understand why people are for him, for that reason.”

First Lady Melania Trump will attend the former First Lady’s funeral. Whether the candidate for whom Barbara Bush had no use will pay his respects is still an open question as of the publication of this post. Maybe he’ll stay home to watch it on Fox.

Thank you, Roger Ebert (RIP) for your review of  Being There. Thank you, Chance (Peter Sellers), for your clairvoyance. Thank you, Barbara Bush. RIP.

— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, Minnesota, April 19, 2018.

MLK: We Have a Choice

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MLK imagesCACBW2T7This 50th Anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, we offer an excerpt from Dr. King’s own words from the pulpit of Riverside Church exactly one year before his death, April 4, 1967. Today is the 51st Anniversary of “Beyond Vietnam.” April 4 is a double anniversary.

A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this often misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu, Moslem, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John:

‘Let us love one another; for love is God and everything that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth no knoweth no God; for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.’

Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the God of Hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: ‘Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.’ Unquote.

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The ‘tide in the affairs of men’ does not remain at flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘Too late.’ There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Kayam is right, ‘The moving finger writes, and having written moves on…’ We still have a choice today, non-violent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

The “Beyond Vietnam” speech and the assassination seem like yesterday, perhaps because they’re both happening 51 and 50 years later to the day. His voice and the shot echo down the corridors of time. “Tomorrow is today.”

Click HERE to listen to Dr. King’s first words at Riverside Church: “I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me with no other choice.”

“We still have a choice today….” – Martin Luther King, Jr., Riverside Church, NYC, April 4, 1967.

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

 

 

 

Truth Be Told

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Steve Shoemaker

Steve Shoemaker

Steve Shoemaker rushed into mind today. I searched for what Steve had to say on Palm Sunday here on Views from the Edge. Little could Steve have known in 2012 that Palm Sunday in 2018 would be topped off by a “60 Minutes” interview with a porn star refuting claims of “fake news” coming from the man in the Oval Office.

The Donkey: a Kid’s Verse

The coats the folks are throwing down

sure make it hard for me to walk

especially carrying this clown

whose feet are almost to the ground.

“Hosannah King!” is all the talk,

but this guy seems to be as poor

as I am–no one could mistake

him for a Royal–he’s just a fake!

They wave palm branches, and they roar,

but my long ears can hear the real

parade across the city square:

the General, the Priests, the score

of war horses–the whole grand deal.

This pitiful parade will fail

to save a soul, and soon the yell

will change from “Hail!” to…”Kill!”

[Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL, March 28, 2012]

Jesus and Barabbas

Release of Barabbas – artwork by Wenceslas Coehergher

The donkey that carried “the clown” stands in deliberate contrast to Caesar’s war horses. All these years later, Jesus of the donkey and the donkey continue to speak truth to power. Today I lay my coat on the road for the humble king of kings.

Thank you, Steve. RIP.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday, March 25, 2018.

 

 

Silence on Palm Sunday

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Centuries after the original Palm Sunday parade, the silence has been broken again.

Some [of the critics] said to him, ‘Teacher, order your disciples to stop.’ He answered, ‘I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.’” – Jesus of Nazareth, Luke 19:39-41.

Yesterday, the students spoke. The NRA was silenced.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Palm Sunday, 2018

 

 

March for Our Lives

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Yesterday’s conversation with the rheumatologist took an unexpected turn. “I need some positive energy,” he said. “The kids from Parkland are amazing. I’m going to the march to the State Capitol tomorrow.”

The weather forecast called for heavy snow in Saint Paul. “I don’t care,” he said. He was going. No matter what! He would be there at 9:00 a.m. and stay until the crowd disperses in the afternoon. (Click this link for CNN’s coverage of the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. and around the world.)

“I’m so tired. I want to do something positive,” said my doctor. “The younger generation will lead us. You stay home! It wouldn’t be good for you. I’ll do the marching for both of us.”

Leaving the doctor’s office, I felt better. My thoughts turned to Siyahamba, the marching song that helped end Apartheid in South Africa. This morning I found Siyahamba‘s hopeful sound in this children’s choir in Westminster, Maryland.

He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
 Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:28-31 [NRSV]

Thank you, Doctor. Thank you, Isaiah. Thank you, students from Parkland. Thank you, all who will march today in the light of God.

Siyahamba! March for our lives!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 24, 2018.

 

‘Code Red’ in America

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Our democracy is in serious danger. … 

“This is ‘code red‘. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.”Thomas Friedman,”Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting Us Now,” NYT.

Thomas Friedman is known for being careful with his information, fresh in his analysis, beholden to no one. Friedman does not play partisan ‘Chicken Little‘ to gain an audience. Friedman’s NYT column calling this American moment ‘Code Red’ and the following conversation with Larry O’Donnell took place a month before yesterday’s disturbing news that on April 9 John Bolton, a discredited right wing hawk, will replace H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor.

I never thought I’d see this day in America. Just when I think it can’t get worse, it does. Unless Congress stops it, Dr. Strangelove will be the president’s right hand man in the White House Situation Room.

Sunday night ‘60 Minutes‘ is scheduled to air Anderson Cooper’s interview with Stormy Daniels. Stormy claims she’s telling the truth. It will be the irony of ironies in a democratic republic if it should come to pass that a truth-telling pornography star alerts Congress and the larger public to the threat to democracy in the White House?

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 23, 2018.

A Stormy Night in the Cuckoo’s Nest

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170518_ASSESS_Mueller.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

Robert Mueller

Rex Tillerson is out at the State Department. Mike Pompeo is in. So is Stormy Daniels, waiting to tell her story on 60 Minutes. The White House’s email this morning was deafeningly silent about Tillerson’s firing, directing the public’s attention to the president’s visit to the border wall with Mexico today.

As a long time proponent of a foreign policy of respect for the sovereignty of other nations, the pursuit of peaceful solutions to international disputes, and global action on climate change, and a critic of crony capitalism, it is leaves me more than a little disturbed to find myself in the same camp with a former Exxon CEO, the FBI, the CIA, and Generals and Admirals of the U.S. military establishment who refuse to settle down in the White House cuckoo’s nest.

Rex Tillerson is out the day after publicly paying heed to America’s closest ally’s claim that the Russians are responsible for the poisonings in Britain. That the president and Tillerson disagreed on strategic matters is no secret. Nor is the allegation that the Secretary of State called his boss “a ___ moron,” an allegation Tillerson deflected but never denied. Why the president waited so long to fire him has been a head-scratcher explained perhaps by the respect Tillerson commands from Wall Street, multinational corporate leaders, global capitalist free trade proponents, and, yes, even moderate climate change action advocates. All have looked to the former Exxon CEO as one Trump cabinet member who a least understands complexity and respects measured responses and careful planning required before things like a meeting with Kim Jung-un.

170629123255-trump-tweets-assualt-on-brzezinski-1024x576The president often tweets after a stormy night. Perhaps the timing of the Tillerson firing less than a week before Stormy Daniels’ scheduled 60 Minutes interview is an ill-considered attempt to circle the wagons around the cuckoo’s nest before Stormy and the Mueller investigation findings shut off the television in the White House bedroom.

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

Breaking Silence

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quote-hope-and-fear-cannot-occupy-the-same-space-invite-one-to-stay-maya-angelou-76-81-50Views from the Edge (VFTE) has fallen silent lately. Maybe you have too. The reasons for silence are like the hairs on our heads. Who can count them? The silence on Views from the Edge is both unintentional and intentional.

Unintentional Silence

Finishing a novel requires full concentration to the storyline and every detail. Fiction is like that. It creates the alternative universe that exists only in the writer’s head.

Intentional Silence

The real world has left me speechless. There is nothing that has not been said. Some of it bears repeating, but I feel no motivation to add to the silos into which our public discourse has fallen. Observing a world of madness much stranger than fiction has left my spirit bone-tired.

Why speak now?

I feel a need to stay in touch, to say hello to readers of Views from the Edge. So, “Hi!” You need no reminder of “the edge” from which we view the world. If you’re new here, a quick look through the site will tell you who we are and why we publish.

Today I break the silence to speak again from my experience. My memory is long. A child of World War II, I am aghast at what I see today at the center of American life. I can’t believe my eyes. In Germany in the late 1930s, the Third Reich displaced a democratic republic (the Weimar Republic) by systematically eroding trust in democratic process. Facts became falsehoods. Alternative facts replaced truth. The far right replaced the conservative right, painted the left as evil, and shrunk the middle ground essential to sustaining a democratic republic. Braggadocio and nationalism replaced humility and statesmanship, destroyed the lengthier policy discussions essential to democracy, and frayed the threads of civility that held the German people together. A loud far-right minority who had mastered the craft of theater bullied its way into the seats of power, promising to make Germany great again with boisterous appeals to national exceptionalism and Aryan racial exceptionalism, a fictional creation with no basis in reality. Those who disagreed or whose very existence threatened the national and racial exceptionalism were dismissed, painted as less than human, and sent quietly away the night in freight cars without public attention.

I was raised to belief such a thing could not happen in America. I now wonder whether I was wrong. The parallels seem obvious. But I also see signs of hope that the party that holds power in the White House and both houses of Congress may yet come to its senses. If its own sensibilities fail to lift the nation from the darkness, there are increasing reasons to hope that the Mueller investigation and the stream of White House staff resignations will lead the nation toward our better angels.

Why not speak now?

By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
    but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.
Whoever belittles another lacks sense,
    but an intelligent person remains silent. [Proverbs 11:11-12]

Not wishing to add further to the belittling that comes from my own head as well as from the world around me, and hearing Maya Angelou’s wise counsel that hope and fear cannot occupy the same space, Views from the Edge invites hope to stay, and chooses to remain silent. But then … you never know. My grandchild Elijah may yet have something to say. 🤓

Thanks for dropping by.

Grace and Peace,

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 7, 2018

 

Hardening Our Schools

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Donald Trump and I were baptized and confirmed in the Presbyterian Church. I went on to become a Presbyterian minister. Donald went on to become President of the United States of America. Speaking to the nation’s governors yesterday in the aftermath of the latest school massacre in Parkland, Florida, Mr. Trump called for turning grief into action.

“Most importantly, we want to discuss the public safety in schools and public safety, generally. But school safety. We can’t have this go on,” the President said.

“But we will turn our grief into action,” President Trump continued. “We have to take steps to harden our schools so that they are less vulnerable to attack.”

The Presbyterian churches of our youth taught us the way of Jesus. They told us road to invulerability leads to the loss of the good. Hearts of flesh reacting in fear become stone. They reach for whatever weapons the reptilian brain leads us to believe will make us less vulnerable to attack.

I was raised on an old text that looked forward to hard hearts turning to hearts of flesh. Cold hearts turning warm. Violent hearts turning peaceful. “I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” are the words the writer of Ezekiel places on the lips of God. And then there was the puzzling logic that strength comes out of the mouth of babes and sucklings.

Pondering the tragedy of escalating violence in American society often leaves me speechless. I observe and listen. I hear the students crying, “No More!” and want to join them. After turning over the money-changers’ tables in the Temple, the authorities and those who presume themselves righteous criticize the children who have been cheering for him. When the critics tell him to silence the children, Jesus asks, “have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’?” Shouts of goodness and truth are pouring from the mouths of America’s youth.

But I also know how quickly emotion can turn to despair. I hear the NRA and ask how anyone raised in a church, synagogue, or mosque can embrace the money-changers the NRA bankrolls, or the simplistic morality of “good guy”s getting rid of “the bad guys” it uses to make the case for the least regulation of military-style weapons.

And I hear impractical dreamers like me wishing we could wipe the world clean of all firearms and weapons more dangerous than a caveman’s club. But quickly realize none of has any more answer to the question of how to “fix” this than the Genesis writer had for why Cain picked up a rock and slew Abel.

I don’t know much. But I learned as a child in a Presbyterian Church that hardened hearts will not conquer hate; hearts that harden etch evil in stone. All these years later, I can still hear 90 year-old Mrs. Thomas teaching our first grade Sunday School class at Marple Presbyterian Church. I find myself wondering whether there was a Mrs. Thomas for Donald at First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica in New York City.

“Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure.” — Jesus of Nazareth, Gospel According to Matthew 34:33-35.

Taking steps “to harden our schools so that they are less vulnerable to attack” moves us farther down the road to the heartless world none of us wants. Where’s Mrs. Thomas was we need her?

— Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 27, 2018.

 

A Presidents’ Day Reflection

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Other writing has pushed Views from the Edge to the back burner lately, and when I do start a post here, it feels like yada-yada-yada. John Buchanan’s Hold to the Good piece on Presidents’ Day  is more than yada-yada-yada. It moves the discussion to higher ground.

via Presidents’ Day