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!

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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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 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.

T.G.I.F.: It’s been a long week. (Beyond Comprehension…)

87 Elephants Slaughtered in One of the Largest Poaching Incidents in Africa (Sept 3, 2018, LiveScience.com)


(Photo via Newthom)

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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