Saturday, August 31, 2013


Again this is from Trumpet of Conscience. Martin Luther King will get a bit of rest after this, but only because he wasn't the only one with the same message. Beware of seekers who try to work out the mysteries of this world and whatever comes next in public. :-)
The full text of this chapter was delivered by Dr. King as a Christmas sermon in Ebenezer Baptist Church at Atlanta, Georgia and was broadcast by the CBC as the final Massey Lecture, on Christmas Eve, 1967.

…I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many sheriffs, too many white citizens’ councilors, and too many Klansmen of the South to want to hate, myself; and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up before our most bitter opponents and say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide to the unjust system, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, and so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country and make it appear that are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration and we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.”

If there is to be peace on earth and goodwill toward men, we must finally believe in the ultimate morality of the universe, and believe that all reality hinges on moral foundations. Something must remind us of this as we once again standing the Christmas season and think of the Easter season simultaneously, for the two somehow go together; Christ came to show us the way. Men love darkness rather than the light and they crucified Him, and there on Good Friday on the Cross it was still dark, but then Easter came, and Easter is an eternal reminder of the fact that the truth-crushed earth will rise again. Easter justifies Carlyle in saying, “No lie can live for ever.” And so this is our faith, as we continue to hope for peace on earth and goodwill toward men” let us know that in the process we have cosmic companionship.

In 1963, on a sweltering August afternoon, we stood in Washington. D.C., and talked to the nation about many things. Toward the end of that afternoon, I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had had, and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about the dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare. I remember the first time I saw that dream turn into a nightmare, just a few weeks after I had talked about it. It was when four beautiful, unoffending, innocent Negro girls were murdered in a church in Birmingham, Alabama. I watched that dream turn into a nightmare as I moved through the ghettos of the nation and saw my black brothers and sisters perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity, and saw the nation doing nothing to grapple with the Negroes’ problem of poverty. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched my black brothers and sisters in the midst of anger and understandable outrage, in the midst of their hurt, in the midst of their disappointment, turn to misguided riots to try to solve that problem. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched the war in Vietnam escalating, and as I saw so-called military advisers, 16,000 strong, turn into fighting soldiers until today over 500,000 American boys are fighting on Asian soil. Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know you can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream.

I have a dream that one day men will rise up and come to see that they are made to live together as brothers. I still have a dream this morning that one day every Negro in this country, every colored person in the world, will be judged on the basis of the content of his character rather than the color of his skin, and every man will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. I still have a dream today that one day the idle industries of Appalachia will be revitalized, and the empty stomachs of Mississippi will be fill, and brotherhood will be more than a few words at the end of a prayer, but rather the first order of business on every legislative agenda. I still have a dream today that one day justice will roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream, I still have a dream today that in all of our state houses and city halls men will be elected to go there who will do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with their God. I still have a dream today that one day war will come to an end, that men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, that nations will no longer rise up against nations, neither will they study war any more. I still have a dream today that one day the lamb and the lion will lie down together and every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid. I still have a dream today that one day every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill will be made low, the rough places will be made smooth and the crooked places straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. I still have dream that with this faith we will be able to adjourn the councils of despair and bring new light into the dark chambers of pessimism. With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when there will be peace on earth and goodwill toward men. It will be a glorious day, the morning stars will sing together, and the sons of God will shout for joy.
 I have a copy of the Anglican prayer book for New Zealand. Dr. King is included in their calendar of saints and good men and women worthy special commemoration. He is listed as a prophet. I believe he was just finding that prophetic voice and enlarging his ministry to include not only poor and disenfranchised of this country but the world when voice of the man was silenced in Memphis in 1968. His physical voice was silence but his words live on. Even if they aren’t included in the “official” mythology of this country.

Again, look at the history of the last fifty years. Not just Vietnam but all the rest. The deadly chickens that came home to roost in Iran in the late seventies. The malignant offspring of our intervention in the fifties. Our support for the torturers and oligarchs of Latin America from the seventies to the nineties. And oh how I would love to spend just five or ten minutes with Mitt Romney. I'd ask him how he could reconcile his Christian faith with the investments he took from Salvadoran oligarchs that helped them move assets out of the country so that they could live in comfort in the US and watch their country burn from the safety of this country. That might make an interesting conversation.

The support of dictators around the world who only had to murmur communism and subversion to get our attention and support. Saddam Hussein bay have been a murderous SOB but he played us and the Soviets like a bad violin for decades. We supported programs in the third world that forced their people off the land and tied up the land for export crops instead of food for the starving citizens who lived there.

I could go on. But, you have to wonder where we would be standing if that physical voice had not been stilled on that fatal April day. His words are a reminder that God, or the Goddess or the Creator or the Great Singer expects more from us than asking for personal prosperity, or believing that if we say the right words we’ll be saved. That all Creation is Holy and has been from the beginning. And that it’s more than just a backdrop for one interpretation of the sacred.

Friday, August 30, 2013


I really hope the publishers don't mind my excerpting from the Trumpet of Conscience. If you have scruples you can Google the title and read at least parts of it on Google Books. After this many years you'd think the material would be more widely available. As of the end of this year it will be forty six years since he gave the speech. Of course his increasingly radical and international sympathies don't fit with the King we've allowed to be tamed down and turned into a national icon. I wonder how he'd feel about it if we could ask him. I suspect he'd ask what we were doing to keep the dream alive. 

I don’t know whether it’s a deliberate strategy or not. But, it does seem that the rise of the cult of the individual since the successes of the push for the right of women to vote, the labor movement and the civil rights movement isn’t just a coincidence. These are all examples of collective movements to ensure the rights of the individual. And as Dr. King’s speech demonstrates it works. Again this is a bit long. But it’s worth the read. Again I have to ask myself what the world would look like if King, Kennedy and Merton had managed to survive that fateful year.


There is nothing wrong with a traffic law which says you have to stop for a red light. But when a fire is raging, the fire truck goes right through that red light, and normal traffic had better get out of its way. Or, when a man is bleeding to death, the ambulance goes through those red lights at top speed.

There is a fire raging now for the Negroes and the poor of this society. They are living in tragic conditions because of the terrible economic injustices that keep them locked in as an “underclass,” as the sociologists are now calling it. Disinherited people all over the world are bleeding to death from deep social and economic wounds. They need brigades of ambulance drivers who will have to ignore the red lights of the present system until the emergency is solved.

Massive civil disobedience is a strategy for social change which is at least as forceful as an ambulance with its siren on full. In the past ten years, nonviolent civil disobedience has made a great deal of history, especially in the Southern United States. When we and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference went to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, we had decided to take action on the matter of integrated public accommodations. We knew that the Civil Rights commission had written powerful documents calling for change, calling for the very rights we were demanding. But nobody did anything about the Commission’s report. Nothing was done until we acted on these very issues, and demonstrated before the court of world opinion the urgent need for change. It was the same story with voting rights. The Civil Rights Commission, three years before we went to Selma, had recommended the changes we started marching for, but nothing was done until, in 1965, we created a crisis the nation couldn’t ignore. Without violence, we totally disrupted the system, the lifestyle of Birmingham, and then of Selma, with their unjust and unconstitutional laws. Our Birmingham struggle came to its dramatic climax when some 3,500 demonstrators virtually filled every jail in that city and surrounding communities, and 4,000 more continued to march and demonstrate nonviolently. The city knew then in terms that were crystal clear that Birmingham could no long function until the demands of the Negro community were met. The same kind of dramatic crisis was created in Selma two years later. The result on the national scene was the Civil Rights bill and the Voting rights Act, as President and Congress responded to the drama and the creative tension generated by the carefully planned demonstrations.

Of course, by now it is obvious that new laws are not enough. The emergency we now face is economic, and it is a desperate and worsening situation. For the thirty five million poor people in America – not even to mention, just yet, the poor in the nations – there is a kind of strangulation in the air. In our society it is murder, psychologically, to deprive a man of a job or an income. You are in substance saying to that man that he has no right to exist. You are in a real way depriving him of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, denying in his case the very creed of his society. Now, millions of people are being strangled that way. The problem is international in scope. And it is getting worse, as the gap between the poor and the “affluent society” increases.

The question that now divides the people who want radically to change that situation is: can a program of nonviolence – even if it envisions massive civil disobedience – realistically expect to deal with such an enormous, entrenched evil?

First of all, will nonviolence work, psychologically, after the summer of 1967? Many people feel that nonviolence as a strategy for social change was cremated in the flames of the urban riots of the last two years. They tell us that Negroes have only now begun to find their true manhood in violence; that the riots prove not only that Negroes hate whites, but that, compulsively, they must destroy them.

This bloodlust interpretation ignores one of the most striking features of the city riots. Violent they certainly were. But the violence, to a startling degree, was focused against property rather than against people. There were very few cases of injury to person, and the vast majority of the rioters were not involved at all in attacking people. The much publicized “death toll” that marked the riots, and the many injuries, was overwhelmingly inflicted on the rioters by the military. It is clear that the riots were exacerbated by police action that was designed to injure or even to kill people. As for the snipers, no account of the riots claims that more than one or two dozen people were involved in sniping. From the facts, an unmistakable pattern emerges: a handful of Negroes used gunfire substantially to intimidate, not to kill; and all of the other participants had a different target – property.

I am aware that there are many who wince at a distinction between property and persons – who hold both sacrosanct. My views are not so rigid. A life is sacred. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on’ it is not man.

The focus on property in the 1967 riots is not accidental. It has a message’ it is saying something.

If hostility to whites were ever going to dominate a Negro’s attitude and reach murderous proportions, surely is would be during a riot. But this rare opportunity for bloodletting was sublimated into arson, or turned into a kind of stormy carnival of free – merchandise distribution. Why did the rioters avoid personal attacks? The explanation cannot be fear of retribution, because the physical risks incurred in the attacks on property were no less than for personal assaults. The military forces were treating acts of petty larceny as equal to murder. Far more rioters took chances with their own lives, in their attacks on property, than threatened the life of anyone else. Why were they so violent with property then? Because property represents the white power structure, which they were attacking and trying to destroy. A curious proof of the symbolic aspect of the looting for some who took part in it the fact that, after the riots, police received hundreds of call form Negroes trying to return merchandise they had taken. Those people wanted the experience of taking, of redressing the power imbalance that property represents. Possession, afterward, was secondary.

A deeper level of hostility came out in arson, which was far more dangerous than the looting. But it, too, was a demonstration and a warning. It was directed against symbols of exploitation, and it was designed to express the depth of anger in the community.

What does this restraint in the summer riots mean for our future strategy?

If one can find a core of nonviolence toward persons, even during the riots when emotions were exploding, it means that nonviolence should not be written off for the future as a force in Negro life. Many people believe that the urban Negro is too angry and too sophisticated to be nonviolent. Those same people dismiss the nonviolent marches in the South and try to describe them as processions of pious, elderly ladies. The fact is that in all the marches we have organized some men of very violent tendencies have been involved. It was routine for us to collect hundreds of knives from our own ranks before the demonstrations, in case of momentary weakness. And in Chicago last year we saw some of the most violent individuals accepting nonviolent discipline. Day after day during those Chicago marches I walked in our lines and I never say anyone retaliate with violence. There were lots of provocations, not only the screaming white hoodlums lining the sidewalks, but also groups of Negro militants talking about guerrilla warfare. We had some gang leaders and members marching with us. I remember walking with the Blackstone rangers while bottles were flying from the sidelines, and I saw their noses being broken and blood flowing from their wounds; and I saw them continue and not retaliate, not one of them, with violence. I am convinced that even very violent temperaments can be channeled through nonviolent discipline, if the movement is moving, if they can act constructively and express through an effective channel their very legitimate anger.

But even if non violence can be valid, psychologically, for the protesters who want change, is it going to be effective, strategically, against a government and a status quo that have so far resisted this summer’s demands on the grounds that “we must not reward the rioters?” Far from rewarding the rioters, far from even giving a hearing to their just and urgent demands, the administration has ignored its responsibility for the causes of the riots, and instead has used the negative aspects of them to justify continued inaction on the underlying issues. The administration’s only concrete response was to initiate a study and call for a day of prayer. As a minister, I take prayer too seriously to use it as an excuse for avoiding work and responsibility. When a government commands more wealth and power than has ever been known in the history of the world, and offers no more than this, it is worse than blind, it is provocative. It is paradoxical but fair to say that Negro terrorism is incited less on ghetto street corners than in the halls of Congress.

I intended to show that nonviolence will be effective, but not until it has achieved the massive dimensions, the disciplined planning, and the intense commitment of a sustained direct-action movement of civil disobedience on the national scale.

The dispossessed of this nation – the poor, both white and Negro – live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty.

The only real revolutionary, people say, is a man who has nothing to lose. There are millions of poor people in this country who have very little, or even nothing, to lose. If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life. Beginning in the New Year, we will be recruiting three thousand of the poorest citizens from ten different urban and rural areas to initiate and lead a sustained, massive, direct action movement in Washington. Those who choose to join this initial three thousand, this nonviolent army, this “freedom church” of the poor will work with us for three months to develop nonviolent action skills. Then we will move on Washington, determined to stay there until the legislative and executive branches of the government take serious and adequate action on jobs and income. A delegation of poor people can walk into a high official’s office with a carefully, collectively prepared list of demands. (If you’re poor, if you’re unemployed anyway, you can choose to stay in Washington as long as the struggle needs you.) And if the official say, “But Congress would have to approve this,” or “But the president would have to be consulted on that,” you can say, “All right, we’ll wait.” And you can settle down in his office for as long a stay as necessary. If you are, let’s say from rural Mississippi, and have never had medical attention, and your children are undernourished and unhealthy, you can take those little children into the Washington hospitals and stay with them there until the medical workers cope with their needs, and in showing it your children you will have shown this country a sight that will make it stop in its busy tracks and think hard about what it has done. The many people who will come and join this three thousand, from all groups in the country’s life, will play a supportive role deciding to be poor for a time along with the dispossessed who are asking for their right to jobs or income – jobs, income, the demolition of slums, and the rebuilding by the people who live there of new communities in their place, in fact, a new economic deal for the poor.

Why camp in Washington to demand these things? Because only the federal congress and administration can decide to use the billions of dollars we need for a real war on poverty. We need, not a new law, but a massive, new national program. This Congress has done nothing to help such measures, and plenty to hinder them. Why should congress care about our dying cities? It is still dominated by senior representatives of the rural South, who still united in an obstructive coalition with unprogressive Northerners to prevent public funds from going where they are socially needed. We broke that coalition in 1963 and 1964, when the Civil Rights and Voting Rights laws were passed. We need to break it again by the size and force of our movement, and the best place to that is before the eyes and inside the building of these same Congressmen. The people of this country, if not the Congressmen, are ready for a serious economic attack on slums and unemployment, as two recent polls by Lou Harris have revealed. So we have to make Congress ready to act on the plight of the poor. We will prod and sensitize the legislators, the administrators, and all the wielders of power until they have faced this utterly imperative need.

I have said that the problem, the crisis we face, is international in scope. In fact, it is inseparable from an international emergency which involves the poor, the dispossessed, and the exploited of the whole world.

Can a nonviolent, direct-action movement find application on the international level, to confront economic and political problems? I believe it can. It is clear to me that the next stage of the movement is to become international. National movements within the developed countries – forces that focus on London, or Paris, or Washington, or Ottawa – must help to make it politically feasible for their governments to undertake the kind of massive aid that the developing countries need if they are to break the chains of poverty. We in the West must bear in mind that the poor countries are poor primarily because we have exploited them through political or economic colonialism. Americans in particular must help their nation repent of her modern economic imperialism.

But movements in our countries alone will not be enough. In Latin America, for example, national reform movements have almost despaired of nonviolent methods; many young men, even many priests, have joined guerrilla movements in the hills. So many of Latin America’s problems have roots in the United States of America that we need to form a solid, united movement, nonviolently conceived and carried through, so that pressure can be brought to bear on the capital and government power structures concerned, from both sides of the problem at once. I think that may be the only hope for a nonviolent solution in Latin America today; and one of the more powerful expressions of nonviolence may come out of that international coalition of socially aware forces, operating outside governmental frameworks.

In a world facing the revolt of ragged and hungry masses of God’s children’ in a world torn between the tensions of East and West, white and colored, individualists and collectivists; in a world whose cultural and spiritual power lags so far behind her technological capabilities that we live each day on the verge of nuclear co-annihilation; in this world, nonviolence is no longer an option for intellectual analysis, it is an imperative for action. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013


I got this out of The Trumpet of Conscience a set of four speeches and the Christmas sermon in December 1967. Looking at the history of US involvement the business of other countries since those fateful speeches this one becomes eerily prescient. We have been on the wrong side of the battles, especially in Latin America, since the end of WWII.

The piece is well worth the read. Especially the last couple paragraphs. And I really have to stop and wonder what the world would be like today if King, Kennedy and Merton had survived 1968.

It is many months now since I found myself obliged by conscience to end my silence and to take a public stand against my country’s war in Vietnam. The considerations that led me to that painful decision have not disappeared: indeed they have been magnified by the course of events since then.

I cannot speak about the great themes of violence and nonviolence, of social change and of hope for the future without reflecting on the tremendous violence of Vietnam.

Since the spring of 1967, when I first when I first made public my opposition to my government’s policy, many people have questioned me about the wisdom of my decision. “Why you?” they have said. “Peace and civil rights don’t mix. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people?” And when I hear such questions, I am greatly saddened, for they mean that the inquirers have never really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, that question suggests that they do know the world in which they live.

In explaining my position, I have tried to make it clear that I remain perplexed – as I think everyone must be perplexed – by the complexities and ambiguities of Vietnam. I would not wish to underrate the need for a collective solution to this tragic war. I would wish neither to present North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front as paragons of virtue, not to overlook the role they can play in the successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give-and-take on both sides.

Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I had several reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There are at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago where was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then there came the build-up in Vietnam, and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonical destructive suction tube. And so I was increasingly compelled to see the war not only as a moral outrage but also as an enemy of the poor, and to attack it as such.

Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home, It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die and in extraordinarily higher proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black you men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. We watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, but it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years – especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion, while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But, they asked, and rightly so, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question “aren’t you a civil rights leader?” – and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace – I answer by saying that I have worked too long and hard now against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating my moral concern. Justice is indivisible. It must also be said that it would be rather absurd to work passionately and unrelentingly for integrated schools and not be concerned about the survival of a world in which to be integrated. I must say further that something in the very nature of our organizational structure in the Southern Leadership Conference led me to this decision. In 1957, when a group of us formed that organization, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war.

/As if the weight of such a commitment were not enough, another burden of responsibility was place upon me in 1964” I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission - a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for “the brotherhood of man.” This is a calling which takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution until some attempt is made to know them and to hear their broken cries.

They must see the Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people weren’t ready for independence, and we gain fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long.

For nine years following 1945 we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come through the Geneva Agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem, The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by U S influence and then by increasing numbers of  U S troops, who can to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown, they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictatorships seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace.

The only change came from America, as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support. All the while, the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us – not their fellow Vietnamese – the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs, and they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops and they wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American fire power to one Vietcong – inflicted injury. They wander into the town and see thousands of children homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think, as we ally ourselves with the landlords, and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reforms? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in crushing one of the nation’s only non-communist revolutionary political forces, the United Buddhist church. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators!

Now there is little left to build on – save bitterness. And soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these; could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for the, and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too, are our brothers.

Perhaps the more difficult but no less necessary task is to speak for those who have been designated as our enemies. What of the National Liberation Front? How can they believe in our integrity when now we speak of “aggression from the North” as if there were nothing more essential to the war? How can they trust us when now charge them with violence after the murderous reign of Diem? And charge them with violence when we pour every new weapon of death into their land? Surely we must understand their feelings, even if we do not condone their actions. How do they judge us when our officials know that their member ship is less than 25 percent Communist and yet insist on giving them the blanket name? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again and then shore it up with the power of new violence?

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when they help us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called opposition.

So, too, with Hanoi. In the North, where our bombs now pummel the land and our mines endanger the waterways we are met by a deep but understandable mistrust. In Hanoi are the men who led the nation to independence against the Japanese and the French. It was they who led a second struggle against French domination, and then were persuaded to give up the land they controlled between the 13th and 17th parallels as a temporary measure at Geneva. After 1954 they watched us conspire with Diem to prevent elections which would surely have brought Ho Chi Minh to power over a united Vietnam, and they realized they had been betrayed again.

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. Also, it must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi consider the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva Agreements concerning foreign troops. They remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved in to the tens of thousands. Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace; how we claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the North.

At this point, I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those we are called enemy, I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war, where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create a hell for the poor.

If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and n the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. It will become clear that our minimal expectation is to occupy it as an American colony, and men will not refrain from thinking that our maximum hope is to goad china into a war so that we may bomb her nuclear installations.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.

In the spring of 1967 I made public the steps I consider necessary for this to happen. I should add now only that while many Americans have supported the proposals, the government has so far not recognized one of them. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.

There is something seductively tempting about stopping there and going off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.

In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast between poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries and say: “This is not just.” It will look on our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin American and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that is has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of: “This way of settling differences is not just.” The business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into he veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons.

These are revolutionary times; all over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a greet light.” We in the west must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of Communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the are-antirevolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and for 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 posses power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

That last sentence is a real  eye opener. 


And I really wish that I didn't live in a world where the what if that hit me this morning could happen.

In late 1967 Martin Luther King was asked to give the Massey lectures in Canada and they were broadcast by the CBC. The four lectures plus his Christmas sermon have been published as a collection titled the The Trumpet of Conscience. Since I can't find a copy of Conscience and the Vietnam War on the net I'm transcribing it and hope to have it up later today or early tomorrow. And hope the folks who published the book will forgive me. But, I believe it's vitally important that we remember that his life and ministry didn't end with the "I Have a Dream" speech.

Now for the what if? A lot of people died in 1968. American servicemen in Vietnam, Vietnamese peasants. Guatemalan peasants accused of being rebels or labor organizers or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Plus a murdered minister, an assassinated politician, and an outspoken Cistercian monk who had an unfortunate run in with a wet floor and a badly wired fan while attending a conference in Thailand. IE. Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and Thomas Merton. Ironically Merton, the critic of the war in Vietnam came home aboard a military plane carrying dead American servicemen. Somehow I don't think he would have minded. In fact he probably would have appreciated the irony.

But, this morning while I was working on Rev. King's speech and reflecting on what I've been reading the last few years I was struck by an inescapable fact. If these men had lived in any one of a dozen Latin American countries between the years of  say, 1964 and 1990 and their names had been say Martine, Roberto or Tomas they probably would have been just as dead. Victims of the civil wars and/or right wing dictatorships supported by US money, materiel and CIA "advisers." In fact, it might not have mattered. Being Americans didn't save three nuns and a lay missionary returning to El Salvador in December of 1980.

What a world we've built. I have a great niece or nephew due next February. This is not the world I want that child to inherit. If the best I can do today is write then write I will. I'm open to suggestions for other, preferably non violent actions.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


So, today is the anniversary of the I have a dream speech. It is a wonderful speech and deserves to be remembered.

But, I have a big, big problem with all the polite, national commemorations. Look at our national mythology It’s as if MLK gave that speech and then dropped off the face of earth until April 1968 when he was gunned down outside that motel room in Memphis. If you rely on the national mythology you’d never know that Rev. King was increasingly radicalized, especially in his opposition to the war in Viet Nam. Instead he has become an icon in the national pantheon. Safely dead to the "to the accompaniment of military bands, with the U S Marine Corps chorus singing 'we shall overcome' and the cadenced marching of military color guards." From an essay by Vincent Harding. A collection essays I just ordered used from Amazon. I suspect that it’ll get bounced off the wall a few times. 

“King found that his search for a way to challenge the government and the nation to justice was constantly blocked by the reality of Viet Nam. The poor young men of America were being swept up to become victims and executioners in ever increasing numbers. The poor of Viet Nam were being destroyed physically and culturally. Moreover King knew that all the cruel devastation of an unjust war was draining billions of dollars and lifetimes of energy and creativity out of nation’s potential for dealing with the needs of its own people.”

In the film Cry Freedom black activist Steven Biko echoed King in his refusal to be integrated into what he saw as an unjust, repressive system. That he and the non whites of South Africa would sit at the national table in their own right and not on the sufferance of an unjust government. Biko was murdered by the Afrikaaner government in 1977 BTW. Being a prophet is a dangerous profession. Just ask Jeremiah. In the essay Harding quotes King “we are not interested in being integrated into THIS value system structure.” That structure being a society based on racism, extreme materialism and militarism. And goes on

“the storm is rising against the privileged minority of the earth, from which there is no shelter in isolation of armament. The storm will not abate until a just distribution of the fruits of the earth enables men everywhere to live in dignity and human decency.”

 That was pre 1968. The civil war in Guatemala was just heating up. The early seventies saw the coup in Chili fully supported by our government. The US supported the rise of dictatorships in Argentina, among other Latin American countries. The late seventies and most the decade of the eighties added the horrors of civil war in El Salvador and Nicaragua with the full aid and support of the Reagan and Bush governments.

The CIA playbook perfected in Viet Nam sanctioned the murder of just about anyone considered subversive. And their friends. And their families. The final death toll included religious leaders, teachers, lay religious workers, union organizers, supporters of farm cooperatives. In fact anyone who worked for that just distribution of the fruits of the earth and the chance to live life as a human being instead of a subhuman drudge.  Every effort was made to discredit any teaching resembling liberation theology and those who taught it.

I’m not usually a believer in conspiracy theories. However, I do believe that if Martin Luther King had been transformed into a Latino he is exactly the kind of leader who was targeted by the CIA backed Latin American military and death squads.

Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it? 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


May the earth carry your spirit gently.
May the fire release your soul.
May the water wash you clean of pain and suffering and sorrow. 
May the earth receive you.
May the wheel turn again and bring you to rebirth.

Blessed be. 

From the Fifth Sacred Thing

Saturday, August 24, 2013


There's one hell of a forest fire burning just outside Yosemite National Park.  Warning. If you do follow the link to the comments section some of what's being posted is pretty damned toxic. I don't know where these folks come from. Their concern for their fellow Americans is indeed touching. For folks whose moral dipsticks are so dry they crumbled years ago.

I finally decided that for the sake of my sanity, my blood pressure and the well being of my psyche to get the hell out of Dodge. So to speak. Anyway I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't agree with this.

The Declaration of the Four Sacred Things

The earth is a living, conscious being. In company with many cultures from many different times and places, we name these things as sacred: air, fire, water and earth.

Whether we see them as the breath, energy, blood and body of the Mother, or as the Blessed Gifts of a Creator, or as the interconnected systems that sustain life, we know that nothing can live without them.

To call these things sacred is to say that they have value beyond their usefulness for human ends, that they themselves become the standards by which our acts, our economics, our laws and our purposes must be judged. No one had the right to appropriate them or profit from them at the expense of others. Any government that fails to protect them forfeits its legitimacy.

All people, all living things are part of the earth life, and so are sacred. No one of us stands higher or lower than any other. Only justice can assure balance: only ecological balance can sustain freedom. Only in freedom can that fifth sacred thing we call spirit can flourish in its full diversity.

To honor the sacred is to create conditions in which nourishment, sustenance, habitat, knowledge, beauty and freedom can thrive. To honor the sacred is to make love possible.

To this we dedicate our curiosity, our will, our courage, our silences and our voices. To this we dedicate our lives.

Intro to the novel The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk (born Miriam Simos) a feminist neopagan writer. She has two novels to her credit plus a fair amount of non fiction. This book has been sitting on my shelf for several years. I guess I finally have enough pegs to hang it on. As I typed this I flashed on all the comments that hold that a tree doesn't have any value unless it's been cut, milled and had a price tag slapped on it. And I can type answers to these commenters until my fingers fall off and I won't make a dent in their bubble of adamant. They will never accept that those trees and the ecosystem they support has a value simply because they exist and are part of Creation. Unique in the universe and irreplaceable. 

God/dess how do we get through to these people.

Friday, August 23, 2013


It'll be a year come September 1 when my sister called from my nephew's apartment. His dad took out the recycling and came back this little scrap of fluff. Over next couple of days we revised the possible age down. Damn, she couldn't have been more than two weeks old. And I suspect she was probably dumped because she was a female. Assholes.

Maybe a week later. Tiny but very, very determined.  With a towel on top we started using the laundry basket as a playpen. I think it took her less than a day to figure out how to climb up the side and get through the towel. I was giving Bandit her early morning snack and putting out something for Smokey and here came the little, black fluffball trucking through the kitchen. Couldn't walk and sneeze at the same time. I doubled the number of clothespins. It slowed her down for oh, about two weeks.

Compare the size of the kitten to the size of the steps and you get an idea of how scrappy this little girl was and still is. The hand holds came in real handy to get to the top. When we turned the basket over she just put her chin in the hand hold and started pushing.

A rare still shot of the perpetual motion cat. I believe the cushion is about 14/16 inches square so you get an idea of the size of the full grown scrap of fur. She's maybe a third the size of Smoky. But she's got long legs and a long (very handy at times tail). And no, I"m not shy about using any advantage I can get. She's still a very determined, sassy golden eyed girl. If she weighs ten pounds I'd be very surprised. But there's about thiryty pounds of attitude tucked into that small package.


This is Smokey. He's the innie/outie that showed up just over a year ago during a very, very rare April snowstorm. He couldn't have been more than a big kitten. He had a collar with a missing tag and wasn't afraid to say "please be my mommy." He was someone's kitty once. He's very sweet. Was either neutered or born that way. Doesn't want to stay in but goes very far from the house. Recently he's taken to wanting a lap for awhile in the evenings. He is a big cat but very gentle.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I guess I'll get back to commenting on Wendell Berry later rather than sooner. Ran across this piece of stuff and nonsense this morning. Granted the examples they give are on the extreme side and they are from the workplace, really this could be anywhere USA. But it reminded me of set of stories that were in the Oregonian oh maybe twenty years ago.

A few of the details are little hazy so bear with me. I believe it was in the Sandy Boulevard area. Anyway it's a mixed use neighborhood; apartments, small businesses and some followers of the world's oldest profession. THEY weren't the problem. It was the potential customers who approached women who lived or worked in the neighborhood while they were going about their business and wouldn't take NO for an answer. Some of the stories the women told actually bordered on the ridiculous. Some of these guys acted as if any woman who was propositioned by them would be flattered by the fact and got really bent out of shape when they were turned down.

I forget how those stories played out. The "working girls" were probably encouraged to take their business elsewhere when they were only half the problem.

We hear a lot about personal responsibility. Especially from white politicians and pundits and it's usually aimed at poor women, the unemployed and children don't have a choice in what their families do. Funny it's always somebody else's personal responsibility they're worried about. And considering the number of politicians who've been caught with their pants "down" so to speak including the latest story coming out of California here's a novel idea.

Instead of the litany of BS we've been hearing for years, but most especially the last two or three, let's try something new and novel. Guys keep your eyes up, face forward and take responsibility for YOUR actions instead of trying to lay it off on someone else. Frankly, I doubt that your female neighbors, coworkers or the Jane Does you spot on the way to wherever you're going are planning on investing in burquas or veils anytime soon. Remember NO means NO, not maybe or I'll think about it, or maybe tomorrow, or when I get in the mood. It means NO. Learn to live with it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Warning. There’s a PO’d, impolite, intemperate blogger in the house. She has a keyboard, an internet connection, and a mad on.

There will be slight pause in the Berry action to contemplate this piece of utter, hypocritical, blatant bull shit coming out of North Carolina. Of course anything remotely affiliated with the American Family Association group in any state needs to be contemplated behind several fifty pound bags of salt.

This is from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State website. Creech the screech (yes, I impolite check out the link labeled tirade below) doesn’t seem to concerned about shopping, sports, boozing, eating out etc. on the Sabbath, just early voting. And this quote is absolutely priceless.

“In a tirade written for Alan Keyes’ RenewAmerica this past February, Creech asserted that “Nothing in the First Amendment was ever meant to suggest our nation's Founders were trying to protect the state from the church, the government from the press, etc. The purpose of the first ten amendments to the Constitution was to create a one-way wall to protect the citizenry from the government, not the other way around.”

And in another dig at the wall of separation, he argued that, “…Sunday voting should not be legal because Churches across North Carolina need such support from the state so that they may continue to effectively do what they are commissioned to do.” “

Brother, you just ‘fessed up to what has had the fundies knickers in a twist for decades. They no longer have the power of the state to coerce if not belief, at least conformity. We no longer live in Massachusetts Bay where the norm was a church service in the morning and another in the afternoon. I assume that he does not have a problem with kids playing sports on Sunday. Or with mom’s shopping. Or with folks going to a sports bar to watch ball games. Or attending NASCAR races. Or anything other than a chance for minorities to vote.

And my religious faith is doing just fine thank you without your version being rammed down my throat on a regular basis. And I suggest you contemplate these facts. The folks you are targeting are not the minority voters of the pre civil rights era. If these folks are determined to vote, they will find a way. Short of reenacting the worst of ol’ Bull Connors actions of the sixties you can't stop them no matter how hard you try. This is the twenty first century, not the eighteenth; so grow the heck up and join the rest of us.

And if you do follow the tirade link you'l find a picture of another grey haired white guy in a suit trying hang on to the power he feels slipping through his fingers.

Monday, August 19, 2013


This is an excerpt from Wendell Berry's essay Word and Flesh. The full essay can be found here. It's worth the read even though the paragraph formatting went bye bye. What I excerpted is the conclusion. I'm posting this and will post a follow up.

“In his essay on Kipling, George Orwell wrote ‘all left wing parties in the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something that they do not really wish to destroy. They have internationalist aims, and at the same time they struggle to keep up a standard of life with which these aims are incompatible. We all live by robbing Asiatic coolies, and those of us who are enlightened all maintain that those coolies ought to be set free; but our standard of living, and hence our enlightenment, demands that the robbery shall continue

This statement of Orwell’s is clearly applicable to our situation; all we need to do is change a few nouns. The religion and the environmentalism of the highly industrialized countries is at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something that they do no really wish to destroy. We all live by robbing nature, but our standard of living demands that the robbery continue.

We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less, we must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes we are inviting catastrophe to make.

The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependent on what is wrong. But that is the addict’s excuse, and we know that will not do.

How dependent in fact are we? How dependent are our neighborhoods and our communities? How might our dependencies be reduced? To answer these questions will require better thoughts and better deeds than we have been capable of so far.

We must have the sense and the courage, for example to see that the ability to transport food for hundreds or thousands of miles does not necessarily prove that we are well off. It means that the food supply is more vulnerable and more costly than a local food supply would be. It means that consumers do not control or influence the healthfulness of their food supply and that they are at the mercy of the people who have the control and the influence. It means that, in eating, people are using large quantities of petroleum that other people in another time are almost certain to need.

Our most serious problem, perhaps, is that we have become a nation of fantasists. We believe, apparently, in the infinite availability of finite resources. We persist in land use methods that reduce the infinite power of soil fertility to a finite quantity and then waste it as if it were an infinite quantity. We have an economy that depends not on the quality or quantity of necessary goods and services but on the whims of a few stock brokers. We believe that democratic freedom can be preserved by people ignorant of the history of democracy and indifferent to the responsibilities of freedom.

Our leaders have been as oblivious for many years to the realities and dangers of their times as George III and Lord North. They believe that the difference between war and peace is still the overriding political difference – when, in fact, the difference has diminished to the point of insignificance. How would you describe the difference between modern war and modern industry – say between bombing and strip mining, or between chemical warfare and chemical manufacturing? The difference seems to be only that in war the victimization of humans is directly intentional and in industry is ‘accepted’ as a ‘trade off.’

Were the catastrophes of Love Canal, Bhopal, Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdiz episodes of war or peace? They were in fact, peacetime acts of aggression, intentional to the extent that the risks were known and ignored.

We are involved unremittingly in a war not against ‘foreign enemies’ but against the world, against our freedom, and indeed against our very existence. Our so called industrial accidents should be looked upon as revenges of nature. We forget that nature is, necessarily, a party to all our enterprises and she imposes conditions of her own.

Now she is plainly saying to us: ’if you put the fates of whole communities or cities or regions or ecosystems at risk in single ships, or factories or power plants, then I will furnish the drunk or the fool or the imbecile who will make the necessary small mistake.


I know I've been referencing Berry a lot lately, but one) he's who I'm reading right now and two) he says what I want to say better than I can. I have some thoughts on this excerpt, mainly that not only has nothing changed in twenty five years; it's gotten worse much worse.

Dear blogger these formatting issudes are becomeing a real PITA.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


I discovered Wendell Berry last year. The more I read, the more I like.

From Some Further Words in essay collection Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth. Some of the authors are Christians. Some are not. The common theme is the deadly split between how the dominat culture of the west views the rest of Creation and the truth of Creation itself. We better get our ducks in a row. We can help solve our problems or the earth with do it for us. I can guarantee we won't like the results.
"Let me be plain with you dear reader, I am an old fashioned man. I like the world of Nature despite its mortal dangers/ I like the domestic world of humans, so long as it pays its debts to the natural world and pays its debts to the natural world, and keeps its bounds. I like the promise of Heaven. My purpose is a language that can repay just thanks and repay these gifts, a tongue free from fashionable lies.

Neither this world nor any of its places is an “environment.” And a house for sale is not a “home.” Economics is not a “science” nor “information” knowledge. A knave with a degree is a knave/ A fool in public office is not a “leader.” A rich thief is a thief. And the ghost of Arthur Moore who taught me Chaucer, returns in the night to say again: “Let me tell you something boy. An intellectual whore is still a whore.”

The world is babbled to pieces after the divorce of things from their names. Ceaseless preparation for war is not peace. Health is not procured by the sale of medication, or purity by the addition of poison. Science at the bidding of the corporations is knowledge reduced to merchandise; it is a whoredom of the mind, and so is the art that calls this “progress.” So is the cowardice that calls this “inevitable.” "

This is the beginning of a much longer essay but this is definitely the best part. I suspect that he doesn’t mind if you disagree with him but you’d better have your ducks in a row before you take him on.

I just got the book today so I've barely had a chance to check out the table of contents but it looks like there is some really good material. I will let you know

Friday, August 16, 2013


What Are People For by Wendell Berry

Since WWII the governing agricultural doctrine in government offices, universities and corporations has been that “there are too many people on the farm.” This idea has supported, if indeed it has not caused, one of the most consequential migrations of history: million of rural people moving from country to city in a stream that has not slackened from the war’s end until now. And the strongest force behind this migration, than as now, has been the economic ruin on the farm. Today, with hundreds of farm families losing their farms every week, the economists are saying as they have been saying all along, that these people deserve to fail, that they have failed because “they are the least efficient producers,” and the rest of us are better off because of their failure.
It is apparently easy to say there are too many farmers, if one is not a farmer. This is not a pronouncement often heard in farm communities. Nor have farmers yet been informed of a dangerous surplus of population in the “agribusiness” profession or among the middlemen of the of the food system. No agricultural economist has as yet perceived that there are too many agricultural economists.
The farm-to-city migration has obviously produced advantages for the corporate economy. The absent farmers have had to be replaced with machinery, petroleum, chemicals, credit and other expensive goods and services from the agribusiness economy, which ought not to be confused with the economy that used to be called farming.
But these short term advantages all imply long term disadvantages, both to country and to city. The departure of so many people has seriously weakened rural communities and economies all over the country. And that our farmland no longer has enough caretakers is implied by the fact that, as the farming people have departed from the land, the land itself has departed. Our soil erosion rates are now higher than they were during the time of the Dust Bowl.

At the same time the cities have had to receive a great influx of people unprepared for urban life and unable to cope with it. A friend of mine, a psychologist who has frequently worked with the juvenile courts of a large Midwest city, told me that a major occupation of the police force there is to keep the “permanently unemployable” confined to their own part of town. Such a circumstance cannot be good for the future of democracy and freedom. One wonders what the authors of our constitution would have thought of that category, “permanently unemployable.”
Equally important is the sustainabliltiy of the urban food supply. The supermarkets are, at present, crammed with food, and the productivity of American agriculture, is at present, enormous. But, this productivity is based on the ruin of both the producers and the source of production. City people are unworried about this, apparently, only because they do not know anything about farming. People who know about farming, who know what farmland requires to remain productive are worried. When topsoil losses exceed the weight of grain harvested fivefold (Iowa) or twenty fold (the wheatlands of eastern Washington), there is something to worry about.

When the “too many” of the country arrive in the city, they are not called the “too many.” In the city they are called “unemployed” or “permanently unemployable.” But what will happen if the economists ever perceive that there are too many people in the cities? There appear to be only two possibilities: either they will recognize that their earlier diagnosis was a tragic error, or they will conclude that there are too people in country and city both – and what further inhumanities will be justified by that diagnosis

The great question that hovers over this issue, one that we have dealt with mainly by indifference, is the question of what people are for. Is their greatest dignity unemployment? Is the obsolescence of human beings now our social goal? One would conclude so from our attitude toward work, especially the manual work necessary for the long term preservation of the land and from our rush toward mechanization, automation, and computerization. In a country that puts an absolute premium on labor saving measures, short workdays, and retirement, why should there be any surprise at permanence of unemployment and welfare dependency? Those are only different names for our national ambitions.

In the country, meanwhile, there is work to be done. This is the inescapably necessary work of caring for and restoring our farms, forests, and rural towns and communities – work that we have not been able to pay people to do for forty years and that, thanks to our forty year “solution to the farm problem,” few people any longer know how to do.

It’s been almost thirty years since Berry wrote this essay. Since then big agro has expanded into countries like Brazil. Into lands that were never intended for large scale, intensive monoculture style agriculture. Companies like Monsanto and Dow have perfected crops that can be poisoned and survive.

Berry wonders what will happen when the economic powers that be decide that there are too many people in the country period. Well, we’ve seen some of the answers in the last election cycles as varying percentages of our fellow citizens are labeled as a drain on the economy, as freeloaders, as leeches. Ironically, the same group that tells many of their fellow citizens that they’re worthless insists on adding more kids to the population through their opposition to family planning and the rights of women to make their own health care decisions.

The destruction of our land, water, forests and sea coasts exposes American Capitalism’s dirty little secret. There is no room for the future in the balance sheets. My profits are paramount and if it takes every last tree to do it now, then that’s what we’ll do.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


 “Uhm obamacare was a liberal idea and it is the LIBERALS who want out now. THEY are the ones dictating rights, conservatives want the government OUT of people's lives. You dont get it and are in such a dishonest spin of denial. Progressivism only leads to oppression and LOSS of rights. it is happening before your eyes and you will pay the price of misguided and thoroughly corrupt ideals.” From a female commenter who shall remain nameless out of charity. The only folks I've heard of who want to be let out are religious conservatives.

This was a comment on this article on Think Progress.  Heck of a publicity stunt congressman. On the comment  damn, I don’t know where to begin. I have serious doubts about this person’s critical thinking skills and reading comprehension. Willful ignorance and the total spin of Faux News springs to mind but I might be projecting. What pisses me off the most is the twisting of words and ideas to fit a preconceived idea.

And even then the commenter is wrong. The congressman is a conservative Catholic for heaven’s sake. Gee,z if you don’t want to use birth control don’t use it. Do your damndest to convince your daughters not to use it. Wonder what will happen when they don’t live at home anymore.
"Conservatives want government out of peoples lives." Ooooookaaaaay hon. Granted the hon might be a little over the top, but oh well, We’ll get rid of the laws that TRY to guarantee safe drugs, drinking water and food. Let's do away with the regulating boards that try to control the training of electricians, carpenters, plumbers and the like. Let's let anyone hang out a shingle and offer to install your wiring. Good luck on that.

Why don’t we get rid of overtime, the eight hour day and let employers work you seven days a week, fifty two weeks a year if they want. Let’s bring back subhuman worker’s housing and the company store. Why don’t we let parents send their kids out to work at any age and not worry about whether the working conditions are safe or not. I could go on, but this isn’t helping my blood pressure.
All of these things we pretty much take for granted were worked for by liberals and progressives. You know, those funny people who believe that living like a human being is one of those unalienable rights.

As near as I can figure out the only right some conservatives are worried about is the rights of oligarchic corporations to convince you to buy what they want to sell and get us to thank them for it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


I’ve watched the hydra headed monster of racism crawl out from under the rocks these last few months in this country and I look at three wonderful, bright, beautiful young women and wonder what would happen to them, their children and their husbands if we ever found the real die hard racists in control.

Me? I look at them and I can't wait to start adding to that old family tree. I've managed to trace one branch back to second century Armenia. Now I may have the other half of the world to play with. Oh, and I have a cousin who married a guy from New Zealand. I wonder how Maori would mix with Scots/Irish, English, Welsh and Spanish. Come on gals, I'm waitin' up here. Anyway here goes.

You see C’s father came from Indonesia so she’s half Pacific Islander. Too bad there are some people who wouldn’t look past her slightly exotic appearance to discover that she’s even more beautiful on the inside than she is on the outside. C graduated from a private Christian college this year. She played varsity volleyball and she’ll be coaching volleyball at a local high school this year while my nephew finishes his class work and football career at the U of O. Then they’ll figure out where to go for grad school. She’s in exercise science and coaching. He wants to be a social worker with troubled kids. Won’t get rich but you can’t outsource foster care to Mumbai. At least I don’t believe they’ve figured out how to do that. Yet. And what a combo they'll make when they have kids. My BIL gets most of his heritage from England and the Baltic.

A just married into the family. She and my nephew both attended Concordia in Portland. It’s a Lutheran school. I’m not sure but I think they met on the practice field. They both threw the javelin. And they both went to the nationals more than once. Yeah, my new niece knows what to do with pointy sticks. If I’m right she could be described with the pre WWII term Nisei. Her father is Japanese. Again there are some who wouldn’t look past her slightly exotic appearance to learn to know that wonderful, beautiful young woman. Their kids. This nephew has a healthy helping of Norwegian from his dad's side of the family.

And there are some who would even frown at the other new A in the family. She a brown eyed brunette with a slight oriental caste to her smiling eyes. Arrrrrgh! My nephew hadn’t asked her yet be she had me when we had to make the trip after my brother in law died suddenly about three years ago. She was so wonderful my mom and my BIL’s mom. She was fantastic during those sad days and I couldn’t help thinking “kid if you do not propose to this gal you are even crazier than you sometimes appear.” He got the message. And she’s done everything she could and can to welcome the two newbies into our family.

Don’t be afraid to look beyond the obvious. You just might be surprised at what you find. And I can’t wait to start amending the family tree.

Oh, and did I mention that the oldest nephew and his wife are expecting. The new branchlet is due next February. Now I gotta get the guys in.

Monday, August 12, 2013


I spotted this yesterday, but frankly I didn't want to contaminate the happy day posting for the wedding with this bullshit.

The Nutsy Fagins are at it again. This time it’s prairie dog hunt at least partially sponsored by a gun shop. Ten day span. Whoever brings in the most little tails wins a gun. To the critics, answers include “well there are plenty of prairie dogs.”

Once upon a time there were plenty of whales, dodos, certain kinds of sea turtles, Pacific salmon, passenger pigeons, Eastern woods bison, prairie bison and wolves. Just to name a few species.

I had a friend in college; her dad filled his deer and elk tags every year. Meat went into the freezer for winter. Then he went stalking. Didn’t take a gun; just tried to get as close as possible to the critters before they knew he was there. He was very good at it. It would take a lot more skill to take a camera and see how close you could get to the prairie dogs before they spotted you and popped down their holes.

Oh, and the excuse given for slaughtering critters you probably wouldn’t eat unless you were totally starving? “People are trying to take our guns away and hunting is an avenue for them to do it,” said a spokesman. I’m not sure if he’s the guy that owns the gunshop sponsoring the event or not.

“They’re coming for our guns!!!!! They’re coming for our guns!!!!!” Have any of these twits thought through what it would take to confiscate every gun in this country. I’m betting that at least a quarter of them are like the 22 that belonged to my grand dad. We had it reconditioned and it went to his oldest great grandson on his twelfth birthday. With his parents permission. I think it’s living in the gun safe at his moms these days.

Just keep pushing guys. You’re right up there with certain in your face evangelicals that cry persecution every time anyone pushes back while som ewhere, some when the Maker of All Things including prairie dogs weeps.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


The young lady is just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside married my sister's youngest yesterday. It's August, it should be safe to plan an outdoor wedding. Right? Hey this is Oregon, so we had a thunderstorm. They hauled out the appetizers and the drinks and we waited for the tater wagons to quit rattling. 

Friday, August 9, 2013


I think this guy may have set a record. Two stories within a day about the same shouldn't be a dog catcher congressman. He's also signed on as a birther. Although he's kind of hedging his bets because, "well, he's already elected so there's nothing we can do about it."

Again, where do they find these peoople. Is there some kind of scouting service that searches out the most improbable, how the heck did this person get elected candidates to run for office? I mean I really can see the Koch brothers and ALEC doing something like this.

When I think read history and realize  whose shoulders these pygmies are standing on it's damned embarrassing. John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, John C Calhoun. And that's just for starters.

Now who do we have? John Bohner? Markwayne Mullin? Michelle Bachmann? And so on and so forth into nauseating infinity.


This is a prime example of why the country has gone to hell in a handbasket. Back in the much maligned days of the back room politicians candidates were vetted to see if they even qualified for dog catcher before they were allowed to run with the big dogs. I applaud the man for taking over the family plumbing business at the age of twenty and making a success of it.

Sorry but IMNHO that and an associates degree in applied science does not qualify him for higher office. He might get by in the state legislature but it would be a stretch. Tuesday morning Midge has an appointment to get her outlook on life changed. I didn't call a plumber I called the vet. When my sink leaks I don't Cascade Animal Hospital I call Petersen's Plumbing.

We've allowed the fiction to flourish, and it's been around from the beginning, that just anybody can run the country's business. You know what happens when we try that. When these twits don't know what they're doing they call an "expert." These "experts" are also known as lobbyists. Most lobbyists do not have the best interests of the country at the top of their list. Their A list consistis of the coporations, mega businesses and folks like the Koch brothers who pay their fees.

Oh, and this representative has been in office for just about eight months. He's part of tthe 2013 crop. Back in the day freshmen didn't even open their pie holes until they'd been reelected at least once. This ranks up with a wet behind the ears freshman graduate of either a homeschool program or the equivalent of The Gateway Christian Academy on the other side of town getting up Bio 101 and telling the instructor with the masters or the PHd that he doesn't know what he/she is talking about because it doesn't follow the Bible. And no, not all those stories are urban legends.

And yes, I have seen the workbooks that show Adam and Eve and the dinosaurs. It's been a few years but there it was in all its glory in the Christian book store. Told mom and sis I'd be waiting in the car for them to get their Christmas fixin's. It was that or blow my cork right there in the store.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Here we go again. The conservative, fundamentalist version of a jobs program. At least for lawyers. Gotta love those billable hours.

“In the real world, outside of academia, scientific theory is up for all kinds of argument. I don’t think it’s right to exclude any particular kind of argument prima facie. If a student wants to discuss a criticism, he or she should be able to.” Pennsylvania rep Stephen Bloom.

Oh, buruuuuther. Another politician who probably never got past the basic science requirements in college who wants to tell the scientists who really do the work how it’s done. For the record he has a law degree and also teaches some business management courses at a small, private Christian college.
I love how the fundies try to separate the people who do the real work of science from what they call the “real world.” Academics are somehow a different breed of human from us real humans out side the ivory towers. Yeah, those rarified academics who slog through swamps collecting plant samples. And tramp through recently burned forests studying how the ecosystem heals itself. And go to places on the edge like Antarctica to see just what kinds of critters they can find under the ice.

When I was a sophomore taking intro biology it would have never entered my mind to question the basics of the science. Of course I was already predisposed to take the evolutionary side of the science. I never got a chance to really use it, but my major was anthropology. The first time I got to hold a replica of a hominid fossil, part of the skull of one of the Australopithecines, was fantastic. What did they know? How did they see the world? How did they see each other? My world got a little bigger that day.

And to be honest I have to wonder who is providing the cash to support these continued and usually unsuccessful attempts to force a particular Christian view of the world on the rest of us under the guise of “academic freedom.” Can you think of any corporations that have a massive interest in ignorance? After all, if you understand how natural selection works you’ll realize that RoundUp ready crops will end up in the dust bin of history. That in the attempt to keep the money coming in it will take more and stronger poisons. Poisons that will be less and less effective while causing more and more damage to the already badly frayed ecosystems.

Free market capitalisms dirty big secret. Monsanto and Dow post their profits. The stock holders get their dividends. The rest of us get left holding the bag to clean up the mess. If it can be cleaned up. While we’re concentrating on climate change monoculture farming is costing us tons of topsoil every year. It isn’t being renewed and what happens when it’s gone? Hey, rep Business Management do you have an answer for that? This is the "real world" as it gets. My nieces, nephews and THEIR children are the ones that are going to be left holding the bag.