The Moral Value of Posters at Westminster High

The cross is probably the most ubiquitous symbol of human society. It’s held that status well before Christians began using it. It is simple, easy to make and to understand. From a swastika to a four-leaf clover, two lines crossing one another have symbolized innumerable gods, mysteries, theologies and political entities. There exists a cross with an anchor on the bottom and one with a head-like shape on top called an ankh. There is a cross with a star, a yin-yang symbol, a flame, a chalice, a dead naked man, a star of David, and even one that identifies an artist formerly known as Prince. Each of these diverse symbols holds meanings far greater than the simplicity of their design. Whole armies gathered around some of them and wars have been fought for them. Such is the power of a symbol.

Ask Christians if their cross is a symbol of torture and cruelty or a sign of love and peace. I’ll bet they choose the latter. If you ask those who endorse the stars and bars of the Confederate flag “What does it symbolize?”, you will likely get a muddle of opinions on the topic. I find it hard to come up with anything of a positive nature to say in its behalf; the connotations of slavery overwhelm any good it may represent. People fight hard to keep it part of their southern heritage in spite of this. Its significance regarding violence and oppression of vast cultures of people has caused its removal from many public buildings and schools.

New symbols appear in our midst all the time. From a protest march in Oregon to a classroom in Maryland you can see marvelous illustrations of a women of color asserting themselves in a poster series called “We the People” by the artist Shepard Fairey, the artist who made the iconic Obama poster. They speak of liberty and freedom and diversity. They have deep significance for the gender and cultures who are oppressed in our society. The symbols in these posters do not use the image of a cross. They are new, so they have no established place in our history as the Confederate flag does. They are simply portraits of confident minority women asserting themselves in our society. They represent the diverse multi-ethnic population of the United States struggling to survive. They connote an altruistic and moral point of view.

That school in Maryland, Westminster High School, has removed the posters from the classroom as if it were the same as the confederate flag. The stated reason for this is that the symbol was also carried in opposition protests to Donald Trump’s politics. The denigrating bias of Trump’s politics on women, minorities, poor folks, Muslims and people of color turns these symbols, the posters, into something tainted by politics. The posters provide support for these moral values that Trump has made too controversial for this school.

Steven Johnson, the school’s assistant superintendent for instruction told HuffPost. “The Confederate flag in and of itself has no image of slavery or hatred or oppression, but it’s symbolic of that,” “These posters have absolutely no mention of Trump or any other political issue ― it’s the symbolism of what they were representing. They were carried in these protests.”

So, by carrying a symbol in a protest, that symbol becomes invalid as a conveyor of moral concepts for society and our children? The symbol – the posters – expressed a moral significance so succinctly that is was used in opposition to an oppressive political ideology. The well-made symbols of clearly articulated moral ideals must be suppressed in schools simply because those symbols have also been used in political campaigns on the side of those who lost the election. What would Vaclav Havel say about this?

I’m sure he would recognize the technique from his time under Communist rule. He speaks eloquently about this very situation when he discusses, in a letter to then President Gustav Husak of Czechoslovakia that his government had chosen “the most dangerous road for society: the path of inner decay for the sake of outward appearances; of deadening life for the sake of increasing uniformity.”

So, if that school deadens the brilliantly stated evocation of an ideal that happens to be part of its own mission statement which includes preaching “tolerance [and] acceptance of diversity”,  then there will be uniformity and compliance and consequently, inner decay. The richness of life will be replaced with clip-art posters of similar words and the homogenization of young minds will perpetuate blandness and complicity.

What about the Confederate flag? Doesn’t Steven Johnson’s equivalency of symbols argument hold true. Well, if they plan on using that argument there are a ton of images they will need to eliminate from the school in addition to those posters. They can start with any version of a cross that is not Donald Trump’s Presbyterian cross and any other religious symbols, especially Muslim symbology. They can clear out most of the art history department. The library can remove any literature, well, some can stay – pro-racist alt-right stuff. Get the point? They also marched with the American Flag, should that be replaced with a cartoon drawing too!

Look, the issue with the Confederate flag is that it is a symbol of oppression and domination and that it harshly reminds everyone of slavery. It screams its immoral history. On the other hand, the Fairey posters scream the morally valuable ideals of acceptance, diversity, equality, respect, and religious freedom. These are American values that belong to no single political party. There is no equivalency.

America needs to wake up to the subtle intrusion of inner decay. The purpose of school is not the homogenization of young minds. It’s not blandness nor is it complicity. Education is not about deadening life for the ease of uniformity. If educators, and all of us, do not learn to recognize it while it is happening and bother to stand up to this intrusion then we can expect decay.

ADF = Bully

 

Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost

my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of

myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation,

Iago, my reputation! 

Act 2 scene 3 of Othello has one of the more devastating moments to be found in any of Shakespeare’s plays. Iago intentionally gets Cassio drunk and embarrasses him in front of the boss. The character of Cassio is the epitome of goodness and virtue, and Iago is the most evil dramatic character ever created; the ultimate bully who revels in Cassio’s angst seen in those lines above.

Things to keep in mind about bullies:

They are smart.

They use strategies based upon circumstance.

They attack your reputation, knowing that you will protect it.

They almost always win.

To fight back you must accept the fact your reputation has already taken a hit, so put that reality to use. The bully is relying upon you to protect your reputation. You can beat the bully by removing reputation as the foundation of their strategy.

“You see what power is – holding someone else’s fear in your hand and showing it to them.”

-Amy Tan, from The Kitchen God’s Wife (1991)

If you fear the destruction of your reputation then the bully can keep you right where he wants you. Get rid of that fear and the bully no longer has power over you. A reputation is ephemeral, it ebbs and flows, it can be rebuilt when it is damaged. It is based in what other people think and you can’t control that. But you can control what you think about yourself.

The best way to get rid of the fear of damage to your reputation is to “know thyself.” Confidence in who and what you are allows you the fortitude to endure the inevitable assault. When you choose to oppose the attacking force, being fearless is like pulling their horses out from under them; they lose their momentum and gravity throws them into the dirt.

The Alliance Defending Freedom takes a strong oppositional stance to anti-bullying efforts in schools. Their strategy involves removing the ability for a child to become confident in themselves. The less the child knows about where they fit into the LGBTQ spectrum of existence the less confident they are. If you give them knowledge, you give them power so the ADF recommends that no information at all or even a mention of LGBTQ issues be part of anti-bullying campaigns. That will prevent struggling children from knowing themselves and certainly prevent sympathy for their lot in this circumstance. By ignoring the topic it becomes easier to use language like ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ and ‘dyke’ negatively since no-one has told them not to do so, or has even said that it is bad.

Social pressure, shame and reputation are valued in an authoritarian mindset where rules are respected more than individuals. Self-knowledge is irrelevant in this approach because standards have already been established for all individuals. So, if your kid doesn’t know the kind of pain he is causing a gay target when he calls him a fag, well, it doesn’t really matter because that childish shaming is what keeps the christian rules enforced. And, it is sort of the moral thing to do in their way of thinking because rules are more important than the individual. They don’t see the intentional restriction of knowledge as immoral either, especially if it helps the LGBTQ person know themselves. That sort of thing would let them think and reach conclusions that help build self-confidence which is the bully’s greatest fear. Keep them ignorant so they can be controlled. Let them fear being shamed and fear losing the false god of ‘reputation.’

But the Alliance Defending Freedom doesn’t stop there. They don’t want teachers reporting bullying incidents. They want investigations into bullying events contingent upon whether the bully’s parents permit it. They don’t want bullying events reported by anonymous complainants. They equate any education about LGBTQ issues to be propaganda advancing a Gay Rights agenda and undermining the family structure.

Their version of rules for “anti-bullying” give tacit approval to bully the LGBTQ population. They preemptively steal the student’s ability for self defense. They do this with lawyers under the guise of false moral superiority. They encourage anti-intellectualism, cruelty and blind allegiance to their own ignorant belief system. This is not Christ-like behavior.

Alt-Right, The Alternative To Being Right, Welcomes the ADF

New words and phrases enter our vocabulary all the time. One new arrival is the designation known as: Alt-Right. This name is designed to prevent a visceral reaction to the extreme ideologies it identifies. The right wing of American politics has been renaming itself for a long time. Neo-conservative shifts in thought bring about a distinction called the “paleo-conservative,” who only became “paleo,” or old, once the “neo,” new conservatives asserted themselves. Old ideas or political philosophies require a new moniker to be successfully recycled.

The Tea Party evolved out of Pat Buchanan’s declaration of cultural and religious wars in the 1990’s. Buchanan was attempting to re-define the Republican party with his incendiary speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention. He said: “There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America”.  The Koch brothers and their cohorts used a different approach as they created a new movement to influence the Republican party which eventually became the Tea Party. This was given a name that folks could hang their hats on both literally and metaphorically. Its suggestion of rebellion was attractive to white middle-class evangelical types because it’s just like the American Revolution. Anyone could pin a teabag to their hat and join the rebellion. They all knew about the 1773 Boston Tea Party from elementary school so the historical reference made them feel smart. They were empowered by their metaphorical fight for independence while seeking extreme conservative change.

“Tea Bagging” faded after a series of Sara Palin-like fiascos cluttered up their image. Meanwhile, white evangelicals searched for a new leader. They were sorely afraid of the black president who managed a scandal-free eight years in the White House. The line-up of candidates in the 2016 republican primaries offered a passel of overtly Christian and sometimes chubby, mostly white guys. They chose, the least Christ-like and most Palin-like contestant in the group. Trump seemed to endorse calling a spade a spade, as they say, and stood up to political correctness by retweeting the words of white supremacists. Now, look at this, Trump appears to be direct and forthright by repeating these memes. He calls it as he sees it. However, he stops short of being clear. His true message is hidden in this misdirection but people think they have been given at least a wink and a nod: “See, I’m on your side,” They finally had permission to feel good about their bigotry.

These folks prefer the name, Alt-Right. It just sounds more respectable, like “pro-life,” and “pro-family” and “christian”. Who can complain about an “alternative” to normal right wing politics? After all, it’s much more respectable than clearly stating the actual bigotries that define them: white supremacists, racists, homophobes, misogynists, and all those plain-old-white-folk who are scared of sharing control with darker skinned folks.

The Alliance Defending Freedom was created by hate groups such as the American Family Association, Focus on the Family and Coral Ridge Ministries. ADF has provided legal support for a number of these like-minded groups. They masquerade as just plain lawyers while advocating harsh, unkind, hateful anti-LGBTQ points of view. Christian hate-mongers wearing legal robes this time. There is nothing about being a lawyer that removes the responsibilities of civility, but this group masks incivility with cunning legal gimmicks. Dressing up to seem respectable is the purpose of the term Alt-Right and it is the purpose of the ADF for Christian bigotry.

Evangelicals feel they deserve respect.  They want this respect while being discriminatory against immigrants, Muslims and gays. They want control over women, blacks, and transgender people while at the same time wanting to feel good about their bigotry. The go-to guys for Alt-Right legal and political action is the Alliance Defending Freedom. “Alt-Right” gives them cover to feel better about their immoral choices. ‘It is just an alternative, there is no need to turn up your arrogant noses at us; our beliefs are merely an ‘alternate’ to yours’. Shouldn’t an alternative have equal status?

The problem is that they are seeking equal status with the more-principled and morally correct ideals of equal treatment. They have skipped a few steps here. The name ‘alt-right’ is equivalent to the morally despicable ideologies of white supremacists, racists, homophobes and misogynists. If those ideologies elevate themselves up to an appropriate moral standard they might earn equality, until that time comes, both the ADF and Alt-Right are merely putting lipstick on a pig. In Trump’s case, he is putting makeup on some very wealthy pigs.

The Alliance Defending Freedom has always been a part of the Alt-Right crowd. With the recent designation from the SPLC of “Hate Group” we can break through the facade of credibility to speak bluntly about their vile nature.

ADF = Hate Group

The most efficient and effective anti-LGBTQ group is now officially a hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Link. The Alliance  Defaming Defending Freedom (ADF) is an organization of Christian lawyers who defame the LGBTQ population with legal actions.

Founded by some 30 leaders of the Christian Right, the Alliance Defending Freedom is a legal advocacy and training group that specializes in supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality abroad, ending same-sex marriage, and generally making life as difficult as possible for LGBT communities in the U.S. and internationally. [from SPLC site]

 

To PC or Not To PC

A recent commenter has me thinking about the nature of Political Correctness(PC). So, I found an article about the topic by Moira Weigel in The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/30/political-correctness-how-the-right-invented-phantom-enemy-donald-trump. The history of the term is fascinating. My question is: What does it mean to be accused of political correctness? It seems to me that Donald Trump uses those two words to call people smart!

I don’t mind being called smart, but PC carries with it many connotations. By using this trick of rhetoric – naming an imaginary opponent: The PC – he envisions a triad of straw men. There is the stereotype PC person: upper middle class liberal, academic or urbanite, personified as a snobbish, middle-aged, bald, goateed, guy in glasses wearing a corduroy jacket with leather elbow patches, and reading Proust. There is the good, clean Christian farmer of hearth and home, with ball cap, bib overalls, a Bible, a hound dog, a wife and a blunderbuss. (I was a farmer for eight years, sans wife and blunderbuss. And a non-theist so the Bible stayed on the shelf!) Then there is the savior class of rich folks: Trumpites. Or as Trump promised: “I’m going to hire the best people for my Cabinet”; best does not mean a ‘qualified expert,’ it means wealthy. Money, apparently gives one superior knowledge of any and all things.

Trump has convinced the farming third of the triad he would help them. He complains about Political Correctness, but then – he lies often and blatantly. His behavior suggests that the lie – an immoral, deceitful, attack-on-civility – is preferable to the cautious, respectful, moral, civility of being politically correct . Honestly, he won the election by advocating dishonesty. I’ve spoken on this blog about why I think this behavior is appealing to Evangelicals and other Trump supporters in spite of the obvious conflict. They are moralist who have almost nothing to moralize about without fags to pick on, or muslims, or women or whatever is on their list that day. They are willing to make faustian deals with anyone just to get an ounce of the superiority that gay-bashing provides. Their identities are based upon their ability to look down on someone “lesser” than themselves. The low-caste groups they love to hate are protected by political correctness. But, the moralists really want to call them names, pick on them and abuse them. The urge to bully others is a primary driver once it takes over.

They either can’t think for themselves or don’t want to; sometimes they are guided by religious dictates that require thoughtless allegiance to antiquated rules excluding “others”. They desperately try to maintain a status quo that has passed them by. Verbal meanness is something they have been denied by political correctness and it burns their biscuits. Trump has opened the floodgates of their anger and allows them to be as condescending as they want now. This will likely be their only reward from him.

Inbred prejudice is partly a survival mechanism; they are using what god gives them to survive. When they think about it, I mean seriously and objectively think, they realize that they aren’t treating others the way they would want to be treated and are embarrassed by their thoughts. It clashes with their prime religious directive, “Do unto others…” At least I hope that they are embarrassed, the future will be irredeemable if they are not. That dissonance makes them angrier. They see that they are on the poop end of the stick where it is quite unpleasant so they lash out at what they consider oppression. Passions are raised when they see gays getting legal protections and the muslims getting away with a normal life, and women as bosses so their gut level reaction is anger.

Unfortunately, their role-model is Donald Trump, who wears the facade of money well. His behavior is not the least bit polite. He looks great in a tux, but don’t mistake that for being civil. Dressing up a bully does not make the ill effects of his behavior any easier to take. Unless, of course, you have never stayed at a hotel as fancy as his, or worn your own tuxedo, or flown in your own jet. Those people fall for the shtick and the bluster. They know they are bound to this devil by their faustian bargain and at some point will begin to regret the deal. The politically correct people will eventually accept them back and forgive them because it is the PC thing to do. Until that happens Trump’s battle with civility must play out.

The hard part for evangelicals is that they gave up any moral high ground they may have had. In the past, they could at least say God was on their side. They can’t say that now, they made a deal with the devil and their’s is a vengeful god!

Win or Learn

On one hand is the idea that any moral code has certain noble and universal qualities. On the other hand, well, it’s full of the shit commonly known as reality.

‘Sweet mercy’ may indeed ‘be nobility’s true badge,’ so naturally, we are disillusioned by the vigor of Republicans and the Plutocracy they promote. Greed tramples mercy into oblivion. Our leaders, of all stripes, have no nobility. The conversation has been usurped by truthiness and deception.

If the Christian ideal of teaching by example were truly observed by the youth we would have a generation of lying, deceitful hypocrites who pray on Sunday and abuse mercy the rest of the week like the rich, well-heeled Plutocracy that now dominates America’s government.  What am I saying? Those people could be my freshman peers from the hyper-religious Grove City College in the 70’s who earned degrees in hypocrisy ostensibly by studying Biology or Spanish.  Mandatory chapel 35 times a semester only helped justify the debauchery at the frat house the night before.  Each student organization was labeled with the word: ‘Christian’ pointing out the impotence of the word itself. What isn’t ‘Christian’ if everything is labeled as such regardless of its true merit?

I taught Theatre Arts for a living. My students would study techniques for presenting metaphors of great ideas to a live audience. Now, the technology of my art has been stolen for nefarious purpose. The Plutocracy has scripted a fantasy of truthiness and dispersed it throughout mass media where it has taken hold of the gullible and lazy. I know of their tricks of illusion and persuasion, so it pains me to see them misused for deceitful political and theological purposes.

Persuasion has replaced discourse. Two sides are not ‘both alike in dignity’ when one says: “I am here to grow in understanding” and the other says: “I am here to win at all cost”. There is no nobility in the pretense of honest discourse when the only goal of one side is to persuade through deception. In the debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump you could almost see the library of knowledge and experience behind her as she discussed policy with detail. He, on the other hand, was steaming with red-faced passions and vitriolic pettiness shrouded in orange and yellow hair. As she spoke we were all focused on the melodrama, not her. She was upstaged. He gave a hyperbolic voice to frustrations and she said a lot of smart stuff. Which sells more? The spectacle, of course!

So, you take a block of styrofoam and carve it into a shape and paint it with gold paint and Ta Da! You have the substance of: TRUMP. Majestic, isn’t it? A genuine facade! Look, it’s gold! That’s impressive isn’t it? Well, maybe not to someone reading this, but much of America doesn’t see past the surface veneer.

When having a conversation with evangelical Christians, are they there to grow in understanding, or to win at all cost? Isn’t their mission to win? Christian Dominionists “believe they have a biblical mandate to control all earthly institutions including government” http://www.politicalresearch.org/2016/02/14/dominionism-is-the-new-religious-freedom/#sthash.oZOGjF8a.dpuf. A conversation with them is the same as with a used car salesperson, “What will it take to have you drive out of here with a shinny newish Toyota?” Perhaps not as brash but certainly as determined and aggressive. They already know, with certainty, all they need to know. They are there to persuade, not to learn and grow together.

Due to their label, Christian, they have a facade as artificial as the gold-painted styrofoam that Trump has. The problem is that the word Dominionist is attached and that means dominate. God mandates that they control all of mankind until Christ returns. If this reminds you of Sharia Law then you’ve got the plan. Label everything “Christian” even if it is just waste removal or whatever, force attendance at chapel, require bible study in school, and turn a blind eye toward the human parts of life.

Money, gods, and racism are all tied up together in this Presidency. They all want dominance, and they don’t want to grow beyond their certainty. Truthiness has the upper hand right now. Does Democracy have what it takes to counter this stupidity or do we destroy and rebuild?

The Lie and The Metaphor

I grew up in a Funeral Home. I knew about death and practicalities of addressing death, it was a blunt reality. Death was a daily component of my life so I understood it on that level. What I didn’t understand was the way other people addressed the topic. Their language was full of softer words like passed, or passed on, passed away or gone to a better place and even ‘kicked the bucket’ which tried to lessen the impact of the word ‘death’.  They have met their maker, gone to heaven, bought the farm, or given up the ghost as substitutes are easier than saying, ‘she died’. The goal is to avoid discomfort and mask the permanence of death.

Since I only ever heard the blunt truth at home I would easily become confused with the euphemisms of the world. This would make me upset. I was well into my teens before I figured out what R.I.P. meant on all those cartoon tombstones, I never saw it on the real ones. In well-mannered society, people hide behind pleasant words; I was simply confused by them. They weren’t saying what they meant. I’m not afraid of dying so the words don’t bother me. I’d prefer to stick around and experience more of my existence, but the condition of being dead seems quite natural too. I will live on in the memories of those who encountered me in life and my composite chemicals and minerals will return to the earth to continue the process of nature.

People prefer the gentle lie over harsh truths. We mask the hard edges of emotional extremes with manners and polite words. We formalize the events of life with rituals and build elaborate myths to dull the impact of death. An Easter Bunny myth moderates the violent death-myth of a deity. Labeling the day of Jesus’s death as “Good Friday” is an early example of truthiness, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. What I’m saying is that lies are not necessarily bad. They assist us communicate the hard realities. Metaphors are lies too. They are acknowledged to be what they are, in order to assist communication. I hate reducing the poetic elegance of a metaphor into “lie” but it is. When lies are meant to assist communication we find them acceptable and even artistic on occasion. The difference between the art of language manipulation and blatant falsehoods is one of extremities.

Speaking untrue statements with the malicious intent, to mislead or deceive is harmful; these are lies. There is no good purpose to that deception. Intent separates a malicious lie from other figures of speech and minor untruths. What is the intent of the speaker of lies? Who are they harming by making the statement? Why would people cause harm through lies? Well, that is a bigger topic than one expects to find in this discussion. Lets just say for now that evil exists.

What compels a serial teller-of-lies to do so? We seem to have a President who tells lies with the ease of a poet using metaphors. He sprinkles his statements with falsehoods as if he were clarifying his point. The problem is we are not sure how to take it. His spokespeople tell us to ignore his words and listen to his heart. No one seems to know how to do that, so that advice doesn’t really help.

TruthinessdictStephen Colbert brought us the word “truthiness” in reaction to deceptive practices of the political right. Instinct, lies and gut feelings guide truthiness not logic or reason or facts. The right to discriminate is called Religious Freedom, Fresh Air legislation allows for more pollution, you know, that sort of thing. Religious Freedom sounds great, but if your religion is immoral enough to cause you to discriminate, then how is that freedom for the excluded class it creates? Deceptive tricks like this are not the way to run a country. Deception through misnomer is wrong. It is also a favorite tool of the Republican party, so after George Bush did such a bang-up job with the economy and getting us into some wars, Republicans thought they would try kicking it up a notch by electing Trump.

He is a far better liar than Bush. He doesn’t care if what he says make sense at all. His bullshit is not meant to be understood. So, forget about kicking buckets – it is best to call death, death in this circumstance. Although, kicking something may be quite satisfying. We just need the plain-spoken truth.

His most dangerous lie is the one that takes away our diversity. His staffer, Michael Anton speaks vociferously against diversity. This manifests in acts of omission such as leaving the mention of Jews out of the Holocaust Remembrance. Trump’s inaugural speech said nothing about the vast diversity of the country when other politicians make sure to mention every group they represent. Native Americans are not a good enough reason to stop the pipeline, and Mexicans are a good reason to build a wall. Christians get preferential treatment at the borders. If things go Trump’s way the melting pot of America will become a cold hard lump. And that, my friends, is a metaphor.

Temporal and Eternal Questions

The joke I use on first day of design class is: “I’ve never met-a-four I didn’t like.” It always bombed but that was intentional on my part. Students don’t often get metaphor. They can recite the definition, but something about the world of metaphors is elusive. My Theatrical Design class was about creating visual metaphors. If they don’t get and understand that message first then the rest of the semester was going to be tough.

In theatre we start with the play. We read and discuss it. We notice the subtle rhythms of the playwright. We analyze and research the time and place and society and history surrounding its origin. We process that information together as a group of collaborators. We discuss and decide how our interpretation of the play will exist on stage. Each designer presents their understanding of the group’s interpretation with sketches and research. Over time, a clear path forward is achieved and that is what ends up on stage. The scenery presents a visual metaphor of the theme we have chosen. The costumes reflect the significance of each character in reference to the theme. Each element on stage is designed to tell the story according to our interpretation.

In theatre we start with the play; in life we wonder. What questions are astir in our time and place that require a metaphor to make them clear? What story can we tell? What questions of significance require thought and consideration? What truths can be laid bare to incite solutions to the mysteries plaguing existence in this time and circumstance? Do we tell a story of the man that dominates headlines and may lead to the demise of civility and governance? Do we tell the immigrant’s story to motivate sympathy and compassion? Do we tell the injustice of life as a farmer in the cold hard North working 12 hours a day, who can’t comprehend the daily news about the sexuality they find confusing or the scary dark skinned folks in the big city? There are so many stories and so little time.angels

A genius like Tony Kushner only comes along infrequently. He appeared on the scene at just the right time to make sense of the 1980’s. He wrote the world’s first universal play, Angels in America. One play in two parts that touched upon a vast array of contemporary and eternal topics and concerns. He made the transition from analog to digital (metaphorically not electronically) for live theatre. He didn’t just address one family in a house dealing with its problems in analog form. He took multiple stories from across the globe and heavens and generations and religions and bound them coherently in one masterpiece of theatre art. He showed the matrix of the world’s concerns in one two-part play. We need that infrequent visit from a visionary to happen again, now! It has been a while since the ’80’s and we’re due.

Banksy-Follow-Your-Dreams-Cancelled
What art form will become the vehicle for this savior? I don’t know, but I hope they come in the form of a digital Banksy, the British graffiti artist and social activist. The savior will be as sophisticated as Obama in politics, as insightful and poignant an intellect as Kushner, as omnipresent as Anonymous, and as peaceful as Gandhi.

A single graphic image will not suffice. A series of clever, coordinated, occurrences will have to present themselves frequently, startlingly and with the goal of befuddling the lying deceivers now housed within the White House. We’ll out-baffle the baffler. We’ll do it the way Bugs Bunny did it to Elmer Fudd. The joke will be on the  joker, not the masses. It will make him angry, which is the key to his undoing. Trump is a one trick pony – the artful lie, yet we contain the tricks of millions of tricksters. His wit doesn’t exceed his grade-school vocabulary, yet ours is the wit of the many. This will be the improvisation of a lifetime.

Please go to https://www.indivisibleguide.com for grass roots advice.

Images For Change

In recent posts I’ve been proclaiming a need for an image to unify the resistance against Trump. This one showed up on Daily Kos the other day:

trump-2019482_1280-2

The yellow four finger Rabia sign from Egypt is a bold symbol for the Muslim Brotherhood.

R4bia_sign_used_in_solidarity_with_victims_of_Rabaa_crackdown_23-Aug-2013

Betsy Ross made the first flag of the USA.

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These seem to have strength too:

a55cf683a6bee9c093127cb58bc5ad4d hoperesist_greenpeace

These images describe the passions of a movement.

Eugène_Delacroix_-_La_liberté_guidant_le_peuple

behind-the-scenes-images-tell-the-story-of-the-iconic-tiananmen-square-tank-man-photo-taken-26-years-ago-today

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These are poignant but mostly mock instead of advocate.

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These incite participation.

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These incite through hatred and are counterproductive.

bannonResist trumpResist

What Is In A Name

When I was a freshman in college, before Jerry Falwell demonized it, I called myself a Secular Humanist. I did this to ward off questions from people who wondered why I was no longer a Christian. My plan was to use terminology that was so obscure the questioners would be embarrassed to show their ignorance of the subject. It usually worked. I ran the risk of encountering someone who knew what it meant but I was willing to cross that bridge if I ever got there.  Anyway, I liked the sound of the words together, lofty and poetic. I did have a modestly informed understanding of the term; Philosophy 101 taught me all I needed to know!

SecularHumanismLogo3DPrideRainbowColorsLook at the root meanings of the word secular – ‘generation’ or ‘age.’ If I say: “I am of this age” I am usually defining myself without implying any moral quality. However, another root meaning exists, it may be used to suggest: ‘the world.’ So, if I say: “I am secular” then I have given myself a label that is not so clean. If I am secular then I am not ‘sacred’ which back in George Bush’s ‘with us or against us’ America implied that I am profane. The world is a place for sinners; it is not like heaven (or presumably the White House), which is clean of sin. The world is secular and therefore it is less than good.

‘Secular’ is wrought with negative connotations; add on ‘humanist’ and you have made the whole thing much worse. Our society would rather put faith in a myth than in its fellow humans. The humans are the sinners for goodness sake! Why would you put your faith in sinners? This works out well for most people until they need a doctor or mechanic or something … real? Secular humanists have two strikes against them for their name alone. They might as well call themselves ‘profane sinners’ for all the PR value in the name. Can the premise of ‘secular humanism’ ever become as clear to the Trump voter as say, ‘God is love’ is to Christians?

How does one assert their secular humanistic ideals without confusing the issues via a misunderstood name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Or, is it even possible for this ideology to achieve clarity of understanding through a name? Christian, Hindu, Jew are simple names that are clearly identified by anyone. Secular Humanism is a phrase, a phrase that requires an explanation. Can the premise of secular humanism ever become as clear to an every-day person as say: God is love?

I’m mentioning all this as a prelude to a discussion about names and the ways in which we distinguish a rose from a carnation, or whatever. The longer Trump stays in office the more pundits, columnists and bloggers try to define him with currently available names and categories.  “Populist-fueled democratic backsliding” is the term of art being used by David Frum in the Atlantic today to describe our current condition.  His article https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/03/how-to-build-an-autocracy/513872/ is a must read point-of-view.

13991024189_243d8eed92_bDavid Frum used a couple thousand words in his Atlantic article to bring us, “Populist-fueled democratic backsliding;” that’s a four word phrase found in a quote he provides identifying the problem he discusses. Will his point ever be synthesized into a single word? One that Trump followers can understand? One that can be used to express the depth and breadth of the complicated monumental degradation of the state of our government from what it was two weeks ago. Words like kleptocracy or kakistocracy, chrysocracy or plutocracy, argentocracy or moneyocracy have meanings that require a dictionary to understand and even that is not enough. How do we make known the problem if its name is four words long? It doesn’t come trippingly off the tongue.

Mr. Frum spells out for us the issue so I won’t try to do that in detail here. Basically, he says that the fight for control of the government has shifted from tanks in the streets to the internet and that a well-told lie will have the power of a massive bomb. The virtuous gentlemen’s approach to the presidency is gone and so are the ethical codes of the past. The newly installed virtue of greed usurps all others. There is still time to combat this as he states:

And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.

So, I support this idea in theory, but what shall we call it? Christian, Hindu and Jew are simple names that are clearly identified by anyone; so is “Trump”.  Democracy used to be a glorious ideal until Trump pointed out its flaws so blatantly. The Frum resistance effort takes place on an ephemeral plane, it uses a complicated system of abstractions: honesty, integrity, and professionalism. This strategy appears to simply insist that everyone play nice.

Even so, defining “nice” is crucial to clearly understand our objective. People can have a strong sense of integrity and actively use that characteristic quality honestly to reach different conclusions. Professionalism is not easy to define and it has no morality clause. A business person is obligated to get the greatest profit possible even if it means cutting jobs and closing mills and upending people’s lives. An obligation to business professionalism is not always an obligation to the country or even morality unless those things have an effect on sales.

I place a lot of faith in “integrity,” I’ve written about it in my new book, Billy’s Moral Adventures. I describe “honesty” as being a child’s introduction to the concept of what is holy. “Professionalism” is neither a uniformly meritorious nor a consistent concept and should be disregarded. A better concept in its place would be ethical behavior. 

So, now that the aggression of our bully, Trump has set his sights on Mexico and Australia of all places, and religious bigotry orders are in the works, how do we identify his actions with one simple word that both acknowledges the problem and suggests the solution?

We need a flag to rally around, a new image to follow (as Vaclav Havel says), a clear mission that we can define with precision. If we don’t fix this soon it will take decades to repair. It needs to be done quickly and arrive with a figurehead of opposition. We need to keep caring and fighting for an ideal or watch it all backslide away. Who will our savior be and how long till they get here?

BTW, I call myself an Existential Humanist now.