Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I'd Hammer Out Warning

this past week, the united states house of representative voted to cut funding for the affordable care act, commonly called "obamacare" here, and to drastically cut the food program for the poor, which is popularly referred to as "food stamps."  both votes were passed pretty much along party lines, with almost all republicans voting in favor of the cuts and almost all democrats voting against them.  the state health care exchanges that are the central feature of the affordable care act are set to begin enrolling people on october 1, and republicans are desperate to see that the law is gutted, even though the only way to do so is to threaten to shut down the federal government and even though they have no proposals to enable the millions of uninsured americans to have access to health care.

the vilifying of the poor by suggesting  that the food assistance program is riddled with fraud and waste, a suggestion that is demonstrably false, ignores the widening gap between the wealthiest and the poorest americans.  even as income disparity grows, welfare for prosperous farmers in the form of subsidies is maintained at the expense of millions of the hungry in our country.  as republicans become increasingly out of touch with the lives of so many in the usa, they look for scapegoats for the problems of the country, and those who are least able to defend themselves are convenient for their purposes.

republicans suggest that the unemployed should not get extended benefits, as this only encourages them not to seek employment according to the republicans; republicans refuse to address the problem of an inadequate minimum wage, using the prospect of employers hiring fewer workers if the minimum wage is increased as an excuse; republicans insist that cutting taxes for the wealthiest among us will increase prosperity, though every time such a tactic is tried the poor are hit once more and the national debt increases exponentially; republicans are more concerned with thwarting the agenda of president obama than in caring for the american people.  the constant ploy of the "party of no" is to create an enemy in the form of what they would have us believe is the lazy, unproductive poor at the bottom of the economic ladder, while extolling the virtues of the "producers," those who have the wealth and power in our economy.

my prayer today is that the american people will awaken to the deceptions being foisted on us by those who are so filled with greed that they are willing to take food from the mouths of the hungry and to deny health care to those who can least afford it.  may we "do unto the least of these," our brothers and sisters, and enable those who labor to produce the wealth of the united states to participate in its prosperity.  shalom.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Joy Comes in the Morning (If We Let It!)

each morning, part of my morning time of prayer and meditation includes a phrase reminding me that suffering can come from craving a perfect future that will never be.  i've always been one to plan each day with the intention of accomplishing tasks, of realizing certain outcomes.  when life interferes with those plans, i can become irritable.  this frustration with life is something i've been making an effort to change, and i've been pretty successful--but monday i had a relapse!

monday happened, as it often does.  by late morning, i had not gotten away from home to begin the tasks i had planned for the day, and interruptions in getting on with the day continued to pile up.  by the time i left to "begin my day," i had many errands to run, and when i finally got to the desk work i intended to do at the church music office, i was angry with life.  needless to say, little was accomplished, and in the stories i was telling myself, my day was a flop.

on the way home, i decided that instead of running the one remaining errand, i would come home and sit down to write.  as i wrote the story of my "failed" day, the anger disappeared, and i realized that my day was unsuccessful, not because it didn't go as planned, but because i kept telling myself that in order for it to be successful it had to go as planned.

had i "gone with the flow" of the day from the start and simply allowed the day to happen the way it needed to happen instead of trying to force it into the mold i had created in my mind, an idea of a "perfect" monday, how much more i would have accomplished.  maybe what i accomplished wouldn't have been what i intended to accomplish, but the day up to this point would have been far more rewarding and much less stressful.

so, today was another of those learning experiences, and i'm grateful now that it didn't go as i intended.  i've been reminded that the suffering i experienced was self-inflicted and needless, and i've forgiven myself for not being mindful of what was happening.  the rest of the day will go better, because i have no expectations of what it will bring--it will happen as it needs to happen.

my prayer for myself and for others who may have difficulty because we crave an ideal and unattainable future is that we will learn to let go of the need to control our futures and allow life to unfold as it was intended.  may we rejoice in what life offers and stop demanding that life give us what we think we must have.  shalom.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wars and Rumors of Wars

a military strike against the syrian government?  my first impulse is to support the president on this issue.  how can we stand by while a brutal dictatorship murders people in syria with poison gas?  but--what would we accomplish by a "precision" air strike or a series of them?  would the people of syria be better off after military intervention?  would the world be safer if we intervene in syria?  are those fighting the syrian regime any better for the people of syria than assad's government?  if assad falls, who would protect the religious minorities in syria from the sunni majority?  what other countries will participate in military intervention in syria?

too many difficult questions, too few authoritative answers.  i believe the president is right to seek congressional support before taking action.  buying time to investigate and find thoughtful answers to difficult questions is better than rushing off to war.  have we accomplished any good by our recent interventions in the islamic world?  have our actions helped the people of afghanistan and iraq?  were they better off before our interventions?  some things appear to have been accomplished: the brutal taliban government has been ended and a measure of freedom has come to afghanistan, the ruthless regime of saddam has been brought to an end in iraq.  both of these have been brought about, but an uneasy instability reigns in both countries, and an enormous toll in the loss of human life, both native civilian and american (and allied) soldiers has been the price of change in iraq and afghanistan.

indecision is painful, and it may be costly for thousands of innocents in syria.  but no government should rush into the  taking of human life, especially unintended "collateral" lives.  thank you, mr president, for giving all of us time to reflect on the consequences of military action in syria.  may we use the time you've given us wisely.  shalom.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Red and Yellow? Black and White?

in a recent post, james ford wrote of "institutional racism," the racist attitudes that are ingrained in our culture.  much as we would wish it otherwise, as a society here in the united states we white americans think of those who are not part of the dominant white culture as monolithic groups with certain characteristics that make them "others."  even as the members of that dominant culture are steadily becoming a members of a minority group, we cling to the stereotypes which make it impossible to see that there is no "other," that we are all the same, all human beings with more similarities than differences.

as i read ford's post, i thought of how often i exhibit this cultural racism.  i remembered that, as i wrote last week's post for this blog, i had to go back and edit it several times to remove the adjective, "russian," when i had used it to describe the evils of the soviet system.  it was as if my subconcious mind equated russian ethnicity with the most vile aspects of soviet authority.  i had to remind myself that these evils were not inherently russian, but rather were the expressions of a political system that ruled by fear and intimidation, and these are qualities of all authoritarian regimes.  there was nothing inherently "russian" about the tyranny of the soviet system.

i thought, too, of how often i insert the word, "black," into conversations when it is irrelevant.  for instance, i was complaining to a friend about some problems in our neighborhood, problems which seem to be growing more widespread.  as i talked, i described one particular home, making certain that the person with whom i was talking knew that those who lived there were black.  now, that fact had nothing to do with the problem i was railing against.  in fact, all of the other homes where there is this problem are occupied by whites, but i never described any of those homes by referring to the race of their occupants.  the institutional racism of the culture and my own participation in it came to the surface in that conversation, and i realized my own racism as i thought of that conversation after reading james ford's post.

my prayer for myself and all of us who may unwittingly place members of other cultures and races in a group of "others" is that we will see our inculturated racism for what it is, that we will make it our intention to change our thinking, and that we will make the effort to rid ourselves of the habit of seeing others as something beside what they are; we are all members of the same race, the human race.  shalom