Friday, January 31, 2020

Quotes of Note Regarding the Senate’s Impeachment Trial of President Trump

More than a year after Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, as Trump himself now stands trial in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, and other Republicans have gone out of their way to rig the impeachment trial in Trump’s favor in order to guard him against damaging new evidence and testimony.

On January 21, McConnell called the House investigation (which Trump and his attorneys refused to participate in despite invitations from House leaders) an “unfair” process, arguing that Democrats should not be allowed to force the Senate to agree to admit new evidence for the trial or call witnesses. Two days later, Trump tweeted that the House impeachment hearings were the “Most unfair & corrupt . . . in Congressional history!”

The evidence leaves little doubt that Trump committed the abuses for which he stands accused, and his defense has often waffled between “it’s not a crime” and false claims that there is no evidence at all. On January 24, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, claimed that Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine’s president was simply indicative of “good government.” The White House and Trump’s Republican defenders have also tried to argue that Democrats have not interviewed key direct witnesses, knowing full well Trump has ordered every single witness congressional investigators have sought not to testify.

Perhaps none of Trump’s defenders, though, have gotten closer to the truth than Republican US Senator Kelly Loeffler. Before she assumed office in early January, the Georgia business executive espoused some of the same race-based demagoguery that made Trump a right-wing hero, warning in an op-ed that Democrats wanted Trump out of the way so they could unleash “socialism” on the country and let “Mexican drug cartels” roam free. Loeffler also offered what she considers the real motive behind Trump’s impeachment.

“The left’s impeachment circus is about more than just overturning an election, but our way of life,” Loeffler wrote, using a segregation-era talking-point that “spoke directly to what (segregationists) considered a unique and practical way to preserve white supremacy,” historian Stephanie Rolph told DSV for that story. While examining old newspaper stories from the 1940s through the 1960s, DSV found thousands of instances in which segregationists used “our way of life” as coded language for “white supremacy.”

For many, Trump is the ultimate poster boy for the power of white supremacy and patriarchy to elevate even the most subpar of White men well beyond the station in life they have earned, and his failure would represent the unraveling of a system upon which countless men like him desperately depend.

– Ashton Pittman
Excerpted from “The Right of Subpar White Men
to Wield Power and Live Above the Law is on Trial

Deep South Voice
January 27, 2020

Friends, [Republican US Senator] Lamar Alexander's decision [to vote against witnesses at Trump's trial] is the end. The Trump-McConnell-Fox News Party has decided to finish their charade of a Senate trial, and cover up any official account of Trump's dirty work forever.

It's now up to the rest of us to remove the tyrant the old-fashioned way, at the ballot box in November. Yes, I know: The Electoral College, the Kremlin, and Trump's own dirty tricks will make it difficult. But we have no other choice. The fate of our democracy, and of the society and world we want to leave our children and grandchildren, depend on it.

Robert Reich
via Facebook
January 30, 2020

Our Founders carefully constructed Constitutional levies that would protect us from a dictator. Unless something unexpected happens in the Senate tomorrow, it’s time to realize all the levies have fallen. There’s only one thing left now to protect our democracy – and that’s voting on November 3. It’s time for We the People to take care of this now.

One of the most important things in life is taking responsibility for our part when things go wrong. And in the final analysis, none of this current crisis would’ve happened had so many of us not checked out and been chronically politically disengaged over the last few decades.‬ ‪The good thing about all this – and there IS a good thing – is how many people are politically waking up, and how many more people will be waking up over the next few months. No more “I’m not political.” No more giving in to the convenience of cynicism. No more thinking “other people are handling it.” Those days are over.‬ And for the spiritual seekers among us – I’ve always felt we should be the last people sitting out the great social, political and economic issues. Spirituality doesn’t mean we’re to look the other way from darkness; it means we’re to be the light that casts out darkness.

Some people say, “But what you look at expands.” That is such a ridiculous platitude when misused. Actually, some things expand BECAUSE you’re not looking at them! There’s a difference between transcendence and denial. Are we supposed to love Donald Trump? In some impersonal way, yes. But sometimes Love says “No.” And such a time is now.

Marianne Williamson
via Facebook
January 30, 2020

Related Off-site Links:
GOP Sen. Alexander to Vote Against Witnesses; Trump Impeachment Trial Could End Friday – Bobby Allyn (NPR News, January 30, 2020).
“Apologia for Authoritarianism”: Trump Lawyer Argues President Can Do Whatever He Wants to Boost Reelection Chances – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams, January 30, 2020).
Senate Rejects Witnesses in Trump Trial, Ensuring Acquittal – Lisa Mascaro, Eric Tucker, and Zeke Miller (PBS Newshour, January 31, 2020).
Trump Impeachment Is a McCarthy-Era Turning Point. Can The U.S. Survive? – Kenneth Foard McCallion (Common Dreams, January 31, 2020).
“A Crisis for Democracy”: Senate Votes Against Hearing From Witnesses – Eoin Higgins (Common Dreams, January 31, 2020).

UPDATE: The Abdication of Senate Republicans – Michael Hamar (Michael-In-Norfolk, February 1, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quotes of Note Regarding the Impeachment of President Trump
Progressive Perspectives on Corruption in U.S. Politics
Insightful Perspectives on the Kavanaugh/Ford Hearing
Trump's Playbook
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
On International Human Rights Day, Saying “No” to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence

Image: The final vote on witnesses for President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, Friday, January 31, 2020. (Photo: CSPAN/Twitter)

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

A Prayer for the Present Moment

Dear God,

Please take my past and take my future.
Transform them both
through the miracle of Your power
into healing energies of Love
and Love only.

May I know this present moment
as You would have me know it.

May I see only You in everyone and everything
so that I may be transformed by Your Love,
lifted up by Your Love, given joy by Your Love,
and made new by Your Love.

Release me from my past
and deliver me to my future.

In You I trust; nothing else sets me free.
In You I have faith; nothing else sustains me.

And so it is that I am where I belong,
within the transforming power of Your Love.

I am home. May I feel this and be at peace.


Adapted by Michael Bayly from a prayer by Marianne Williamson in her book, Illuminata: Thoughts, Prayers, Rites of Passage (1994).

Images: Calvin Royal III. (Source)

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A New Day
A Prayer for the Moment Between
Move Us, Loving God
Andrew Harvey on Radical, Divine Passion in Action
To Dance
And As We Dance
A Prayer for Dancers
Not Whether We Dance, But How
"I Came Alive with Hope"
Aristotle Papanikolaou on How Being Religious is Like Being a Dancer
The Art of Dancing as the Supreme Symbol of the Spiritual Life
The Soul of a Dancer

Monday, January 27, 2020

Quote of the Day

Auschwitz did not fall from the sky but was the destination reached after a thousand smaller steps, each one stripping a single minority of its dignity and humanity. After the Shoah, the 11th commandment is: Thou shalt not be indifferent.

Do not be indifferent when any minority is discriminated against; democracy hinges on the rights of minorities being protected. . . . Do not be indifferent when you see . . . historical lies . . . when you see that the past is stretched to fit the current political needs. . . . Do not be indifferent, otherwise you should not be surprised when another Auschwitz crashes down on us.

– Marian Turski
Quoted in Jonathan Freedland's article,
'Thou Shalt Not Be Indifferent': From Auschwitz's
Gate of Hell, a Last, Desperate Warning

The Guardian
January 27, 2020

Related Off-site Links:
“Don't Be Indifferent”: Auschwitz Survivor Sounds Alarm 75 Years OnSBS News (January 27, 2020).
Survivors Call for End to World Indifference at Auschwitz Memorial – Kate Connolly (The Guardian, January 27, 2020).
Holocaust Survivors Return to Auschwitz 75 Years After Liberation – Markus Schreiber and Kirsten Grieshaber (PBS Newshour, January 21, 2020).
“Humiliation Was the Worst”; Holocaust Survivor at UN, Asks World to Act with “Empathy and Compassion”UN News (January 28, 2019).
Auschwitz Survivors Share Their Stories on 75th Anniversary of Camp Liberation – Tim Nelson (MPR News, January 27, 2020).
Remembering the Long Road to Auschwitz – Steven Luckert (US Holocaust Museum, January 26, 2020).
Holocaust Remembrance Day 2020: Anti-Semitism Is Still Poisoning Our Nation – Stephanie Beach (Teen Vogue, January 21, 2020).
The Near-forgotten History of the Holocaust’s Gay Victims – Stefanie Gerdes (Gay Star News, January 26, 2016).
Why the Heinous Crimes Committed by the Nazis Against Thousands of Queer People Must Never, Ever Be Forgotten – Patrick Kelleher (Pink News, January 27, 2020).
The Untold Gay Stories of Auschwitz – Hugh Kaye (Attitude, January 27, 2019).
Nazis Murdered a Quarter of Europe’s Roma, But History Still Overlooks This Genocide – Barbara Warnock (The Conversation, January 24, 2020).
European Roma (“Gypsies”) in the Holocaust: The Story of Some of the Forgotten Victims of the Nazis – Patrick Kelleher (Pink News, January 27, 2020).
The Forgotten Stories of Muslims Who Saved Jewish People During the Holocaust – Melissa Chan (TIME, January 27, 2017).
The Unimaginable Reality of American Concentration Camps – Masha Gessen (The New Yorker, June 21, 2019).
His Rise to Power: Drawing Parallels Between the Rise of Trump and Hitler – Jacob Weisberg (Slate, November 22, 2016).
How Hitler’s Rise to Power Explains Why Republicans Accept Donald Trump – Jonathan Chait (New York Magazine, July 7, 2016).
Are Hitler-Trump Comparisons Fair? A Holocaust Survivor Tells His Son – Itay Hod (The Wrap, March 20, 2016).
Yes, Trump Represents FascismIt's Going Down (December 16, 2016).
Trump Is an Eerily Perfect Match With a Famous 14-Point Guide to Identify Fascist Leaders – Kali Holloway (AlterNet, December 6, 2016).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, James Martin Labels as “Appalling” President Trump's Plan to Demonize Immigrants
Trump's Playbook
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
In Charlottesville, the Face of Terrorism In the U.S.
Marianne Williamson: “We’re Living at a Critical Moment in Our Democracy”
On International Human Rights Day, Saying “No” to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Global Condemnation for Trump's Latest Ignorant and Racist Comments
“Can the Klan!”
Quote of the Day – December 14, 2019
Something to Think About (and Embody!) – September 25, 2019
Quote of the Day – July 12, 2019
Quote of the Day – June 20, 2018
Something to Think About – January 29, 2017
Something to Think About – July 18, 2016
2000+ Take to the Streets of Minneapolis to Express Solidarity with Immigrants and Refugees
Rallying in Solidarity with the Refugees of Syria and the World
Opposing the Trump Administration's Inhumane Treatment of Immigrant Families
“What We're Seeing Here Is a Tipping Point”
Demanding Justice and Embodying Compassion for Separated Families
Pan’s Labyrinth: Critiquing the Cult of Unquestioning Obedience

Image: Marian Turski: “Do not be indifferent, otherwise you should not be surprised when another Auschwitz crashes down on us.” The 94-year-old Turski spoke at a special January 27 ceremony at the gates of the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz to mark the 75th anniversary of its liberation by the Soviet army. (Photograph: Markus Schreiber/AP)

Sunday, January 26, 2020

D’Angelo’s Voodoo, 20 Years On

Tonight for "music night" at The Wild Reed I share the video for D’Angelo’s 2000 single, “Untitled (How Does It Feel?),” a track from his groundbreaking album, Voodoo, released 20 years ago yesterday. I also share a number of insightful perspectives on the “subversive” and thus, for some, controversial video for “Untitled (How Does It Feel?).”

But first, NPR music critic Sam Sanders recently interviewed recording engineer Russell Elevado on the making of Voodoo. In introducing this interview, Sanders says the following about the album.

While many today think of it as a masterpiece, it seems we still haven't figured out how to make sense of Voodoo: what box to place it in, how to pay it the respect it deserves, all the nuance and depth of a young black artist making a previous generation’s black music.

Voodoo is so many things. It is jazz, soul and funk all at once. You can hear hip-hop’s footprint in some of the songs, but it never dominates. While the influence of Prince and Funkadelic and Marvin Gaye is there on every track, it draws just as much inspiration from Hendrix and The Beatles. And for the artist, it was such an important statement that he waited nearly 15 years to follow it up. If it took time to see that Voodoo didn't live in the same music world as its peers in 2000, by now it has stopped feeling vintage – and started feeling timeless.

. . . [I]f you'll have me
I can provide everything that you desire
Said if you get a feeling
Feeling that I am feeling
Won't you come closer to me, baby
You've already got me right where you want me, baby
I just want to be your man

How does it feel
How does it feel
Said I want to know how does it feel

Writes Elijah C. Watson on D’Angelo’s “subversive” video for “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)”:

For most of the four-and-a-half minute-long video – which was directed by Paul Hunter and Dominique Trenier – D’Angelo’s upper body is the focus. The camera expands from his black braids, brown eyes, and his plump, licked lips, to show a glistening and chiseled chest and V-cut abs, the screen cut off right at the point of his waist to where a viewer can’t help but wonder if he’s nude or not. There’s nowhere to avert your eyes as the one-shot video offers a voyeuristic exploration of D’Angelo’s body. It’s intimate, provocative, sensual, vulnerable – a hypnotizing performance that offers no relief until its over, beautifully capturing the pleasures of sex without being explicitly overt.

The video is subversive, a display of black masculinity that’s affectionate but confident, and delicate but strong. A middle ground between Tupac’s infamous bathtub photos and the first 30 seconds of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” music video.

“Untitled” was distinct from other hip-hop, R&B, and pop videos because of this. Unlike the hedonism and hypermasculinity found in hip-hop and R&B videos or the teenage-like fantasies found in pop videos, “Untitled” felt real and offered a display of blackness uncommon in music videos at the time.

Luis Minvielle also insightfully weighs-in on the significance and uniqueness of both the music video for “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)” and Voodoo overall, suggesting that both “laid out the blueprint for a new masculinity.”

The [album’s] resolve of exploring love was forthright: its liner notes, written by poet Saul Williams, poised Voodoo as an hour-long ceremony expected to “serenade darkness.” “We speak of darkness as the unknown and the mysteries of the unseen,” the sleeve read. If romance was something unfamiliar to the listener, then Voodoo was the gateway into the mystique surrounding the different stages of human intimacy.

. . . [F]or all its noteworthy features, Voodoo is best remembered for D’Angelo’s sexy appearance – naked and sly – in the music video for “Untitled (How Does it Feel?).” In it, a smoldering D’Angelo sings and flexes past the swooning point, the grooves in his body running as deep as the low-end bass in Voodoo’s central tracks. One can fathom why memories of Voodoo are mostly associated with his strikingly alluring chest rather than the messages of love or his devoted rendition of soul music. It was all about exposition – nothing else from the record had as much airtime and as much attention as the video for “Untitled.” It was Voodoo’s driver for success. D’Angelo became a sex symbol, an icon for black macho bravado and suggestive lovemaking invitations and, naturally, a superstar. . . . [Yet] this attention was too much for a sensitive soul. The shy son of a Pentecostal preacher, D’Angelo could never cope with being a superstar. To his dismay, he was acclaimed for his body and not for his music. After touring for Voodoo, D’Angelo disappeared from the public eye. He rarely showed up, and when he did, music was the last issue to touch upon: he was caught up in a mugshot in 2005, overweight and frightened. It would be another 14 years before he would release Voodoo’s follow up, the future-funk protest album Black Messiah.

. . . Twenty years later, there’s still ground to break from one of neo-soul’s masterpieces: no other record has since portrayed sexuality in a way so appealing, yet so respectful. This achievement, concealed behind beautiful bodies and superstar narratives, has been Voodoo’s defining triumph: the inclusive representation of all sides of intimacy, love, sex and romance by embracing the feminine. D’Angelo was able to create this state of expression, of inclusive intimacy and universal love, by embracing his own femininity, and embracing what’s feminine in soul music. The liner notes are exact: “If we are to exist as men in this new world many of us must learn to embrace and nurture that which is feminine with all of our hearts.” . . . Contrary to the barbaric G-Funk tropes that swamped hip-hop, Voodoo understood that reclaiming femininity did not mean shunning masculine aspects of sexuality. While turn-of-the-century emcees would gloat in misogyny to explain arousal, Voodoo portrayed sexuality as both steamy and sympathetic. As the artwork implies, Voodoo’s posture is a posture of contemplation.

And finally, here’s more about both “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)” and its parent album Voodoo, courtesy of Wikipedia (here and here):

Voodoo is the second studio album by American neo soul singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist D’Angelo. It was released on January 25, 2000, by Virgin Records.

D’Angelo recorded the album during 1998 and 1999 at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, with an extensive line-up of musicians associated with the Soulquarians musical collective. Produced primarily by the singer, Voodoo features a loose, groove-based funk sound and serves as a departure from the more conventional song structure of his debut album, Brown Sugar (1995). Its lyrics explore themes of spirituality, love, sexuality, maturation, and fatherhood.

Following heavy promotion and public anticipation, the album was met with commercial and critical success. It debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, selling 320,000 copies in its first week, and spent 33 weeks on the chart. It was promoted with five singles, including the hit single “Untitled (How Does It Feel?),” which was written and produced by D’Angelo and Raphael Saadiq, and originally composed as a tribute to musician Prince. The song’s lyrics concern a man’s plea to his lover for sex.

The music video for "Untitled (How Does It Feel?)" garnered D’Angelo mainstream attention and controversy. Directed by Paul Hunter and Dominique Trenier, the video consists entirely of one shot featuring a muscular D’Angelo appearing nude and lip-synching to the track. While initial reaction from viewers was divided with praise for its sexuality and accusations of sexual objectification, the video received considerable airplay on music video networks such as MTV and BET, and it helped increase mainstream notice of D’Angelo and Voodoo. It also helped engender an image of him as a sex icon to a younger generation of fans.

D’Angelo promoted Voodoo with an international supporting tour in late 2000. While successful early on, the tour became plagued by concert cancellations and D’Angelo’s personal frustrations. The singer’s portrayal as a sex symbol in “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)” had repercussions on the tour, with female fans yelling out for him to take his clothes off and tossing clothes onto the stage. As trumpeter Roy Hargrove recounted, “We couldn’t get through one song before women would start to scream for him to take off something [...] It wasn’t about the music. All they wanted him to do was take off his clothes.” This led to frustration and both onstage and offstage outbursts by D’Angelo. Music journalist Questlove later said, “He’d get angry and start breaking shit. The audience thinking, 'Fuck your art, I wanna see your ass!', made him angry.” Although some were cancelled due to D’Angelo’s throat infection during the tour’s mid-March dates, many shows were cancelled due to his personal and emotional problems.

D’Angelo’s discontent with his sex symbol image led to his period of absence from the music scene following the conclusion of Voodoo's supporting tour.

“Untitled (How Does It Feel?)” won a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the 43rd Grammy Awards in 2001. Rolling Stone magazine named the song the fourth best single of 2000. The magazine later named it the fifty-first best song of the 2000s (decade).

Upon its release, Voodoo received general acclaim from music critics and earned D’Angelo several accolades. It was named one of the year’s best albums by numerous publications.

Voodoo has since been regarded by music writers as a creative milestone of the neo soul genre during its apex. It has sold over 1.7 million copies in the United States and has been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Related Off-site Links:
D’Angelo’s Voodoo Redefined What an R&B Album Could Be – Kristin Corry (VICE, January 24,2020).
D'Angelo: Voodoo ChildPaper (December 1, 1999).
There Will Never Be Another Music Video Like D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)” – Elijah C. Watson (OkayPlayer, January 23,2020).
D’Angelo’s Masterpiece Voodoo Laid Out the Blueprint for a New Masculinity – Luis Minvielle (OkayPlayer, January 23,2020).
The New D’Angelo Documentary Shows a Musician Tired of Being a Sex Symbol – Kristen Yoonsoo Kim (Pitchfork, April 30, 2019).
For Everyone Who Had a Sexual Awakening Watching D’Angelo’s “Untitled” Video – Sylvia Obell (BuzzFeed, September 30,2016).
D’Angelo’s Black Messiah Is Political, Personal and Necessary – Mikey IQ Jones (Fact, December 18,2014).
The Second Coming of D’Angelo – Brian Hiatt (Rolling Stone, June 15, 2015).
Second Coming: D’Angelo’s Triumphant Return – Sasha Frere-Jones (The New Yorker, January 5, 2015).
D’Angelo’s Black Messiah Was Worth Waiting 15 Years For – James Joiner (The Daily Beast, December 16, 2014).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Fresh Take on Masculinity
Learning from the East
Engelbert Humperdinck: Not That Easy to Forget
Celebrating Al Green, Soul Legend
Carl Anderson: “Like a Song in the Night”
Rockin’ with Maxwell
Maxwell’s Hidden Gem
Maxwell in Concert
Maxwell’s Welcome Return
State of Grace
Remembering Prince, “Fabulous Freak, Defiant Outsider, Dark Dandy” – 1958-2016
Ocean Trip
Donald Glover: Renaissance Man
Quote of the Day – May 8, 2018
Deconstructing Childish Gambino's “This Is America”
In a Historic First, Country Music's Latest Star Is a Queer Black Man

Previously featured musicians at The Wild Reed:
Dusty Springfield | David Bowie | Kate Bush | Maxwell | Buffy Sainte-Marie | Prince | Frank Ocean | Maria Callas | Loreena McKennitt | Rosanne Cash | Petula Clark | Wendy Matthews | Darren Hayes | Jenny Morris | Gil Scott-Heron | Shirley Bassey | Rufus Wainwright | Kiki Dee | Suede | Marianne Faithfull | Dionne Warwick | Seal | Sam Sparro | Wanda Jackson | Engelbert Humperdinck | Pink Floyd | Carl Anderson | The Church | Enrique Iglesias | Yvonne Elliman | Lenny Kravitz | Helen Reddy | Stephen Gately | Judith Durham | Nat King Cole | Emmylou Harris | Bobbie Gentry | Russell Elliot | BØRNS | Hozier | Enigma | Moby (featuring the Banks Brothers) | Cat Stevens | Chrissy Amphlett | Jon Stevens | Nada Surf | Tom Goss (featuring Matt Alber) | Autoheart | Scissor Sisters | Mavis Staples | Claude Chalhoub | Cass Elliot | Duffy | The Cruel Sea | Wall of Voodoo | Loretta Lynn and Jack White | Foo Fighters | 1927 | Kate Ceberano | Tee Set | Joan Baez | Wet, Wet, Wet | Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy | Fleetwood Mac | Jane Clifton | Australian Crawl | Pet Shop Boys | Marty Rhone | Josef Salvat | Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri | Aquilo | The Breeders | Tony Enos | Tupac Shakur | Nakhane Touré | Al Green | Donald Glover/Childish Gambino | Josh Garrels | Stromae | Damiyr Shuford | Vaudou Game | Yotha Yindi and The Treaty Project | Lil Nas X | Daby Touré | Sheku Kanneh-Mason | Susan Boyle

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Holy Encounters Where Two Worlds Meet

I share this evening a second excerpt from the book The Mist-Filled Path: Celtic Wisdom for Exiles, Wanderers, and Seekers by Frank MacEowen. This excerpt is actually by MacEowen! (You may recall that the first excerpt I shared was from the book's foreword, written by Tom Cowan.)

In this evening's excerpt, MacEowen explores the sacred world from the perspective of Celtic spirituality (including Celtic Christianity). In doing so, he lifts up the symbol of the Celtic knot and shows how the flowing weave of this ancient symbol mirrors our journeys of communion and contact with “those luminous places” where two worlds often meet and we experience God.

Increasingly (or better still, ever-deepeningly) I feel as though my work as a palliative care chaplain is all about cultivating or perhaps more accurately, revealing these luminous places. I do this whenever I encounter and engage with patients in ways that invite them to explore deeply the challenges they are experiencing in their lives. Through such exploration, I trust that together we experience, in MacEowen words, “the sacred world that is already around and within us.” I also trust that we experience an invitation to orient ourselves to the “sacred questions in our hearts,” questions to do with who we really are and the things that give meaning, hope, and/or an awareness of God's presence and action in our lives.

It is holy work, to be sure. And for me, it is all about, as MacEowen says, “opening ourselves to [meaningful and heartfelt] contact, encounter, and dialogue with life,” as well as being willing to “hang out with the unknown.” All of which, I'm discovering as I read The Mist-Filled Path, are characteristics of Celtic spirituality, and indeed all expressions of the mystic path (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).


From a Celtic perspective, the sacred world is vast. It includes our ancestors, the spirit world, the world of nature, the human world, and the rich inner world of each person as expressed through dreams. The sacred world, as it is worked with in Celtic tradition, is replete with thresholds of opportunity, renewal, and healing. And yet as Esther de Waal has said of the Celtic spiritual path, it is not necessarily one that follows a “clear-cut pattern of having some end and goal in view so that the purpose can be clearly established and then followed. For the really significant journey is the interior journey.”

Thus this book may feel to the reader a bit like the flowing cords of Celtic knot work one sees in both pre-Christian and post-Christian Celtic art. We will weave back in on themes at times in service of remembrance and deepening. At times it may feel as if we have doubled back onto familiar ground. This flowing weave represents the nature of holy dialogue in Celtic tradition, which encounters the sacred world once via the journey or quest and a second time via pilgrimage and remembrance.

The Mist-Filled Path as a spiritual vision is characterized by communion and holy contact with what we will call here the in-between, those thresholds of numinosity and liminality, or in Rumi's words, those luminous places “where two worlds touch.” Opening ourselves to this kind of contact, encounter, and dialogue with life, as well as having a willingness to hang out with the unknown, are all characteristics of the Celtic spirit. These same qualities are ones I hope that you will feel supported in cultivating.

The Mist-Filled Path is not about sequined magical robes, long-lost priesthoods, or stereotyped media notions of Celts, druids, shamans, and mystics. Though undoubtedly influenced by the ancient legacy of the druidic tradition, with its love of nature and emphasis on merging with the sacred, this book is more generally about our collective human tradition of making life holy. It is about finding true magic in every moment by reclaiming a view and experience of the sacred world that is already around and within us. It is about welcoming the influence of this sacred world and orienting ourselves to the sacred questions in our hearts.

– Frank MacEowen
Excerpted from The Mist-Filled Path:
Celtic Wisdom for Exiles, Wanderers, and Seekers

pp. xxxi-xxxiii

NEXT: The Mysticism of Trees

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Thomas Moore on the Circling of Nature as the Best Way to Find Our Substance
“Radical Returnings” – Mayday 2016
Drawing the Circle Wide
Balancing the Fire
Beltane and the Reclaiming of Spirit
“I Caught a Glimpse of a God”
At Hallowtide, Pagan Thoughts on Restoring Our World and Our Souls
Somewhere In Between
A Prayer for the Moment Between
In This In-Between Time
Interfaith Chaplaincy: Meeting People Where They're At

Opening image: Artist unknown.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Moderates, Radicals, and MLK

I have a number of friends who are supporting moderate candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination – candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. Other moderates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination include Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg.

Moderates are generally described by their supporters and the mainstream corporate media as no-nonsense pragmatists and/or realists. As such, they're sympathetic to the need for social and political change but it must be done incrementally over time. They don't believe the status quo should be too disrupted. Better to try to all get along with not too much confrontation or drawing of lines in the sand. And, judging from the fact that many of the moderates I've identified are taking money from big corporations and billionaire donors, they generally don't subscribe to the adage that “You can't change a corrupt system by taking its money.” Indeed, many moderates can't or won't even go there in acknowledging the extent of the corruption of our current economic and political system. Finally, more often than not, moderates and their supporters discount or even dismiss as naïve visionaries and idealists those who strive for deeper awareness of the flaws and failures of this system and thus advocate and work toward fundamental and immediate-as-possible changes to it.

Yet I find myself in agreement with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when she says that “moderates are more naive than the visionaries if they think tinkering around the edges will solve systemic problems in our democracy and economy. It’s time to rewrite the social contract, not manage decline.”

Although there can certainly be a time and place for it, I don't believe that at this moment in American history political moderation is called for; that it's even desirable. Why? Because political moderation has become too much associated with preserving the political and economic status quo, a status quo that is profoundly dysfunctional and damaging to individuals, society, and the environment. I’ve also come to understand that it has been the failure of moderates and liberals to acknowledge the degree of this dysfunction and damage which in large part contributed to the election of Donald Trump. Said another way, Trump is not the problem; Trump is the most severe symptom of the problem.

And the problem? Here's how author Marianne Williamson identifies and describes it:

We have essentially moved from a democratic to an aristocratic situation where our government works more to advocate for short term profits for multi-national corporations than it does to advocate for the well-being of people and the planet. Our government works more to make it easier for those who already have a lot of money to make more of it and harder for those who do not have any money to even get by. This corruption, which has progressed over the last 40 years, has created an amoral economic system where economic values are placed before humanitarian values and the well-being of people and the planet. And our democracy itself can no longer be accurately described as a government of the people, by the people and for the people [but rather a government of the corporations by the corporations and for the corporations]. It’s only when we recognize the depth of this corruption that we can move into a path of genuine transformation. Because until then, all we’re doing is addressing the symptoms and no one is naming the cause. All we’re doing is making incremental changes seeking to diminish the pain that people are experiencing because of all this, but not challenging the underlying forces that make all of that pain inevitable. . . . I stand for an actual pattern disruption of the political and economic status quo.

Marianne was, of course, up until recently, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. And right up until the day she suspended her campaign, she was my preferred candidate. And, no, she is definitely not a moderate but rather a progressive, a radical, in the deepest and truest sense of he word.

To be radical means that you recognize the need for going to the root or heart of a situation, issue, or problem in order to truly understand, correct, resolve and/or transform it. The beauty of Marianne’s understanding of this process, one that’s often understood to be necessary only in the political realm, is that it actually needs to occur in our personal lives as well in order for it to be truly effective in the political and societal realms of which we’re a part, individually and collectively.

Accordingly, to be radical also means being willing to go deep within one’s own life and experience so as to identify, name, and embody the healing and transformation that one wants to see in the world.

Of course, Marianne Williamson is not advocating anything new when she says these things. Rather, she’s lifting up and encouraging all of us to embrace the spiritual teachings on radical love and nonviolent activism that people like Jesus of Nazareth, Mahatma Gandhi, Dorothy Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr. embodied. They did it in their times, we need to do it in ours.

All of which brings me to an informative and insightful article by Bob Hennelly, published today over at Salon. In this piece Hennelly reminds us that Martin Luther King, Jr. (whom we’re celebrating today here in the U.S.) was “gravely disappointed” with white moderates, whom he believed were responsible, for impeding civil rights. I would argue that moderates today within the Democratic party are responsible for impeding the much needed transformation of our corrupt political and economic system, one that still disproportionately impacts black and brown people in this country.

Following are excerpts from Hennelly’s piece, one that is entitled, “Moderate Democrats Are Celebrating MLK. He Was Disgusted By Them.”

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day comes as moderate Democrats, falling in line behind former vice president Joe Biden, are warning that the party risks re-electing Donald Trump if it nominates too radical a candidate for president – by which they mean someone like Senators Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

This so-called moderate world view is underpinned by the belief that, over the arc of this nation’s history, we have been striving for and realizing a "more perfect union" through disciplined incrementalism and market capitalism.

Some pundits extol this as the great virtue of American moderation.

And yet, a glance at Martin Luther King Jr.’s actual words reveals the civil rights leader saw such moderation as a "fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity."

From a Birmingham jail cell, he wrote he was "gravely disappointed with the white moderate" that he saw as "the Negro's great stumbling block," as much or more so than ardent segregationists or even the KKK. The white moderate, he observed, lived "by a mythical concept of time" and constantly advised "the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

As King saw it, the American embrace of moderation in his time was enabled by a belief "that American society is essentially hospitable to fair play and to steady growth toward a middle-class Utopia embodying racial harmony. But unfortunately, this is a fantasy of self-deception and comfortable vanity."

In grade school, I was indoctrinated with this same moderate narrative – that we were on the conveyor belt of socio-economic progress that was a through line from Lexington and Concord, through Gettysburg, and on to the beaches of Normandy.

In this airbrushed history, America expiated its original sin of slavery with the massive bloodletting that was our Civil War. Scroll forward to 2008, and we have elected the first American African American president.

Perhaps too slow, argue the moderates, but progress none the less.

But our actually history as it was lived, but too often not remembered, reveals that every civil rights breakthrough is accompanied by reactionary blowback. We saw it after the Civil War, with the abandonment of Reconstruction by a federal government that fell captive to capital interests and its own deeply embedded racist world view.

Scroll forward a century: the same happened in response to the passage of landmark federal civil and voting rights legislation. And as with the murder of Lincoln after the Emancipation Proclamation, the white supremacist terrorist rage murdered Dr. King and so many others.

And similarly, after the two-term presidency of President Obama, the election of Trump was the blowback.

There is a pattern here, one that has been flagged by writers like Michelle Alexander and Ta-Nehisi Coates. In 2020, there can be no excuse for not seeing it.

. . . We have so deeply internalized structural racism that most politicians easily ignore the fact that between 1980 and 2015 the number of people incarcerated increased from 500,000 to over 2.2 million, according to the NAACP. That means that while the U.S. makes up only 5 percent of the planet's population, we have 21 percent of the prisoners.

Evidently, we are just not that outraged by it. If people are in jail, there's some justification for it. Right?

That's how former Mayor Mike Bloomberg can joke through his recent The Late Show with Steven Colbert appearance and blithely explain away as merely "a mistake" his embrace of race-based profiling where the NYPD illegally stopped and frisked hundreds of thousands of young men of color annually for years.

And with hundreds of millions earmarked as new revenue for hungry broadcast media outlets, don't expect Bloomberg to be pressed on how he plans on making right the tragic consequences from the NYPD's unconstitutional actions that led to bad arrests, unjust incarcerations, lost jobs and ruined lives.

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, pay close attention to the white moderates, like Bloomberg and Biden. Ironically, not only do these men fail to grasp the radical nature of his dream, their past actions actually helped defer it.

– Bob Hennelly
Excerpted from “Moderate Democrats Are Celebrating MLK.
He Was Disgusted By Them

January 20, 2020

Related Off-site Links:
Countering Annual Whitewash of His Legacy, Progressives Remember the “Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Imperialist” Martin Luther King Jr. – Jessica Corbett (Common Dreams, January 20, 2020).
MLK Should Inspire Us to End Our Wars – Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer (Star Tribune, January 20, 2020).
Martin Luther King Jr Was a Radical. We Must Not Sterilize His Legacy – Cornel West (The Guardian, April 4, 2018).
When King Was Dangerous – Alex Gourevitch (Jacobin, January 21, 2019).
The 11 Most Anti-Capitalist Quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. – Katie Halper (Common Dreams, January 21, 2019).
Martin Luther King Jr. Was More Radical Than We Remember – Jenn M. Jackson (Teen Vogue, January 15, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
For MLK Day (2018)
Quote of the Day – January 15, 2017
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Democratic Socialism
Quote(s) of the Day – February 26, 2019
Quote of the Day – March 10, 2019
Quote of the Day – October 30, 2019

Image 1: Martin Luther King Jr., delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech to a crowd before the Lincoln Memorial during the Freedom March in Washington, DC, on August 28, 1963. (Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images)
Image 2: Marianne William delivering her MLK Day Message, January 20, 2020. “The greatest way to honor Dr. King’s legacy is to seek to embody the principles for which he lived and for which he died,” Williamson says.
Image 3: Photographer unknown.