Saturday, October 31, 2020

Hallowtide Reflections


Today is Halloween, which here in the U.S. has become a horrendous commercial spectacle. This despite the fact that the day has roots in the Catholic celebrations of November 1, “All Hollows Day” (or “All Saints Day”) and November 2, “All Souls Day.”

Deeper still. . . . Elements of Halloween developed from a pagan holy day, the ancient Celtic feast of Samhain (pronounced sow-in), which was the eve of the new year. It was a time when it was believed the veil between this world and the next was at its thinnest, and people and spirits could “cross over,” could pass back and forth between the two worlds. Huge bonfires were lit on hilltops – some say to frighten away evil spirits; others, to warm the souls of the departed. Perhaps both.

Of Samhain, Colette O’Neill writes:

The ancient festival of Samhain marked the last day of the Celtic year, with the rising of the sun on the following morning illuminating the New Year and the turning of the wheel. Samhain was a crucial time of year, loaded with symbolic significance for the pre-Christian Irish. As they watched the sun descend into the western skies, the symbolic inference was that of a descent into the Otherworld. This marked the thinning of the veil, as those within the Otherworld were free to roam the Earth. The Sidhe, (faeries as we know them, for we know so little of them) have the power of shapeshifting and were deemed able to walk among us, unknown and unrecognisable to mortals. Alongside them travel our ancestors and other spirits we fail to recognise. It is a night filled with magic!


As perhaps you’ve discerned, I resonate more with the pagan Celtic understandings of this time of year than I do the Roman Catholic ones. And that's okay. Actually, what I find most meaningful is to gather of all the names, origins, meanings, and dates associated with this time of year and speak simply of Hallowtide, and to emphasize the transformative power, the witch power, that the time calls to mind and heart.

And so to mark Hallowtide this year at The Wild Reed, I share an excerpt from Dianne Sylvan’s book, The Circle Within, along with some of my photography that I hope captures some of the beauty and mystery of this special time of year. (You might recogize in these photos the Prayer Tree. There’s also a beautiful candlelit portrait of my friend Mahad, who, as I acknowledge here, currently hovers between this life and the next.)



Samhain is here . . . and darkness falls.

Traditionally, Samhain is a time of divination, of communicating with absent friends or the deepest parts of ourselves, the still silent waters in our spirits. . . . The water of Samhain is motionless, reflective, and we can look into its mirrored surface and see all the mysteries that lay beyond life. At Samhain, the past year finally slips away, and with one last breath we close our eyes . . . only to open them again at another time, another place, another life.

Water is usually associated with the west, the land of sunset, and Samhain is the moment when the sun’s last rays disappear behind the horizon and twilight drops its misty veil. We can look behind the veil and see things that were hidden by the light of day.

– Dianne Sylvan
Excerpted from The Circle Within
Llewellyn Publications (2003)
p. 120



See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Samhain: A Time of Magick and Mystery
At Hallowtide, Pagan Thoughts on Restoring Our World and Our Souls
Resilience and Hope
An All Hallows Eve Reflection
Halloween Thoughts
A Hallowtide Reflection
The Pagan Roots of All Saints Day
“Call Upon Those You Love”
Our Sacred Journey Continues: An All Saints and Souls Day Reflection
An All Souls Day Reflection
Autumn: Season of Transformation and Surrender
“A Dark Timelessness and Stillness Surrounds Her Wild Abandonment”
Gabriel Fauré’s “ChristoPagan” Requiem
Advent: A “ChristoPagan” Perspective
Magician Among the Spirits
The Prayer Tree
Holy Encounters Where Two Worlds Meet
The Landscape Is a Mirror

Friday, October 30, 2020

Heather Cox Richardson on the Origin of the American Obsession with “Socialism”

Heather Cox Richardson is a political historian and the author of the book, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America. She also regularly publishes a dispatch via Facebook in which she “uses facts and history to make observations about contemporary American politics.”

In a recent dispatch, Heather examines the U.S.'s obsession with big bad socialism and how it has “virtually nothing to do with actual international socialism . . . based on the ideas of political theorist Karl Marx.” Following (with added links) is an excerpt.

Trump and his campaign surrogates, as well as Republican lawmakers, continue to refer to Democrats as “socialists.” In Florida on Friday, Trump said: “We’re not supposed to have a socialist – look we’re not going to be a socialist nation. We’re not going to have a socialist president, especially a female socialist president, we’re not gonna have it, we’re not gonna put up with it.”

[Recently] in Lansing, Michigan, Trump warned about the elevation of Kamala Harris to the presidency, saying that “Joe’s shot; Kamala, you ready? . . . She makes Bernie Sanders look like a serious conservative.” Trump seems to be using the term “shot” as the old slang word for “worn out,” but there is no doubt he understands the dual meaning in that word, and is warning that Harris, should she be required to succeed Biden, will be a left-wing radical.

The American obsession with socialism has virtually nothing to do with actual international socialism, which developed in the early twentieth century. International socialism is based on the ideas of political theorist Karl Marx, who believed that, as the working class was crushed under the wealthy during late stage capitalism, it would rise up to take control of the factories, farms, utilities, and so on, taking over the means of production.

That theory has never been popular in America. While we have had a few socialist mayors, the best a socialist candidate has ever done in an election was when Eugene V. Debs won about 6% of the popular vote in 1912. Even then, while Debs called himself a socialist, it is not clear he was advocating the national takeover of industry so much as calling for the government to work for ordinary Americans, rather than the very wealthy, in a time that looked much like our own.

American “socialism” is a very different thing than what Marx was describing in his theoretical works. Fear of it erupted in the 1870s, long before the rise of international socialism, and it grew out of the peculiar American context of the years after the Civil War. During the war, Republicans had both invented national taxation – including the income tax – and welcomed African American men to the ballot box. This meant that, after the Civil War, for the first time in American history, voting had a direct impact on people’s pocketbooks.

After the war, southern Democrats organized as the Ku Klux Klan to try to stop Black Americans from taking their rightful place in society. They assaulted, raped, and murdered their Black neighbors to keep them from voting. But President Ulysses S. Grant met domestic terrorism with federal authority, established the Department of Justice, and arrested Klan members, driving their movement underground.

So reactionary whites took a different tack. The same people who had bitterly and publicly complained about Black Americans participating in society as equal to whites began to argue that their problem with Black voting was not about race, but rather about class. They said that they objected to poor voters being able to elect leaders who promised to deliver services or public improvements, like schools and roads, that could be paid for only by taxes, levied on property holders.

In the South of the post-Civil War years, almost all property holders were white. They argued that Black voting amounted to a redistribution of wealth from hardworking white men to poor Black people. It was, they insisted, “socialism,” or, after workers in Paris created a Commune in 1871, “communism.”

This is the origin of the American obsession with “socialism,” more than 40 years before Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution.

Since that time, Americans have cried “socialism” whenever ordinary Americans try to use the government to level the economic playing field by calling for business regulation – which will cost tax dollars by requiring bureaucrats – or for schools and roads, or by asking for a basic social safety net. But the public funding of roads and education and health care is not the same thing as government taking over the means of production. Rather, it is an attempt to prevent a small oligarchy from using the government to gather power to themselves, cutting off the access of ordinary Americans to resources, a chance to rise, and, ultimately, to equality before the law.

Heather Cox Richardson
via Facebook
October 27, 2020


Related Off-site Links
Biden Is No Socialist, as Trump Claims. But I Know an Autocrat When I See One – Andres Oppenheimer (The Miami Herald, October 23, 2020).
Socialists Must Be the Champions of Freedom – David Harvey (Jacobin, October 22, 2020).
Joe Biden Is No Socialist; Donald Trump Is No Capitalist – Dave Anderson (Fredericksburg.com, October 20, 2020).
Trump’s False Claim That Biden Is a Socialist – Amy Sherman (Politifact, October 15, 2020).
Why Trump’s Efforts to Paint Biden as a Socialist Are Not Working – Jim Tankersley (The New York Times, October 14, 2020).
Trump Campaign Launches ‘Fighters Against Socialism’ Bus Tour in Tampa – William March (Tampa Bay Times, October 11, 2020).
In Peak 2020 Irony, President Trump Launched a Socialist-Type Program That Dwarfs Sanders’ Agenda – Jack Kelly (Forbes, April 13, 2020).
There Are No Libertarians in an Epidemic – Peter Nicholas (The Atlantic, March 10, 2020).
Three Cheers for Socialism: Christian Love and Political Practice – David Bentley Hart (Commonweal, February 24, 2020).
Trump Is the Worst Kind of Socialist – Bernie Sanders (The Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2019).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Phillip Clark: Quote of the Day – April 15, 2020
Bernie Sanders: Quote of the Day – June 12, 2019
Jonty Langley: Quote of the Day – August 17, 2011
A Timely Reminder
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Democratic Socialism
Something to Think About – December 14, 2011
A Socialist Perspective on the “Democratic Debacle” in Massachusetts
Obama a Socialist? Hardly
Obama, Ayers, the “S” Word, and the “Most Politically Backward Layers in America”
A Socialist Response to the 2008 Financial Crisis
Capitalism on Trial


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Chadwick Boseman’s Timeless Message to Young Voters: “You Can Turn Our Nation Around”

Two months ago today, actor Chadwick Boseman died after a four-year private struggle with colon cancer.

In 2018, Boseman recorded a message for young people in the U.S., urging them to vote in that year’s mid-term elections.

Listening to this message, I can't help but think how true and vital it remains today, less than a week from the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Indeed, it’s a message that is relevant to each and every election; and one that can inspire all of us, no matter what age we are.

I share it this morning in honor of Chad.





NEXT: Chadwick Boseman’s Final Film Role:
“A Reed Instrument for Every Painful Emotion”


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Remembering Chadwick Boseman
Honoring An Icon
The Important Cultural Moment That Is Black Panther
Another First for Black Panther
“Something Special,” Indeed!


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Sad Fate for Amy Comey Barrett

Following is the speech on the appointment of Judge Amy Comey Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court that Facebook user Rob Donaldson would have made if he were a U.S. Senator on the Judiciary Committee:

Mr. Chairman, I will ask no questions because there’s no point in doing so. We all know this is a pro forma charade with the outcome already locked up. I will simply take a few moments to address Judge Barrett directly.

Judge Barrett, I feel genuinely sorry for you. You have strong credentials and merits. However, you are here not because of them. You are here only because you are a token, a pawn.

Throughout the rest of the history of this country, your name will have an asterisk by it, denoting that your place on the Supreme Court is illegitimate, the result of hypocritical, amoral conniving to turn the Court into a far-right political rubber stamp by two-faced mandarins of a Republican Party destined to go down in flames, consumed by its own internal rot and the fire of its own decrepitude.

You will forever be denied the opportunity to compete truly on your own merits. You are in that seat only because, despite all your protests to the contrary, your record has convinced the GOP king-makers that you will be a reliable robot to help them implement their dark, Hobbesian, plutocratic vision for America.

Object and hide behind high-flown jurisprudential rhetoric all you want, but no one will believe you.

Everyone, Democrat and Republican, knows that you are before us only because the history of your teaching, your scholarship, and your public statements has convinced Trump, McConnell, Leonard Leo, the Koch brothers, and all the billionaire backers of the Federalist Society and the right-wing dark money machine that you will be a reliable Handmaid, doing their bidding even if you yourself don't think so or don't realize it.

I feel sorry for you because you will take the seat of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a titan of American jurisprudence, who will go down in history as everything you will not: independent, her own person, dedicated to the marrow of her bones to equal rights for all, and an implacable foe of anyone, no matter how well-funded or how well-cloaked behind anonymous shell corporations, who tried to push any American into second-class status, any woman into less than full equality, any political activity into the shadows, any marginalized minority into permanent subservience, and any religious bigotry into political power.

You represent the opposite of Justice Ginsburg in every imaginable way: the way you got here, the way you will be counted on to rule, and the ways in which your presence on the Court threatens everything Justice Ginsburg stood for.

This is a sad, sad fate for a woman as accomplished as you. I am profoundly sorry for you, and for our country as you take your illegitimate, corrupted, forever asterisked seat on the Supreme Court.

_________________________


NOTE: According to Snopes.com:

[The above] message was originally penned by a Facebook user named Rob Donaldson, but this person is not a sitting U.S. senator. This message, which was originally shared privately with friends on October 16, is an imaginary speech Donaldson envisioned delivering if he were a senator. When Donaldson’s friends urged him to make it public, this detail was lost, and this post was shared as if it came from an actual speech delivered by a sitting senator.


Related Off-site Links:
Senate Confirms Barrett, Delivering for Trump and Reshaping the Supreme Court – Nicholas Fandos (The New York Times, October 27, 2020).
To Tame a Far-Right Supreme Court, Let’s Revive This Forgotten Proposal From 1922 – Leon Fink (In These Times, October 13, 2020).
The Republican Party’s Supreme Court – The Editorial Board (The New York Times, October 26, 2020).
How to Reverse This Craven GOP Power Grab – Robert Reich (RobertReich.org via Common Dreams, October 27, 2020).

UPDATE: Incensed Over Amy Coney Barrett's Confirmation? Don't Mourn – Organize and Vote – Jules Lobel (Common Dreams, October 28, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Progressive Perspectives on Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Amy Comey Barrett and the Republican Effort to Cement Minority Rule
Charlie Stuart: Quote of the Day – September 28, 2020
Hold Them to Their Word

Image: Illustration by Nicholas Konrad/The New York Times; photograph by Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times.

Photo of the Day


See also the previous posts:
Autumn Snowburst
Autumn Snow
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond (2018)
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond (2016)

Image: Michael J. Bayly.


Monday, October 26, 2020

Progressive Perspectives on Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee, Amy Coney Barrett


. . . and the Republican Effort
to Cement Minority Rule


In the weeks leading up to today's final vote by the U.S. Senate to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, a number of progressive voices have weighed-in on what Barrett's controversial nomination and all-but-certain confirmation says about the influence of right-wing politics on the supposedly non-partisan judicial system and the implications of this for the country. Following are some of these voices.

______________________________


Shortly after Ruth Bader Ginsburg exited this mortal plane (and before her body entered the earth), Mitch McConnell announced that his party would nominate and confirm her replacement to the Supreme Court. The Senate majority leader justified his hypocritical stance by citing the GOP’s obligation to the “American people” who “reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary.” Of course, the “American people” did not uniformly support Republicans in those elections, let alone for that reason. The people McConnell referenced are strong GOP partisans.

In the weeks since Ginsburg’s passing, Republicans have reiterated — through words and deeds – that they consider the appointment of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, to be a partisan goal of the highest importance. The GOP is so committed to her confirmation it has prioritized it over economic relief in the midst of a brutal recession. It’s so committed to it that Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham — 87 and 65 years old, respectively – have refused to take COVID-19 tests despite being exposed to infected individuals out of an apparent preference for risking the spread of a pandemic disease over risking positive tests that would force the GOP senators into quarantine, cost the GOP its majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and thus imperil Barrett’s nomination.

And yet: During the first day of her confirmation hearing, Barrett revealed that all of this was for naught. As the Supreme Court nominee explained to the Senate in her opening statement, her confirmation would have no predictable influence on public policy, nor would it advantage any particular ideological movement. If confirmed, all she would do is enforce existing law, nothing more, nothing less.

. . . Barrett is hardly unique in selling herself as a disinterested umpire. Justices both left and right have offered the Senate similar avowals of judicial modesty. But as a self-described “originalist,” Trump’s nominee puts exceptional weight on her supposedly disinterested adherence to the “original public meaning” of the U.S. Constitution. Yet “originalism” is less a humble method for settling constitutional disputes than a parlor trick for recasting the conservative movement’s unpopular agenda as the minimum demanded by constitutionality.

. . . In sum: Amy Coney Barrett’s originalism does not work as a method of safeguarding democracy against an activist, ideologically motivated judiciary. It does, however, function quite well as a means of obscuring a far-right movement’s efforts to impose its unpopular agenda by judicial fiat.

– Eric Levitz
Excerpted from “Amy Coney Barrett’s Judicial Neutrality
Is a Political Fiction

New York Magazine
October 12, 2020



Like the late Justice Scalia, for whom she clerked, Barrett is a self-described textualist and originalist; she interprets the US constitution based on its plain language and an attempted understanding of the intent and mindset of the original drafters. Barrett has also written that, in her view, it is appropriate and legitimate for judges to overturn precedents when they conflict with their personal interpretation of the constitution. Obedience to the exact original meaning of the constitution without current context is problematic. These laws were made by white, cisgender men who enslaved other human beings and never intended to include a vast sum of Americans – like women and people of color – in their quest for equal rights. When one person’s truth, defined by the way they see the world, impacts the lives and liberties of generations of diverse Americans, it has tremendous power.

– Lisa M O'Neill
Excerpted from "Amy Coney Barrett Went to My All-Girls High School.
I Hope She's Not Confirmed

The Guardian
October 12, 2020



There’s no doubt that what we’re facing is, increasingly, rule by a minority in this country. Basically, we live in a democracy that’s being plagued by minority rule – in essence, a very counter-democratic approach to governance. And here we are with the Supreme Court, which is, by its nature, a non-democratic institution. It’s not one where people have an equal say in terms of the appointments. The appointments are handled entirely by the Senate. The United States Senate is increasingly dominated by a majority that represents a minority of people in America.

. . . [S]ince Richard Nixon, there have been 15 nominations that have been confirmed to the United States Supreme Court for a Republican president and four for Democrats. So, when people say that the court needs to be packed, it really needs to be unpacked. . . . [I]n my lifetime it’s been Republican nomination after Republican nomination, in part due to fate and in part due to this power grab that these Republicans are right now engaged in. If they had not stolen the seat that became open in the beginning of 2016, and if they were not in the process of stealing this seat right now, the court wouldn’t be 6-3 with a majority Republican appointees. It could very well be the other way around.

. . . [W]e would have a 5-4 court but for these last four years of the way the Republicans have operated the United States Senate, in terms of Democratic appointees. But the reality is that this has been a longtime process. In essence, the Republicans have been engaged in blocking nominees of Democratic presidents for the last, basically, 30 years, whenever they could. In the 1996 election year for President Clinton, they only allowed, I think, 16 or 17 judges to be confirmed that entire year – no one for the Supreme Court, obviously; there was no vacancy. Democrats have not engaged in that kind of a blockade, a widespread blockade.

And so . . . when Senator Harry Reid changed the rules or had the rules changed for lower court nominees, that was out of intense frustration, but the reality is, is that the Republicans were never going to honor that filibuster rule when it came to the United States Supreme Court, as Mitch McConnell did not. And that has resulted in this situation in which there is no compromise. And, in fact, the rules of the game have basically been rigged.

And they’re being rigged this week. Senator Lindsey Graham is going to notice a vote on Amy Barrett’s nomination before even the answers are in from the written questions that will be submitted to her this week. So they’re basically willing to break every rule, bend every rule, change every rule, in order to pack the Supreme Court, because they’re so desperate to overturn these laws, laws that are widely respected, precedents that are widely respected by the American people.

And there’s no doubt that Amy Coney Barrett has been chosen precisely with the view that that’s exactly what she’ll do. She wasn’t chosen with the view that she’ll be fair. She was chosen because they believe very strongly that she will be unfair, that she will reverse these precedents.




The general feeling that the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court is the capstone of a lavishly funded, long-term conservative plan to own the federal judiciary for the foreseeable future, and that Barrett's career is altogether a product of that project, has hung over the confirmation hearings like a foul mist. On Tuesday afternoon, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave that feeling form and substance, and charts, too.

Whitehouse used every one of his allotted 30 minutes to describe in detail the mechanisms by which conservative activists, fueled by the unlimited corporate money unleashed by Citizens United v. FEC, have fashioned to produce judicial nominees – and, ultimately, judges – on what in the last decade has looked very much like an ideological assembly line. Whitehouse showed in (occasionally excruciating) detail every aspect of the complicated network at the center of which is the Federalist Society, the intellectual wingnut-welfare chop-shop to which this president* outsourced the selection of federal judges.

He then tied all that research into the current full-court press across the federal courts to kill the Affordable Care Act, curb reproductive freedom, and reverse marriage equality, to say nothing of the dozens of cases regarding the money power and corporate control of government that are the real goals of most of the people funding what Whitehouse called, “the schemes.” Whitehouse even worked in his favorite statistic – that on those kind of cases, there have been 80 decisions handed down by the current court as 5-4 decision, and the business/conservative side of those cases, which almost always coincides with the interests of Republican donors, is 80-0.

Whitehouse has been a lone voice on what he calls “court capture” for a while now and, on Tuesday, given a half hour, he took his audience, both live and via television, and including the nominee herself, on a tour of the swamp. In doing so, he made a more compelling case against the illegitimacy of this nominating process than anyone else has. He showed the connections between the Federalist Society and the Judicial Crisis Network, and he showed the outsized influence of Leonard Leo and Carrie Severino, activists who have been the puppeteers behind many of these nominations. (Leo headed up the work at the Federalist Society and Severino ran the Judicial Crisis Network. When Leo quit, Severino moved over and replaced him.) Whitehouse turned the machine around and pulled out all the wires.

– Charles Pierce
Excerpted from “Sheldon Whitehouse Made the Case
That Amy Coney Barrett's Nomination Is a Bag Job

Esquire via Common Dreams
October 14, 2020



As the party is now constituted, the GOP’s chances of winning popular majorities in presidential elections – or representing most Americans in the Senate – will probably be even lower in the coming decade than they’ve been in the past few. Trump has relentlessly targeted the GOP on the priorities and resentments of non-college-educated, Christian, and rural white voters – groups whose numbers are either stagnant or shrinking.

Meanwhile, the key groups that favor Democrats – such as college-educated white voters, people of color, and adults who don’t identify with any religious tradition – are growing. Generational transition is accelerating all of these changes. Millennials were the most diverse generation in American history, but Generation Z is more diverse still. The unnamed generation younger than Gen Z is the first in American history in which people of color compose the majority, according to recent calculations by the Brookings Institution demographer William Frey.

In November, for the first time, the diverse generations born after 1981 – Millennials and Gen Zers – will equal the preponderantly white generations born before 1964 as a percentage of eligible voters, Frey calculates. By 2024, those younger generations will almost certainly exceed them as a share of actual voters, with the gap widening quickly after that. Figures provided to me by Frey on the racial composition of the millions of young people who have turned 18 since the 2016 election offer a preview of what’s coming: Young people of color make up about 70 percent of those newly eligible voters in California and Nevada, two-thirds in Texas, three-fifths in Arizona, and about 55 percent in Georgia, Florida, New York, and North Carolina.

It’s not hard to see a collision ahead between a conservative Supreme Court majority and the priorities of those younger Americans, including climate change, racial equity, voting rights, gun control, and protections for same-sex couples. “This focus on judgeships that [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell has put in place is really the only way” that conservatives can see of “guaranteeing their ideological priorities,” Alvin Tillery, the director of Northwestern University’s Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy, told me.

– Ronald Brownstein
Excerpted from “What the Rush to Confirm
Amy Coney Barrett Is Really About

The Atlantic
October 15, 2020



A Barrett confirmation is a catastrophe. We don’t know a fraction about her. This is like getting married in three weeks, except it’s not getting married, it’s choosing somebody who’s going to govern us; [who] effectively, [will] decide the rules of our democracy, the rules governing our bodies, the rules governing our intimate relationships, for 50 years. And we don’t actually need to know that much to know that a 6-3 majority on the court is basically a bomb coming at what is left of our protections against corruption in politics, against corporate money, what is left of the Voting Rights Act. I mean, this is an absolute 5-, 10-alarm fire catastrophe.




Nominee Amy Coney Barrett is an originalist who excites evangelicals because of her expressed opposition to abortion rights and excites corporate leaders by her views on the limits of federal power, including her likely opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is rushing her confirmation through. In a rare Sunday session this afternoon, after the Senate voted to limit debate on the nomination, McConnell noted: “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.” Tomorrow, the Senate is expected to confirm Barrett’s elevation to the Supreme Court.
Heather Cox Richardson
via Facebook
October 25, 2020



NEXT: The Sad Fate for Amy Comey Barrett



Related Off-site Links:
Corporatist Judge Barrett – Two More Senate Abstentions Needed to Stop Trump – Ralph Nader (CounterPunch, October 19, 2020).
Hate Group Leader: Amy Coney Barrett Is One Of Us – Jake Thomas (The Intellectualist, October 20, 2020).
Supreme Court Nominee Barrett Was Trustee of a School That Bans LGBTQ Students and FacultyDemocracy Now!) October 21, 2020).
We Were Clerks at the Supreme Court. Its Legitimacy Is Now in Question – Jamie Crooks and Samir Deger-Sen (The New York Times, October 25, 2020).
Amy Coney Barrett’s Judicial Philosophy Doesn’t Hold Up to Scrutiny – Angus King Jr. and Heather Cox Richardson (The Atlantic, October 25, 2020).
Republican Senator Susan Collins Says She Is Voting Against Amy Coney Barrett Confirmation to Be “Fair and Consistent” – Andrew O'Reilly (Fox News, October 25, 2020).

UPDATES: Amy Coney Barrett Confirmed To Supreme Court, Takes Constitutional Oath – Barbara Sprunt (NPR News, October 26, 2029).
Senate Confirms Barrett to Supreme Court, Cementing Its Conservative MajorityThe Washington Post (October 26, 2029).
Amy Coney Barrett Is Set to Transform America’s Supreme CourtThe Economist (October 26, 2029).
Amy Comey Barrett Will Complicate John Roberts’ Goal of Keeping the Supreme Court Out of Politics – Joan Biskupic (CNN News, October 26, 2029).
Incensed Over Amy Coney Barrett's Confirmation? Don't Mourn – Organize and Vote – Jules Lobel (Common Dreams, October 28, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Charlie Stuart: Quote of the Day – September 28, 2020
Hold Them to Their Word

Image: President Donald Trump announces Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee on September 18, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)


Friday, October 23, 2020

Moments of Wonder


It’s been called “timeless,” “bittersweet,” “seductive” . . . even “holy.”

I’m referring to the song “Wonderful Life,” and, yes, it’s all these things and more.

Written and performed by Colin Vearncombe (1962-2016), who went by the stage name Black, “Wonderful Life” was an international hit in 1987.

Perhaps you remember it. If so, I’m sure you’d agree that there was nothing else quite like this luxuriantly melodic song at the time, and nothing quite like it before or since.

How is this possible? Well, I think it’s to do with the artful blending of a number of very special things that all came together just at the right time and place.

First, there is Vearncombe’s voice, one that’s been described as a “slightly frayed baritone.” Then there’s his melancholic delivery of lyrics that actually speak of resolution and hope. It’s a combination that’s quite mesmerizing. The singer once said that “I was really being ironic. . . . Most people took it at face value,” which just goes to show how a song can take on a life of its own. I mean, people chose to not hear it as ironic; they chose instead, perhaps even subconsciously, to project onto Vearncombe’s song humanity's capacity for hope and fortitude, even within dismal settings and circumstances. Finally, there’s the song’s music video directed by Gerard De Thame. It too, with its striking black and white cinematography and at times surreal visuals, is hauntingly unique and unforgettable.

Commenting on all of this, one YouTube viewer remarks: “Everything about this is evocative – the vocals, the music, the video, and the mood. Totally unique and incomparable.”


So why, you may be asking, am I sharing all this today?

Well, today I turn 55, and as has been the tradition at The Wild Reed, I mark the occasion of my birthday by sharing a song or prayer or reflection that I find particularly meaningful; that somehow speaks to where I’m at on my journey.

On my 44th birthday, for instance, I shared Stephan Gately’s performance of “No Matter What,” and when I turned 45 I shared “Where the Truth Lies” by the band Exchange.

In 2012, when I turned 47, I shared a prayer for balance at a very trying time, not only for myself, but for many of us here in Minnesota.

Six years ago, on the first day of my fiftieth year, I shared a “guidepost on the journey,” and then one year later on the day of my 50th birthday, I shared Buffy Sainte-Marie’s rousing “It’s My Way.”

In 2017, when I turned 52, I shared a beautiful poem by John O’Donohue; while on my 53rd birthday, I shared vocalist Carl Anderson’s “Love Is,” a beautiful and powerful meditation on the mystery of love.

Last year, when I turned 54, I shared “This Is the Time,” a beautiful song by Senegalese singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Daby Touré.

This year, as you’ve no doubt ascertained, I’m sharing Black’s “Wonderful Life.” And after the music video below, I’ll say a little about why I chose this particular song to share on my birthday this year.




Here I go
Out to sea again
The sunshine fills my hair
And dreams hang in the air
Gulls in the sky
And in my blue eyes
You know it feels unfair,
There’s magic everywhere

Look at me standing
Here on my own again,
Up straight in the sunshine
No need to run and hide,
It’s a wonderful, wonderful life
No need to laugh or cry,
It’s a wonderful, wonderful life

The sun’s in your eyes,
The heat is in your hair
They seem to hate you
Because you’re there
And I need a friend,
Oh, I need a friend
To make me happy,
Not stand here on my own

Look at me standing
Here on my own again,
Up straight in the sunshine
No need to run and hide,
It’s a wonderful, wonderful life
No need to laugh or cry,
It’s a wonderful, wonderful life


Now, to be honest, what with all that’s happening in the U.S. and the world right now, I’m having a hard time with the whole “wonderful life” thing.

Between the global coronavirus pandemic and the possibility of Trump winning a second term in next month’s presidential election, I find myself constantly fighting off debilitating feelings of anxiety and dread. It’s a real struggle to not let these feelings weigh me down, and it's a struggle that I find emotionally exhausting.

There is also another reason why I’m not feeling particularly wonder-filled right now, or even celebratory today on my birthday. Earlier this week I was told that my friend Mahad had suffered a stroke while undergoing heart surgery. From what I'm hearing from his brother Adnan, Mahad is in what is medically termed a “persistent vegetative state,” meaning that even though his breathing is occurring naturally, he has no signs of cognitive awareness. It’s a comatose state characterized as “awake but unaware.”

This news has been devastating for many, and I continue to experience a deep sense of grief around the loss of my friend, a young man who had experienced many hardships and set-backs, and, yes, who had made mistakes, but who had finally began putting his life together in good and hopeful and healthy ways. I’m feeling grief too around some very simple, uncomplicated things related to my friend and his loss, like realizing I’ll never see Mahad’s beautiful smile again, at least not in this world.


Given all of this, is it any wonder that I find myself drawn to the mournful melody of “Wonderful Life.”

But you know, I’m not a pessimist. I value and seek to embody hope and proactivism. So I'm drawn to the words of this song as well.

That both sadness and hope are integrated so beautifully and powerfully in “Wonderful Life” reminds me that in my own life, I too can integrate them in beautiful and powerful ways. Indeed, I've come to believe, to trust, that such integration is key to forging and experiencing a life full of wonder.

I don't have to “run and hide” in the face of anxiety or grief, but can open myself to these feelings and allow them to make me a more compassionate and empathetic person. I can also surrender them to the Love that infuses and sustains all things, to the “magic everywhere,” trusting that this Love will gift me in return with a new perspective (which is one way to understand a miracle) by which I can view and live with my anxiety and grief in ways that make them less overwhelming.

I can recognize when I need a friend, and can reach out to people in my life whom I trust will listen and provide solace and care. At the same time I know that at my deepest level I do indeed “stand alone,” but also upright and in the “sunshine.” I perceive this sunshine as a beautiful and powerful metaphor for the Divine Love within all of us; a Love that consoles and strengthens, illuminates amd transforms.

Speaking of sunshine, my happiest memories of Mahad were when we spent time together in nature. I recall how such times were like a healing balm for him, for both of us. We were never more open and honest in our talking with each other than when we were in nature. These experiences not only grounded us, literally, within the natural world, they also grounded us in the deepest truths of our lives and our friendship.

This is how I choose to remember Mahad . . . and how I'll be celebrating my birthday this year: by taking quiet time to recollect and cherish those all-to-brief moments of life we got to share. Moments of beauty, of heart-sharing, and, yes, of wonder.


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
This Is the Time
With Love Inside
On This “Echoing-Day” of My Birth
Turning 50
A Guidepost on the Journey
In the Eye of the Storm, a Tree of Living Flame
Journeying Into the Truth . . . Valiantly, of Course
No Matter What



See also:
Time By the River
A Longing and a Prayer
Now Is the Time
You Will Know It
Something
Ride to Sundown
Out and About – Spring 2018
Out and About – Summer 2018
Out and About – Autumn 2018
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond
The Prayer Tree
From the Palliative/Spiritual Care Bookshelf
“Call Upon Those You Love”
Holy Encounters Where Two Worlds Meet
Grief and Gratitude

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Autumn Snowburst


Writes Paul Huttner of MPR News “Updraft” blog:

Our unusually cold and strong October low-pressure storm dumped heavy snow on much of Minnesota as expected Tuesday.

It also shattered some early-season snowfall records. Many spots around central and southern Minnesota will likely set all-time records for the heaviest, earliest snowfall of the snow season.

One amazing feature of this storm is the intense snowburst that rolled through the Twin Cities late Tuesday afternoon. . . . This burst produced snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour. Many locations from St. Cloud through southern Minnesota including the Twin Cities picked up more than 6 inches of snow.



Related Off-site Links:
Twin Cties Upgraded to Winter Storm Warning – Paul Huttner (MPR News, October 20, 2020).
Hundreds of Crashes and Spinouts as First Major Snow Slams StateStar Tribune (October 20, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
After the Season's First Snowstorm, a Walk Through the Neighborhood (2019)
Just in Time for Winter
Winter of Content
Winter Arrives! (2009)
First Snowfall (2010)
Winter Storm (2012)
A Winter Walk Along Minnehaha Creek (2013)
Winter's Return (2014)
Winter Storm (2016)
Autumn Snow (2017)
Winter Beauty (2017)
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2017)
December's Snowy Start (2018)
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2019)

Images: Michael J. Bayly.


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Meeting Truth


Writes author Colin Fleming:

We fight for so much control in our lives, and we feel frightfully unmoored without it. We have voices in our cars directing us when to bang that right turn, devices on our wrists telling us how many steps we’ve taken. We deal in constant analytics, sometimes evaluating the quality of our own thoughts and words by how many likes they rack up on social media. Everything is a comparison with something else.

Humans can surprise themselves when they’re untethered. Thoreau advised that we should walk in the woods as though “never to return” – which is to say, being cool with getting lost – and that our heart comes back in a purer form than when we left.

When we get lost, we necessarily forsake control, all but saying to nature, “Here I am, funnel me in.” In those moments there’s a good chance you’ll meet a little buddy of yours, who often shows up only when your guard is down. He’s not a bad guy, but people have a knack for driving him away when they’re hyperfocused on daily tasks – even tiny ones, like trying to go the “right” way based on what the map says.

Who is he? The truth. Sometimes it’s the reality of things you’ve done, things you’re great at that you don’t give yourself enough credit for, or changes you should make.

It is impossible to walk purely in the moment, without worrying about what turn to take, and not encounter the truth at least for a while. He comes unbeckoned, but sans surly attitude. The truth’s like a traveling companion as you crunch leaves underfoot.

Spending time with reality is a lot less scary and stressful than trying to duck him. But we often have to meet the truth in spite of ourselves. Being lost in the woods cuts out the difficult part, making that formal decision to face things.

– Colin Fleming
(from “Take a Hike and Get Lost”)
The Wall Street Journal
July 29, 2020


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Mistwalking
I Caught a Glimpse of a God . . .
Holy Encounters Where Two Worlds Meet
Meeting (and Embodying) the Lover God
The Landscape Is a Mirror
Thomas Moore on the Circling of Nature as the Best Way to Find Our Substance
In This In-Between Time
The Mysticism of Trees
Celtic Spirituality: “A Fluid, Transmutable Affair”
The Prayer Tree
Journeying Into the Truth . . . Valiantly, of Course!

Image: “Mahad at the Threshold” by Michael J. Bayly (2018)


Monday, October 12, 2020

Something to Think About . . .

Source


Related Off-site Links:
Columbus Day: Trump Accuses “Radical Activists” of Trying to Undermine Explorer’s Legacy in Holiday Proclamation – Courtney Subramanian (USA Today, October 12, 2020).
Trump's Praise of Columbus Omits Dark History – Holly Yan (CNN News, October 9, 2017).
The Real Christopher Columbus – Howard Zinn (Jacobin, October 12, 2015).
These States Are Ditching Columbus Day to Observe Indigenous Peoples' Day Instead – Scottie Andrew and AJ Willingham (CNN News, October 12, 2020).
Indigenous Peoples’ Day: The Latest U.S. Billboard Project to Send a Message – Nadja Sayej (The Guardian, October 12, 2020).
This Tribal Map of America Shows Whose Land You're Actually Living On – David Grossman (Popular Mechanics, October 12, 2020).
Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Two-Spirit Native Americans Bridge Genders – Kittredge Cherry (Q Spirit, October 12, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Trump’s America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
Something to Think About – October 9, 2017
Words of Wisdom on Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Michael Greyeyes’ Latest Film Provides a “New Understanding of How History Repeats”
Something to Think About – October 13, 2015
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Quote of the Day – September 27, 2015
Something Special for Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Singing It and Praying It; Living It and Saying It
Buffy Sainte-Marie and That “Human-Being Magic”
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “America the Beautiful”
Something to Think About – February 23, 2017
“It Is All Connected”
Standing in Prayer and Solidarity with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock
Standing Together
Visions of Crazy Horse
Come, Spirit . . .
North America: Perhaps Once the “Queerest Continent on the Planet”

Sunday, October 11, 2020

About Those Militias


Like a lot of people, I was alarmed by news last week of an alleged far-right plot to kidnap Michigan's governor, Gretchen Whitmer, a plot that included plans to attack the Michigan state capitol in Lansing with the intent of starting a civil war.

Thankfully, such violent and treasonous plans were foiled, and on Thursday the FBI announced that 13 men with ties to armed anti-government groups in Michigan are now facing charges related to the alleged plot. According to the FBI affidavit, much of this plot was foreshadowed or advanced via social media and other online platforms.

Of course, these developments come at a time when armed individuals and groups are becoming an ever more visible presence at public demonstrations, intimidating and even killing those gathered to protest racial injustice and police brutality.

Emboldened by the increasingly authoritarian rhetoric of President Donald Trump, some of these groups are even planning to show up at polling stations on Election Day to “guard” the voting process.

Yesterday while out driving, I heard a very informative segment on NPR's All Things Considered program, one that focused on the legality of the numerous private militia groups we’re seeing springing up around the country. In discussing this issue, some crucial questions were raised:

Are these groups actually permitted under the Constitution?

Are they legal under the Second Amendment, given its provision for a “well-regulated militia”?

Here's how one of the show’s guests, former CIA analyst Cindy Otis, answered these important questions:

[W]ell-regulated means well-regulated by the state, by the government. So even pre-independence in the colonies, when there was an antipathy towards standing armies – they didn't want to have a standing army – so what they did is they said, we will have a militia.

Militia means all able-bodied residents between certain ages who are available to be called forth by the government in defense of the state. And once called forth, they answer to the government. They're trained by the government. They're directed and regulated by the government. That was, of course, baked into the Second Amendment, and it's baked into the constitutions of the states as well. So there's no ability for groups of individuals to sort of call themselves forth.


Another guest on the show was Mary McCord, the legal director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law. From 2016-2017, McCord served as acting U.S. assistant attorney general for national security. Here’s what she said about the issue of militias:

[These groups are] very prevalent, unfortunately. I mean, more and more new ones are springing up, including, you know, we have nationwide organizations. And, frankly, I’m just not going to mention their names on air because I think it just helps them with recruitment, and it helps them to feel normalized. But we also have small, like, county groups that are self-organizing.

And many of them are doing this because they fancy themselves as patriots. They will refer to themselves as patriots and say it’s their duty to defend and protect the Constitution. But, of course, they’re the ones deciding how the Constitution should be interpreted, and they’re doing so completely outside of government accountability and outside of, you know, any actual authorized authority.


Related Off-site Links:
Michigan Domestic Terror Plot Sends Shockwaves Through Militia World – Hannah Allam (NPR News, October 9, 2020).
Extremism Researcher On Prevalence of Militia Groups in the Pandemic – Audie Cornish (NPR News, October 8, 2020).
“A Threat to a Fair Election”: Experts Warn of Danger Posed by Armed Pro-Trump Poll Watchers – Kenny Stancil (Common Dreams, October 9, 2020).
How We Should Defend Against the Impending Trump Coup – Jeremy Brecher (Common Dreams, October 9, 2020).
America's Cold Civil War – Marianne Willianson (Newsweek, September 28, 2020).
Patriot Games: A Brief History of Militias in America – Sara Rathod (Mother Jones, 2016).

UPDATES: Trump Rally Crowd Chants “Lock Her Up” About Michigan Gov. Whitmer, Target of Alleged Kidnapping Plot – John Fritze (USA Today, October 17, 2020).
Michigan Gov. Whitmer Says Trump Incites Domestic Terrorism – Barbara Sprunt (NPR News, October 18, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Charlottesville, the Face of Terrorism In the U.S.
“Fascism Is Upon Us”
“New and Very Dangerous”: The Extreme Right-Wing Infiltration of the George Floyd Protests
Trump’s America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
“We Have an Emergency On Our Hands”: Marianne Williamson On the “Freefall” of American Democracy
Rep. Ilhan Omar Responds to President Trump’s Authoritarian Threats
Shaun King on White Privilege in America
Something to Think About – January 4, 2016

Image: Members of the West Ohio Minutemen Militia outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland (2016). (Photo: Rex Features via AP Images)