Sunday, January 29, 2023

Ditching the Crime, Keeping the Sin: Thoughts on the Pope’s Call to Decriminalize Homosexuality

I was heartened to see my friends Brian McNeill and Paula Ruddy quoted in an article in yesterday’s Star Tribune.

Entitled, “Pope’s Support Lifts LGBTQ Community,” this article highlighted the reactions of local reform-minded Catholics to Pope Francis’ recent statement that “homosexuality is not a crime.” The Pope went on to call on Catholic bishops in countries with anti-gay laws to stand against these “unjust” laws and to recognize all people’s dignity.

It seems praise-worthy enough, but let’s just be very clear here: the supreme overlord of a feudal monarchical system to whom the vast majority of his “subjects” (straight and gay) do not listen when he speaks on matters of sex and sexuality, is being roundly applauded for stating that while “homosexual activity” is still a “sin,” it should not be considered a “crime.”

Ditching the crime, keeping the sin

For reasons that I’ll go into shortly, I’m not particularly impressed with the Pope’s attempts to ditch the crime / keep the sin. Others, however, are impressed, and believe the Pope's words are going to make a real difference in the world. My friend Brian McNeill states in yesterday’s Star Tribune article that, “We here in the U.S. can advocate and lobby the church on improving their position on LGBTQ issues without any consequences. In 67 countries in the world, it’s illegal to be LGBTQ and in 11 countries, it merits the death penalty under certain circumstances.” Building on such an observation, James Martin, SJ contends that the Pope’s call to decriminalize homosexuality will save lives.

I have two thoughts about this. First, I question Brian’s assertion that advocating and lobbying the church to “improv[e] their position on LGBTQ issues” is without consequence in the United States. True, no one’s going to be jailed or executed for being gay, but a Catholic high school teacher, for instance, could not do the advocacy work that I did 10 years ago, and which Brian continues to do today, without fear of losing their job.

Second, to Fr. James Martin’s point, one has to ask: How many of the governments that criminalize homosexuality are open to being influenced by the Roman Catholic Church? I also find myself wondering how serious world governments actually take the church on matters of sexuality and justice given the scope, gravity and, yes, criminality of the church’s own clergy sex abuse scandal.

Regardless, Pope Francis urges bishops, other clergy members, and lay Catholics (the entire church, in other words) to actively work for the abolition of laws that criminalize homosexuality. This call is, without doubt, historic. So for that reason alone it is a step forward, and I can understand why many are praising and celebrating it.

Making the connections

Yet in the midst of this celebration, my heart compels me to ask: Why can’t we all get past needing to rely on the words of any type of overlord, including the benevolent Pope Francis, to recognize – and do – the right thing by ourselves and others when it comes to important issues relating to human experience, relating to our experience?

And let’s go even deeper. Regardless of the good and positive things Pope Francis may say about, well, anything, they all could be denounced and reversed by the next pope. That’s the problem with feudal monarchies like the Vatican; everything is dependent on the will of the overlord. Also, while it’s true that Pope Francis chooses not to emphasize troubling terms such as “intrinsically disordered” to describe the homosexual orientation, that language and understanding is still part of official church teaching on morality. It’s there ready to be emphasized and extolled by the next (and less pastorally-sensitive) overlord. Can you see the problem here?

So here’s what I’m waiting to celebrate: the abolition of Roman Catholicism’s clerical caste and the complete transformation of the papacy as we know it. (And, yes, there are non-overlord models of the papacy out there.*). Only with such radical transformation will we see the establishment in the church of a way of talking about sexual matters that is open to and shaped by all people’s experience of God in their sexual lives and relationships.

The Roman Catholic Church does not have such an inclusive and reality-based way of talking about sex and sexuality; it does not have, in other words, an actual sexual theology, i.e., a way of talking about God in relation to human sexuality. It has instead a marriage theology, one that posits that it is only within a church-approved marriage (i.e., one man and one woman, with every sex act open to procreation) where sex is “godly,” not sinful.

Gay people, of course, don’t fit into such an understanding of marriage. How could they when this understanding does not reflect the diversity of human sexuality? Instead, human sexuality and the meaning and sacredness of sex are all narrowly reduced to – and defined by – the church-approved understanding of marriage. Said another way, a definition of marriage is defining acceptable sexuality and its expression. The Pope recently reinforced this when he offered a “clarification” of his remarks on homosexuality and sin. “When I said [homosexuality] is a sin,” the Pope wrote, “I was simply referring to Catholic moral teaching, which says that every sexual act outside of marriage is a sin.”

In an interview I did with him back in 2005, “modern mystic” Chuck Lofy highlighted the problem with this limited way of thinking about sexuality.

Human experience of God within the full range of human sexuality has not been recognized or valued [by the Vatican]. What’s valued is a system of logic. So for the pope it is logical that when you think of the penis and the vagina, the point of sexuality is to procreate within the framework of heterosexual marriage. It’s a logical, intellectually-based paradigm. But it doesn’t align with human experience in the real world.

And speaking of the church’s moral teaching, here’s something else that’s a reality for many LGBTQ Catholics: It is very difficult to separate the anti-gay behavior of individuals and governments from the anti-gay teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. When the church hierarchy labels LGBTQ people’s longing for relational intimacy as “intrinsically evil” and “objectively disordered,” it gives subtle permission for anti-gay behavior. If such behavior – on the part of either individuals or governments – is going to be denounced by the church as “unjust” then so too should the church’s language and theology that fuel and justify it. The church, and, yes, that includes Pope Francis, needs to recognize the connection between its own anti-gay language and how the internalization of this language leads to anti-gay behavior and actions, including the passing of anti-gay laws.

Moving on

For many years I dedicated my time and energy to educating Catholics about the need for radical change within the church. I did so as the executive director of both the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) and Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, as editor of The Progressive Catholic Voice, as a board member of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR), and as the author of Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective (Haworth Press, 2007).

I don’t regret my time working for church reform, renewal and transformation – nor my reasons at the time for doing so. But after a good twelve years of such work there came a time when I no longer felt called to continue it. I did what I did, and I did it well. I came to a point, however, when I needed to focus on my own transformation and journey, and leave the transformation and journey of the Roman Catholic Church to those who still felt motivated and inspired to engage in such important work.

I realized that, for me, life is way too short to take on, long-term, an institution like Roman Catholicism. Plus, on a practical level, such work was not financially sustaining. Also, we have the ability to walk away from this particular feudal system and not have it impact us in any kind of retaliatory way. We can move on with our lives, and that’s exactly what I did. And I have to say that my life is all the more satisfying and richer for it.

Of course, not everyone has to “move on” from Roman Catholicism to experience a satisfying and rich life. Many have this experience while staying within the church and working for change. I continue to have great admiration and respect for such individuals – locally and nationally. I’m thinking not only of my friends Brian and Paula but also Marianne Duddy-Burke, Mary Hunt, Jeannine Gramick, Francis DeBernardo, Bob Shine, Joan Chittister, Margaret Farley, Jamie Manson, Ilia Delio, Paul Lakeland and many others. May their work help transform the church.

For more on my journey, see the introduction to this Wild Reed post.

* One Catholic theologian who advocates for a team model for the papacy is theologian Mary Hunt. Speaking on Pacific Radio’s Democracy Now! program shortly after the selection of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005, Hunt said:

I still favor and put out to your listeners, a possibility: the notion of an international team for the papacy. If the papacy is supposed to be a symbol of unity and not a person with authority, then it makes much more sense in a post-modern time to think not about one person . . . but in fact to think about an intergenerational, international team of men and women who could in fact meet and lead a billion people using technology and travel as a way to bring many voices into the discussion. So we’re really pushing for a horizontal model of church, not the vertical one that Cardinal Ratzinger represents.

For more discussion on non-overlord models of the papacy, click here and here.

Related Off-site Links:
The AP Interview: Pope Says Homosexuality Not a Crime – Nicole Winfield (AP News, January 25, 2023).
In Papal First, Francis Backs Decriminalization of Homosexuality – Christopher White (National Catholic Reporter, January 25, 2023).
Pope Francis’s Call to Decriminalize Homosexuality Worldwide Will Save Lives – James Martin, S.J. (Outreach, January 25, 2023).
Pope Francis’ LGBTQ Comments Are Not Surprising But Sincere, Gay Vatican Adviser Says – Leila Fadel and Jan Johnson (National Catholic Reporter, January 26, 2023).
Pope Clarifies Homosexuality and Sin Comments in Note – Nicole Winfield (AP News via ABC News, January 28, 2023).

UPDATE: What Lasting Impact Will Pope Francis’ Condemnation of Criminalization Laws Have? – Robert Shine (, February 8, 2023).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Catholic Church Can Overcome Fear of LGBT People
A Catholic’s Prayer for his Fellow Pilgrim, Benedict XVI
Vatican Stance on Gay Priests Signals Urgent Need for Renewal and Reform
It’s Time We Evolved Beyond Theological Imperialism
Getting It Right
Progressive Catholic Perspectives on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Marriage Equality Ruling
Progressive Thoughts on Recent Developments in Ireland, El Salvador and the U.S.
More Progressive Catholic Perspectives on Ireland’s Historic Gay Marriage Vote
Progressive Catholic Perspectives on the Legacy of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
LGBT Catholics Respond to Synod 2014’s Final Report
Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality – Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII
Hans Küng: “The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Stronger Than the Hierarchy”
Mary Hunt: Quote of the Day – April 17, 2013
Beyond Papalism
Progressive Perspectives of the Papacy – Part I | II | III | IV | V
No Patriarchal Hierarchy, No Rigid Conformity
Rome Falling
Re-Forming “the Vatican” Doesn't Mean Destroying the Church
Pan’s Labyrinth: Critiquing the Cult of Unquestioning Obedience
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men
Roger Haight on the Church We Need

Friday, January 27, 2023

Quote of the Day

We want an end to police murders of Black people. So, this moment [in the wake of the death of Tyre Nichols] isn’t about Black vs. white, it’s about blue vs. Black. Diversity cannot and does not solve systemic problems.

If we don’t change the structure of policing and safety in our country, Black people will continue to be killed, by police of all races. The evidence is clear – investing in communities will keep us safe, not the police.

Rashad Robinson
Quoted in Jessica Corbett’s article,
‘Sheer Brutality’: Released Footage Shows
Fired Memphis Cops Beating Tyre Nichols

Common Dreams
January 27, 2023

Above: Tyre Nichols (1994-2023). Nichols was a 29-year-old Black father, amateur photographer and longtime skateboarder who died January 10, 2023 from kidney failure and cardiac arrest, three days after he was brutally beaten by five police officers during a traffic stop. The officers were fired earlier this month and indicted yesterday (1/26/23) with second-degree murder, kidnapping and other charges for their role in Nichols’s death.

Related Off-site Links:
Tyre Nichols’ Parents Remember Son as “Beautiful Soul” and Describe Video of Beating by Memphis PoliceDemocracy Now! (January 27, 2023).
Tyre Nichols: Five Memphis Ex-Police Officers Charged With Murder Over Motorist’s Death – Victoria Bekiempis (The Guardian, January 26, 2023).
The City of Memphis Releases Videos of Tyre Nichols’ Arrest and Beating – Jaclyn Diaz, Emma Bowman, Emily Olson and Becky Sullivan (NPR News, January 27, 2023).
A Timeline of the Investigations Into Tyre Nichols’ Death After a Traffic Stop and Arrest by Memphis Police – Travis Caldwell (CNN News, January 27, 2023).
Tyre Nichols Remembered as Beautiful Soul With Creative Eye – Adam Beam, Travis Loller and Claire Galofaro (AP News, January 27, 2023).

UPDATES: In 67 Minutes of Video, Brutality Followed by Nonchalance – Matt Sedensky (AP News, January 29, 2023).
“Elite” Police Units Face More Scrutiny as Memphis SCORPION Unit Disbanded Over Tyre Nichols DeathDemocracy Now! (January 31, 2023).
Howard Professor Justin Hansford and Abolitionist Andrea Ritchie on Tyre Nichols and Calls for No More PoliceDemocracy Now! (February 1, 2023).
“No More”: At Tyre Nichols Funeral, VP Harris, Rev. Sharpton Join Family and Demand Police AccountabilityDemocracy Now! (February 2, 2023).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Remembering Philando Castile and Demanding Abolition of the System That Targets and Kills People of Color
Nancy A. Heitzeg: Quote of the Day – March 31, 2016
“An Abolitionist Demand”: Progressive Perspectives on Transforming Policing in the United States
Hamilton Nolan: Quote of the Day – August 3, 2021

See also the previous chronologically-ordered Wild Reed posts:
Rallying in Solidarity with Eric Garner and Other Victims of Police Brutality
In Minneapolis, Rallying in Solidarity with Black Lives in Baltimore
“Say Her Name” Solidarity Action for Sandra Bland
“We Are All One” – #Justice4Jamar and the 4th Precinct Occupation
Something to Think About – March 25, 2016
“This Doesn't Happen to White People”
“I Can’t Breathe”: The Murder of George Floyd
He Called Mama. He Has Called Up Great Power
Honoring George Floyd
“New and Very Dangerous”: The Extreme Right-Wing Infiltration of the George Floyd Protests
Mayor Melvin Carter: “The Anger Is Real, and I Share It With You”
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – June 2, 2020
Trevor Noah on the “Dominoes of Racial Injustice”
Emma Jordan-Simpson: “There Will Be No Peace Without Justice”
Out and About – Spring 2020
The Language of the Oppressor
A Very Intentional First Day of the Year
The Problem Is Ultimately Bigger Than Individuals. It’s Systemic
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz: “We Need to Make Systemic Changes”
“Let This Be a Turning Point”
“And Still and All, It Continues”
Remembering George Floyd on the First Anniversary of His Murder
“This Has Got to Stop”
Under Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Fry, “More Negligence and Suffering”
Love, Justice, and Amir Locke
Remembering Tekle Sundberg: “He Deserved to Live; He Deserved a Chance to Heal”

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

For Rita Coolidge, Love Is Everywhere

A mid-week “music night” this evening at The Wild Reed, just to mix things up a bit!

It’s Rita Coolidge and Keb’ Mo’ with “Walking on Water,” one of a number of standout tracks from Rita’s sublime 2018 album Safe In the Arms of Time.

I came across this album shortly before the pandemic while perusing the racks of CDs at Cheapo Discs in Blaine, MN, something I occasionally do on my way home from work. I’ve found some exceptionally good music this way; music from the likes of Daby Touré, Rahsaan Patterson, Seckou Keita, and Ash Dargan. I’ve discovered I have a pretty good knack for finding good though often obscure music, simply by trusting my feelings about a given album’s cover artwork and/or song titles. Yeah, I know, it totally goes against the old adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” But then, these aren’t books!

Rita Coolridge, of course, isn’t an obscure artist to me, and the cover of Safe in the Arms of Time, her latest album, definitely caught my attention. It’s just such a beautiful image! To my eyes, Rita looks to be beautifully at peace with herself and the world. Later, when listening to the twelve songs that comprise the album, I was moved by the wisdom, beauty, and humanity of the lyrics and their delivery. All of which conveyed a spiritual dimension that resonated with me, and one most resolutely expressed in the tracks “Spirit World,” “The Things We Carry,” “Satisfied,” and “Walking on Water.”

Explaining the inspiration behind “Walking on Water,” Rita told PEOPLE magazine in March of 2018 that she “wrote the song with Keb’ Mo’ and Jill Collucci about the impermanence of life.”

“The most powerful lyric and the most basic truth is that ‘Love is everywhere.’ It’s our home and our truth,” she said.

“The music video for the song,” continued Rita, “was a celebration with my friend Keb’, who duets with me and plays guitar.”

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog then you’d know that some of my favorite music artists are women who first emerged and/or experienced their greatest commercial success in the 1960s or ’70s. They are women who are still making music that is not only relevant and appealing, but also the most authentic of their careers. It’s music with soul, wisdom, and a mature beauty that the market-driven music industry rarely acknowledges, let allow celebrates. I’m referring to artists Petula Clark, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Mavis Staples, Marianne Faithfull, Bettye LaVette, Kiki Dee, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris and, as you’ll see and hear below, Rita Coolidge.

I’m always searchin’ for answers
Down here reachin’ for the stars
The only truth that I’ve ever found
Is for me, there’s no such thing as solid ground

I’m walking on water, floatin’ on air
What lies beneath me is really not there
I know that love is everywhere
I’m walking on water, floatin’ on air

Why do I care how people see me?
Why do we wanna hold on to youth?
And what if the questions are the answers?
What if there’s no such thing as the truth?

We’re just walking on water, floatin’ on air
What lies beneath us is really not there
I know that love is everywhere
I’m walking on water, floatin' on air

I still believe in miracles
Things may not be as they seem
In my imagination
I'm livin' in a dream

I'm walking on water, floatin' on air
What lies beneath me is really not there
I know that love is everywhere
I’m walking on water, floatin’ on air

Following, with added images and links, is Blue Élan Records’ 2018 media release for Rita Coolridge’s Safe in the Ams of Time album.


Rita Coolidge – Safe in the Arms of Time

Rita Coolidge’s impact is undiminished – her voice as pure, sweet and powerful as ever, and her ability to get inside a song honed by experience and overview.

After ten years during which she bore witness to some of her life’s greatest joys and deepest sorrows – and the publication of her acclaimed 2015 memoir, Delta Lady – Rita Coolidge is back with Safe in the Arms of Time, her 18th solo album and a reaffirmation of her indomitable spirit and unquenchable creative thirst.

Safe in the Arms of Time marks Rita’s triumphant return to the songwriting that gave the world her shimmering (and still uncredited) “piano coda” to Derek and the Dominoes’ “Layla.” Three of the album’s 12 songs were co-written by Rita and draw inspiration from her personal journey.

Her enthusiasm for sharing her life stories was infectious. Rita, former Tom Petty drummer Stan Lynch and Joe Hutto composed “You Can Fall in Love,” about reconnecting with an old flame, minutes after meeting as all were swept up in an irresistible creative current – “the song was done and demoed in five hours,” marvels Rita.

“You Can Fall in Love” embodies one of Safe in the Arms of Time’s compelling themes: It’s never too late. “People need to have an awakening that you can fall in love at any age and it will feel right, like you’re 15,” says Rita. “I felt it was important to talk about that because so many people give up finding the love of their lives after a certain age, and it never has to be. I really wanted to have that message come across on the record.”

Safe in the Arms of Time is colored by Rita’s pivotal role in the Los Angeles singer-songwriter scene of the 1970s, where she made her bones as a top backup singer – that’s Rita on the refrains of Stephen Stills’s “Love the One You’re With” and Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” – before embarking on a platinum-selling solo career.

Rita and producer Ross Hogarth gathered an all-star lineup of the era’s top musicians – guitarist Dave Grissom, bassist Bob Glaub, John “J.T.” Thomas on keyboards and drummer Brian Macleod – at L.A.’s Sunset Sound, the famed recording studio where Rita recorded her first solo albums.

“The idea was making an album that had the same appeal of my early records – to make a roots record about my own roots,” says Rita. “Going back to Sunset Sound was taking a journey into the past – there was a memory down every hallway.”

Returning to the studio fulfilled her resolve that the new album must “resonate with an honesty of those early records. We aren’t using any tricks: no auto-tuning, every single note you hear on this record is in real time.”

Rita traveled to Nashville and the studio of Keb’ Mo’ to write, with singer-songwriter Jill Colucci, two of the album’s most intimate songs, “Walking on Water” and “Naked All Night.” Duetting with the Grammy-winning bluesman on “Walking on Water” was a thrill for Rita, “I literally have every Keb’ Mo’ CD – I’ve been a fan for decades,” she says.

Safe in the Arms of Time reunited Rita with Graham Nash, her romantic and creative confidant during Nash’s Crosby, Stills & Nash days and one of Rita’s most cherished and enduring friendships. Nash and the journeyman L.A. session drummer Russ Kunkel had written “Doing Fine Without You” and offered it to Rita. “That was one of the first songs we chose. Russell and Graham had written that and thought of me, and I said, ‘I don’t know when I’m doing a record, can I put this on hold?” Two years later, the song is among the album’s standouts.

Safe in the Arms of Time’s songs are the first new music Rita has recorded since the tragic death in 2015 of her beloved sister, Priscilla, a recording artist and member of Walela, the Native American trio she and Rita founded with Priscilla’s daughter, Laura Satterfield. The recording of the album also coincided with Rita’s relocation from Southern California, her home since the 1970s, to a new life in Tallahassee, where in the 1960s, as an art major at Florida State University, she discovered her true calling as a musician – and never looked back.

In her subsequent career comprising five decades and millions of record sales, Rita captivated audiences with her signature hits “We’re All Alone,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “All Time High” and “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher.” And in a remarkable eight-year romantic and artistic marriage for the ages, she and former husband Kris Kristofferson earned multiple Grammy Awards.

Now, with Safe in the Arms of Time, Rita’s odyssey from the hills of rural Tennessee to the recording studios of Los Angeles and concert stages around the world has come full circle. As Rita recalls in Delta Lady: “It’s all about the journey. Sometimes the path is surrounded by rainbows, and sometimes it’s buried in the mud. I’m still here and I still have a lot of gratitude for the whole process of being able to make music.”


For other inspiring female music artists who are “of a certain age” but still very much on the scene, see:

Luminescent at 90
Meeting a Living Legend
Happy Birthday, Petula (2019)
Petula Clark: Singing for Us, Not at Us
“Pure Class”: Petula Clark’s Latest Offering Captivates
Happy Birthday, Petula! (2015)
Pet Sounds
Well, Look Who’s Coming to Port Macquarie
Petula Clark: Still Colouring Our World (which includes my mum’s review of Petula’s 2014 concert in Port Macquarie)

A Music Legend Visits the North Country
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Power in the Blood
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Medicine Songs
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Sometimes You Have to Be Content to Plant Good Seeds and Be Patient”
Buffy Sainte-Marie and That “Human-Being Magic”
The Music of Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Uprooting the Sources of Disenfranchisement”
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Things Do Change and Things Do Get Better”
For Buffy Sainte-Marie, the World Is Always Ripening
Buffy Sainte-Marie, “One of the Best Performers Out Touring Today”

Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri
Celebrating the Proverbial “Soulman”
Deeper Understandings
The End Is Not the End
Together Again – Elton John and Kiki Dee

Ever Faithfull
Before (and After) the Poison
There Is a Ghost
The “People Between”

Country With Soul
“The Wonder You Bring”
“Here I Am” – The Lenten Response

Other 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 | D’Angelo | Little Richard | Black Pumas | Mbemba Diebaté | Judie Tzuke | Seckou Keita | Rahsaan Patterson | Black | Ash Dargan | ABBA | The KLF and Tammy Wynette | Luke James and Samoht | Julee Cruise | Olivia Newton-John | Dyllón Burnside | Christine McVie

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Allow Everything to Rest Right Now

. . . Take a sacred pause. Allow questions to remain unanswered, for now. . . . Allow yourself to not be able to hold it all up today. Allow yourself to not know how, to not know at all.

Allow the heart to break, if it needs to, and the body to ache, and the soul to wake. Everything is so okay, when you get down to it. So okay, here.

And know you are loved.

Jeff Foster
Excerpted from The Way of Rest:
Finding Courage to Hold Everything in Love

Sounds True, 2016
pp. 34-35

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – January 16, 2023
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – January 4, 2023
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – August 25, 2022
Summer Vignettes
When Sorrow Comes
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – November 25, 2021
I Need Do Nothing . . . I Am Open to the Living Light
Autumn, Adnan . . . and Art?
Just One Wish
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – June 29, 2021
Blue Yonder
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – June 24, 2021
What We Crave
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – January 30, 2021
November Musings
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – November 18, 2020
Today I Will Be Still
Adnan in Morning Light
It’s You
The Landscape Is a Mirror
Out and About – Spring 2020
Family Time in Guruk . . . and Glimpses of Somaliland
Somalia Bound
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – July 15, 2019
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – July 14, 2019
Adnan . . . Amidst Mississippi Reflections and Forest Green
Adnan . . . with Sunset Reflections and Jet Trail
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – April 16, 2019
In This In-Between Time
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – March 29, 2019

Image: Saaxiib Qurux Badan (“Beautiful Friend”), Minneapolis, MN – Michael J. Bayly (1/22/23).

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Something to Think About . . .

Related Off-site Links:
Why the Possibility of Thousands of Species Going Extinct Is AlarmingGulf Times (January 9, 2023).
Stopping the Sixth Extinction – Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan (Democracy Now! via Common Dreams, December 24, 2022).
Extinction Crisis Puts 1 Million Species on the Brink – Katy Daigle and Julia Janicki (Reuters, December 23, 2022).
COP15: Nations Reach Landmark Deal to Protect Earth’s BiodiversityDemocracy Now! (December 19, 2022).
A “Weak” Global Biodiversity Pact Approved at COP15 Despite Objections of African Nations – Jon Queally (Common Dreams, December 19, 2022).
The Extinction Crisis – Laura Ferguson (Tufts, May 21, 2019).
Accelerated Modern Human–Induced Species Losses: Entering the Sixth Mass Extinction – Gerardo Ceballos, et al (Science, June 19, 2015).
Jared Diamond on the Downfall of Civilizations – and His Optimism for OursFreakonomics (December 10, 2021).
Cartoons That Provoke Environmental and Ethical Sensitivity – Rahul Somvanshi (Karmactive, January 24, 2022).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Declaration of Interdependence
George Monbiot: Quote of the Day – July 21, 2012
Greta Thunberg: Quote of the Day – September 23, 2019
Biophilia, the God Pan, and a Baboon Named Scott
Examining the Link Between Destruction of Biodiversity and Emerging Infectious Diseases
Something to Think About – February 10, 2020
As the World Burns, Calls for a “Green New Deal”

Image: Stefan Haller (aka Schlorian).

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Quote of the Day

What I mean by the constructive view of reparations is the idea that we do need the people who have gotten rich off the spoils of yesterday’s injustice, yesterday’s apartheid, yesterday’s laying of the groundwork for today’s capitalism; and there needs to be redistribution from the large corporations that have gotten all of that wealth to the rest of the people throughout the world.

But the point of that redistribution isn’t just so we can shuffle around cells on an Excel spreadsheet. I think we should also be building a different kind of world that doesn’t structurally run on racism and other kinds of oppression and capitalism. And the construction of [this] constructive view is the point of building that world. That world would have a much different energy system. It would produce things in a different way. It would manage resources in a different and more democratic way. And I think those are the kinds of changes we have to think about building, rather than only thinking about redistributing money or only thinking about tearing down the structures that we have now.

Related Off-site Links:
The Constructive Politics of Climate Reparations: A Conversation with Olúfẹ́mi O. TáíwòClimate (November 27, 2022).
How Rich People Stole Identity PoliticsThe American Prospect (January 9, 2023).
Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò Reconsiders “Centering the Marginalized” – Josiah R. Daniels (Sojourners (September 29, 2022).
Olúfémi O. Táíwò’s Theory of Everything – John Thomason (Grist (June 21, 2022).

University of Antwerp Honors Patrice Lumumba

Above: Patrice Lumumba pictured (center) in Brussels at the Belgo-Congolese Round Table Conference of 1960. (Photo: Harry Pot/Anefo/Wikimedia Commons)

Yesterday, January 17, 2023, was the 62nd anniversary of the assassination of Patrice Émery Lumumba (1925-1961), a leader of the Congolese independence movement who served as the first Prime Minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Republic of the Congo). Throughout much of his adult life Lumumba resisted colonialism and corporatism, a defiant stance that led to his murder during a coup backed by Belgium and the U.S.

“Lumumba lived and died fighting for the liberation of African people from the shackles of colonial powers,” notes Gauri Lankes News. “His legacy lives in the struggle of African nations against neo-imperialism.”

As I’ve noted previously, I first became aware of and interested in the life of Patrice Lumumba when I attended a special screening of Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck’s film Lumumba at the University of Minnesota Film Society in 2000. (Today, Peck is probably most well-known for his 2016 film based on the writings of James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro.)

According to The Guardian, Peak’s 2000 film, Lumumba, which features French actor Eriq Ebouaney in the title role, is a “commendable effort” and a “corrective to imperialism.”

After seeing the film shortly after its release, I did some research on Lumumba and found myself moved by the images that show him captured and bound while on his way to be executed. I was struck by his calm countenance, even as he no doubt knew what awaited him. To this day I find myself wondering if I could be so brave and calm in the face of torture and death.

In commemorating the life of Patrice Lumumba on the anniversary of his murder during a US-backed coup 62 years ago, I share a recent news story out of Belgium about a historic auditorium at the University of Antwerp being renamed in honor of Lumumba. As praiseworthy as this is, an official apology from the Belgium government for the atrocities of past colonial rule in Congo, Rwanda and Burundi is yet to be issued.


Exactly 62 years after the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Patrice Lumumba was assassinated in 1961, the University of Antwerp (UAntwerp) will name a historic auditorium on its campus after him.

Lumumba will have an auditorium named after him in the main building that used to house the Colonial College (“Koloniale Hogeschool” in Dutch) on what is now Campus Middelheim. This campus has a direct link with the Belgian colonial past in Congo, Rwanda and Burundi as it was where men received an elite education before leaving to govern the colonies afterwards.

“With this name change, the University of Antwerp wants to contribute to an inclusive world,” Rector Herman Van Goethem [right] announced in a press release. “Just like in society at large, the debate about decolonisation is also alive at our university. The legacy of Belgium’s colonial past is still tangible.” In 1960, Lumumba became the first Prime Minister of the independent DRC and in that capacity denounced the exploitations and violence during Belgium’s colonial rule. On 17 January 1961, he was assassinated. “This was done in collaboration with Belgians and with the knowledge of the Belgian government,” said Van Goethem.

“In the decades after his death, Lumumba grew into an important symbol for emancipation, respect, equality and human rights,” he added. The university sees the name change as a tribute and a way to “make the communication about the colonial heritage and the atrocities possible and as a beacon of reflection about the world we want.”

The auditorium will be officially renamed on 31 March in the presence of Lumumba’s children and grandchildren. Every year in March, the University will organise special activities on inclusion and diversity for the broad target group of students and staff.

“Symbolic actions are strong and important, but not enough,” said Van Goethem. “We want to take our responsibility to rectify unjust international relations based on Western superiority and unequal economic-political interactions.”

– Maïthé Chini
Antwerp University Names Historic Auditorium
After Congolese Hero Patrice Lumumba

The Brussels Times
January 17, 2023

Above: A portrait of Patrice Lumumba by Calvin Jones. In writing about Lumumba in 2001, Colin Legum, a journalist, author, and notable anti-Apartheid activist, said: “I had got to know Lumumba reasonably well. . . . I found him gentle, and advanced in his social ideas, formed by his Christian beliefs and admiration for social democratic ideas. . . . Under different circumstances he could have been an impressive leader and saved the Congo from its terrible fate under the likes of the kleptomanic Mobutu.”

Related Off-site Links:
Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961) – Sean Jacobs (Jacobin, January 17, 2017).
In Search of Lumumba – Christian Parenti (In These Times, January 30, 2008).
Patrice Lumumba: The Most Important Assassination of the 20th Century – Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja (The Guardian, January 17, 2011).
Death of Lumumba – A History of Foreign Involvement – S.A. Randhawa (I/R/M, December 13, 2019).
Both Belgium and the United States Should Be Called to Account for the Death of Patrice Lumumba – Tim Butcher (The Spectator, March 7, 2015).
Congo’s Patrice Lumumba: The Winds of Reaction in Africa – Kenneth Good (CounterPunch, August 23, 2019).
The Tragedy of Lumumba: An Exchange – Ludo De Witte Colin Legum and Brian Urquhart (The New York Review, December 20, 2001).
Martyr by Choice – Catherine Hoskyns (The New York Review, April 5, 1973).
An Exchange on the Death of Lumumba – A.C. Gilpin and Catherine Hoskyns (The New York Review, April 22, 1971).
Who Killed Lumumba? – Catherine Hoskyns (The New York Review, December 17, 1970).
Belgium Faces Up to Post-war “Apartheid” in Congolese Colony – Jennifer Rankin (The Guardian, December 9, 2018).
Brussels Sets Straight Historical Wrong Over Patrice Lumumba Killing – Patrick Smyth (The Irish Times, July 5, 2018).
Belgian Princess Condemns Her Family’s Brutal Colonial History in Congo and Calls for ReparationsDemocracy Now! (July 9, 2020).
“Deepest Regrets,” But No Apology: King Philippe Acknowledges Colonial Cruelties – Maïthé Chini (The Brussels Times, June 8, 2022).
Belgium Finally Returns Tooth of Assassinated Leader Lumumba to DRC – Maïthé Chini (The Brussels Times, June 20, 2022).
Congo Buries Remains of Independence Martyr Patrice LumumbateleSUR (June 30, 2022).
Reparations? No Consensus On How Belgium Should Apologise for Colonial Past – Maïthé Chini (The Brussels Times, November 28, 2022).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Congo, the Only Known Remains of Patrice Lumumba Are Finally Laid to Rest
Bringing Lumumba Home
Raoul Peck on Patrice Lumumba and the Making of a Martyr
Remembering Patrice Lumumba
Cornel West: “Our Anti-Imperialism Must Be Consistent”
John Pilger on Resisting Empire
Resisting the Hand of the Empire
New Horizons

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Remembering and Emulating the Visionary and Radical Martin Luther King Jr.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day here in the United States, and two commentaries in particular on King caught my attention. They did so because they acknowledge, celebrate, and (in the case of the second one) call us to emulate the visionary and radical nature of King’s life and message.

The first of these commentaries is written by Peter Dreier, the second by Marianne Williamson. Following (with added links) are excerpts from both of them.


In his absorbing profile of the writer Alex Haley (author of Roots and The Autobiography of Malcolm X) in the New York Times Book Review a year ago, Michael Patrick Hearn made a familiar mistake. He wrote: “Politically [Haley] was a moderate, philosophically more Martin than Malcolm.”

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was no moderate. Today, he is viewed as something of an American saint. His name adorns schools and street signs. His birthday – January 15, 1929 – is observed as a national holiday on the third Monday of January each year. This year as in years past, Americans from across the political spectrum invoke King's name to justify their beliefs and actions.

But in his day, King was considered a dangerous troublemaker. Both Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson worried that King was being influenced by Communists. King was harassed by the FBI and vilified in the media. The establishment’s campaign to denigrate King worked. In August 1966 – as King was bringing his civil rights campaign to Northern cities to address poverty, slums, housing segregation and bank lending discrimination – the Gallup Poll found that 63% of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of King, compared with 33% who viewed him favorably.

King called himself a democratic socialist. He believed that America needed a “radical redistribution of economic and political power.” He challenged America’s class system and its racial caste system. He opposed U.S. militarism and imperialism, especially the country’s misadventure in Vietnam. He was a strong ally of the nation’s labor union movement. He was assassinated in April 1968 in Memphis, where he had gone to support a sanitation workers’ strike.

King’s views evolved over time. He entered the public stage with some hesitation, reluctantly becoming the spokesperson for the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, at the age of 26. King began his activism in Montgomery as a crusader against racial segregation, but the struggle for civil rights radicalized him into a fighter for broader economic and social justice and peace.

During the early 1960s, the nation’s media accurately depicted both King and Malcolm X as threats to the status quo. But the media portrayed Malcolm X as an almost demonic force because he described white people as “devils,” and called on Black Americans to use self-defense – including violence, if necessary – to protect themselves from racist thugs and police brutality. King – a proponent of nonviolent civil disobedience and racial integration – was dismayed when Malcolm X, SNCC’s Stokely Carmichael, and others began advocating "black power," which he warned would alienate white allies and undermine a genuine interracial movement for economic justice.

Just as King’s views evolved over the years, Malcolm X’s ideas changed, too. Toward the end of his life, he had rejected Black separatism and by-any-means-necessary tactics. In 1963, he traveled to Africa, the Middle East and Europe, where he met radical white people whose political ideas he agreed with. When he was in Ghana, someone asked him “What do you think about socialism?” Malcolm X asked: “Is it good for Black people?” “It seems to be,” came the response. “Then I’m for it,” Malcolm X said.

In 1964 he broke with the Nation of Islam and rejected its policy of non-cooperation with the civil rights movement. He reached out to King and other civil rights leaders.

When Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965, King sent this message to his wife: “I always had a deep affection for Malcolm and felt that he had a great ability to put his finger on the existence and root of the problem.”

. . . Throughout his life, King had his moments of despair. He lamented that the factions within the civil rights movement undermined its potential. He was frustrated at the reluctance of some liberal politicians, including President Johnson, to fully embrace the freedom movement unless they were confronted with protests. He wondered whether he had the stamina needed to endure the constant travel, speeches, and threats on his life.

But King would have rejected the nihilism and fatalism of what is now called “Afro-Pessimism,” a perspective that views American racism as so intractable that no movement for justice can redeem the nation's democracy, or its soul.

King would certainly be appalled by the recent upsurge of white supremacist and neo-fascist violence, catalyzed in part by Donald Trump. But he would recognize that they are the heirs of racist thugs like Bull Connor, George Wallace, the White Citizens Councils, and the Ku Klux Klan of his day.

If he were alive today, King would no doubt still be on the front lines, lending his voice and his energy to major battles for justice.

Peter Dreier
Excerpted from “A True and Visionary Radical,
Martin Luther King Jr. Was No Moderate

Common Dreams
January 17, 2023

The people who killed [John and Bobby Kennedy] and [Martin Luther] King had much bigger aspirations than just murdering those three individuals. They were trying to murder the vision of a just America, the political possibilities that those men represented. And in many ways they succeeded. Every year at the anniversary of King’s death, and Bobby’s death, I sadly recognize that everything we feared would happen when they died, has happened. Dr. King’s “three evils” of militarism and poverty and racism continue to plague us; those who would decry them most passionately now are often yelling into the wind. We can talk all we want to, we can even protest and write books and have TV shows! But changing public policy is a whole other thing altogether.

Militarism is now core to America’s business model; poverty is simply its collateral damage; and racism is okay to criticize in theory yet continues its pernicious hold on everything from policing to criminal justice to economic policy. We can use MLK Day to celebrate him all we want, but I’m not sure it means that much when the other 364 days of the year we are practically spitting on his grave.

What would Dr. King say about that $858 billion defense budget? What would he say about letting a child tax credit – one that cut child poverty in half – expire after six months and Congress not permanentize it? What would he say about our failure to raise the minimum wage for the last 13 years, while billionaires have seen their profits skyrocket? What would he say about our failure to pass meaningful police reform? What would Dr. King say about a president who gives a speech at Ebenezer Church about how wonderful he was, when Dr. King himself was in Memphis the day he died to support striking sanitation workers and said president just smashed the hopes of striking railroad works who simply wanted sick pay?

. . . If Dr. King had lived, he would be 94 today. He would hopefully be enjoying a well deserved rest after years of brilliant transformative leadership. But even had he lived, you and I would have the responsibility now to take up where he left off. What he would want to hear from us, I think, is, “Thank you, Martin. We’ll take it from here.”

It’s not enough to praise him; we should emulate him. We should remember his words, that “our lives begin to end on the day we become silent about things that matter.” He never became silent about things that matter, and neither should we. But we can’t just talk. We’ve got to act.

During the Obama presidency there was a push to make Dr. King’s birthday a “national day of service.’ That annoyed me, for it totally and completely missed the point. No amount of private charity can compensate for a basic lack of social justice. Dr. King was about more than personal transformation; he was about societal transformation. And he was about more than doing good works; he was about passing good laws. And so should we be.

We should use this day not only to look back but also to look forward. Dr. King quoted the prophet Amos, wanting “justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Oh what America would look like if that were true. The message of this day should not just be Let’s all remember. To honor him the most, it should be Let’s all get down to work.

There is still so much to do.

Marianne Williamson
Excerpted from “MLK Day Should Be Every Day
January 16, 2023

Related Off-site Links:
MLK Day Should Be About Continuing Dr. King’s Radical Project – Daniel T. Fleming (Jacobin, January 16, 2023).
Progressives Counter Cherry-Picked Quotes With MLK’s True Legacy – Jessica Corbett (Common Dreams, January 17, 2022).
The Part About MLK White People Don’t Like to Talk About – Zenobia Jeffries Warfield (Yes! Magazine, January 22, 2019).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Martin Luther King Jr. and Democratic Socialism
Moderates, Radicals, and MLK
The Good and Just Society
Martin Luther King Jr. on the “Most Durable Power in the World”
For MLK Day
Martin Luther King Jr: Quote of the Day – January 16, 2016
Somewhere In Between
Richard Wolff on the Necessity of Transforming Capitalism
John Pilger on Resisting Empire
John le Carré’s Dark Suspicions
R.I.P. Neoclassical Economics
Capitalism on Trial