What Would Jesus Do

Yesterday, via Twitter, I asked newly minted Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert (R) a couple of questions.

I felt it was fair in light of the Tweet she had put out that as a Christian, she could be brought to her knees and wouldn’t let anyone interfere with her right to be “strapped” when and wherever she feels like it. (At least, that was the way I read her meaning.)

My questions were: What weapons did Jesus carry as he went about his Father’s mission as outlined in the Gospels? What weapons did he send with the Apostles into the broader world to spread the Good News of his death and resurrection?

Of course, I have had no response.

But I do not need one, because I already know the answers.

Jesus carried no weapon with him as he and the twelve disciples went throughout the countryside on their three-year quest, not even when they went into the lands of the Samaritans, who were not friends to the Jews.

Yet simply by asking a lone woman if she would give him a drink from the well where she had come to draw water for her household, he not only brought a conversion moment in her life, but for many of her neighbors as well.

For you see, Jesus didn’t just move on from Samaritain territory as quickly as he could after this.

He stayed for several days and taught the many people the woman brought to him with her words of “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” (John 4:29)

As Jesus prayed until he sweat blood in Gesthemane, his betrayer, Judas, brought armed men with him to capture Jesus to turn him over for trial.

Three disciples accompanied Jesus to Gesthemane: Peter, James and John.

As Judas gave Jesus his kiss of betrayal to identify Christ to his captors, Matthew 26:51 says “And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear.”

(It is generally portrayed in movies as Peter who did this, although neither the Gospels of Matthew or Mark make this attribution.)

Did Jesus pull out his own sword to defend himself too?

Those who believe in the complete sanctity of their 2nd Amendment rights should surely think him justified, being wrongly accused and about to be taken into custody by armed men for an unfair government trial.

No, he said: “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Matthew 26:52

Jesus – who had just suffered his terrible Agony in the Garden; was failed by his three disciples who did not stay awake to watch and pray with him; was betrayed with a kiss from another and about to be captured by armed men – did not pull out a sword in self-defense.

He admonished his own followers, telling them: “Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels?” Matthew 26:53

No – the man who could summon legions of angels to defend him – went peacefully with his captors, all the Way of the Cross to his Crucifixion.

And after Jesus was Crucified, arose from the dead and encountered his disciples in hiding, did he tell them NOW was the time to take up arms, incite others to do the same and overthrow the oppression of Roman rule, as was the expectation of every faithful Jew of the Messiah?

No. According to John 20:19, as the disciples gathered in fear behind locked doors, “Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”

Not “Hurry, take up your arms, defend me in my death, which was unfair to me.” He gave them a blessing that called for peace to reign.

He then commissioned them to go out into the world and live as he had lived – peacefully and unarmed, spreading the Good News of his life, death and resurrection.

I don’t know the history of how gun rights and Christianity have come to be so intertwined within today’s Republican party that it has created a twisted vision of what it means to be a Christian.

(Well, I do, but my answer would be simplistic: the corruption of money in politics by the gun lobby and the cynicism and greed of some pastors – Protestant and Catholic – who pretend to speak in the name of Jesus.)

I hope as a Christian who focuses much of her attention in the Bible to Jesus’s own words and actions, I do know the answer as to whether or not Jesus would arm himself, incite others, and somehow assist or participate in an insurrection based on an evil lie that the 2020 election was “fraudulent.”

A lie put out by a President who swore to uphold Constitutional order and despite state Republicans and Democrats alike certifying the electoral results of their individual states, and that some states are said to “swing” for a lot of identifiable reasons besides the broad cry of “fraud.”

The simple answer is: he wouldn’t.

Photo from @TheAtlantic and Public Domain

Secrets of the Three Martini Lunch

Back in my days in journalism and corporate public relations, I was both a recipient and a giver in the Three Martini Lunch world.

When I was a journalist, I was treated grandly to lunches and dinners paid for with corporate dollars that were neatly recorded on expense sheets. These were turned in to be reviewed by managers before being sent to accounting, where their numbers were added up to pass on to the tax department to be deducted on the company’s tax filings every March.

I was a cheap date then. I rarely drank, so my “Martinis” were Diet Cokes. At 110 pounds, I wasn’t putting away 16 Oz porterhouse steaks, either.

When I became a member of the corporate public relations world myself, I had a $500 monthly expense account of my very own.

That’s right. All by myself in the mid-1980’s, I had an extra $6,000 per year to spend in nice restaurants on lunches or dinners, or a hotel room in San Francisco when I had to go for a corporate meeting.

Now multiply that number by dozens and dozens of corporate executives with larger expense accounts of their own and see how quickly that $6,000 of mine morphs into hundreds of thousands of dollars that are written off that company’s tax return each year.

Then multiply that by the thousands of businesses – big and small – that will be deducting what will become in aggregate hundreds of millions of dollars or more.

What you will see is that Mitch McConnell got another corporate tax giveaway while you are getting a one time payment of $600 in the middle of a pandemic.

It is a pandemic that has raged across this nation for nearly a year and infected more than 20 million people, killing over 336,000 of them, per the COVID Tracking Project.

Meanwhile those new hundreds of millions in tax breaks in food, drink and hotel reimbursement will be the reason for the even bigger potholes in your roads, the overcrowding of your child’s classrooms, and the lack of an adequate health care system for those who can’t afford it on their own.

And what do these corporations get on top of these huge write-offs while the world around you daily crumbles?

Influence.

Whether it be better press when their name is questioned, or a piece of legislation that provides a way for them to write off even more of their corporate taxes, they get – influence.

They also get access to government that you and I will never have as average citizens in this country.

When the head of a Fortune 500 company calls and asks to make a lunch date with his or her Senator, it is booked. They won’t be going to Waffle House for the hash browns, either.

That House Representative that never has time to hold a town hall or a day of meeting with constituents? He or she will have plenty of time to putter on the golf course with the representatives of corporations and large regional businesses. Lasting friendships will be built.

But please don’t think that largesse is spent on just one political party. It is spread generously around, because corporations hedge their bets. They want a return on that investment that they get to use to magically reduce their share of the tax burden.

They aren’t schmucks. They know better than to place all their eggs in one basket.

And you?

You get to stand in a food bank line for the first time in your life.

Hail to the Three Martini lunch…and all of America’s pot holes that will never be properly fixed.

We Have Met The Enemy…

One person is dying every 30 seconds today.

Not from heart disease, which the CDC lists as the major cause of death in this country.

Not from cancer, the second leading cause of death, nor from accidents, the third leading cause.

One person is dying every 30 seconds today from COVID19.

As so many have said…it didn’t have to be this way.

A simple mask, social distancing and thorough hand washing – done by everyone in this country – could have tamped down this viral infection long ago.

Far fewer jobs would have been lost.

Far fewer small businesses would have permanently closed their doors.

Children would have returned to in-person learning in September

But because we have lost the ability to separate fact from fiction in our political discourse; because we have turned politics into a team sport instead of a serious vote for the kind of governance we want to have; because we no longer see the humanity of each other when we look into our grandfather’s or our grandmother’s faces – today we will probably see another record-breaking day of infection and death in this country.

(Breaking news: Per MSNBC reporting, sadly I am correct.)

Aah but for a mask…the nation for a mask

The part of me that finds him so detestable wants to completely blame Donald Trump for his failed public health leadership during this pandemic.

But I knew in 2016 he was not qualified by any standard to be POTUS.

So to expect disciplined and sustained leadership from him was a joke. To believe he would honestly task Vice-President Mike Pence with leading the Coronavirus Task Force and then keep his sticky paws off it was a fool’s errand

There was too much TV time devoted to others to keep Trump from pushing scientists and medical experts out of the limelight.

I want to blame the ineptitude of Republican Governor’s who felt they had to tow the Trump line or find themselves on the end of a mean tweet or a call for their resignation.

But they are no worse than McConnell or the Senate GOP, who have done nothing until the past week to provide a COVID relief package for those who have become unemployed or lost a business to the pandemic, to provide PPE for front line workers and other protections for them and the public put forward by a House Democratic majority and Speaker Nancy Pelosi last May.

And Senators really haven’t done anything yet, because there is no agreement, merely a negotiation taking place.

As detestable as I find all the above – Trump, McConnell, most Republican Governors and the Republican Senators – they are not ultimately to blame.

We are. At least that part of the collective “we” that refuses to be the least bit sensible and wear a mask.

This is probably part of the same “we” that thought it was cool to wear a bandanna over our noses when we were kids and played cowboy. Part of the same “we” that wraps mufflers around our noses when it is cold outside and the tip of the nose feels tingly from it. Part of the same “we” smart enough to wet a kerchief and place it over our mouth and nose to keep out a dust storm or smoke inhalation during a fire.

But for an invisible virus that can kill us cold with something as simple as a cough or a sneeze: nope, “we” say that is a bridge too far. And some part of the collective “we” have gotten so darn right crotchety about it, “we” think it’s okay to harass and threaten violence to people just trying to save our lives!

No, as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

We are literally killing ourselves for the “freedom” not to wear a mask.

Killing ourselves, those we love, and complete strangers.

Thirty seconds at a time.*

* This statistic came from an MSNBC news segment featuring Hallie Jackson on Friday, December 4, 2021.

The Good Brains God Gave You

My son accuses me of being prideful when I mention I made MENSA.

Since I got in with the lowest possible score and haven’t paid dues to the organization in years, it’s not THAT much of a brag, even if I do occasionally wear my owl-themed T-shirt in public.

Becoming educated was the be all and end all to my parents who raised me (my maternal grandfather and his second wife, aka Dad and Mom to me.)

When I was a child and got my first C in math in 6th grade, my parents, who rarely attended school events, called my teacher for a parent-teacher conference! That’s how seriously education was taken in my household.

I was the first in my family to get a college degree. I obtained it by joining the Navy for the G.I. Bill then still being offered in the final years of the Vietnam War.

I didn’t go to the school of my dreams. Instead I matriculated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where my then husband, a computer science major, had his heart set on going.

The journalism program there was a good one, but it wasn’t Columbia or Medill. I was never going to be the Pulitzer Prize winner I dreamed of being, or so I told myself when I transitioned into a better-paying corporate PR job rather than try out for an open job at the San Francisco Chronicle as someone pushed me to do.

Besides, I was a single-working parent by then, and I couldn’t imagine putting a family life together as a reporter in a metropolitan area, when it had been so daunting at a local level while covering a national news story like the licensing and commissioning of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.

It’s not that my life has been a bad one; on the whole, it has been the opposite when I review it. Things I thought were bad at the time turned out to have been in my better interest in the long run.

But I am truly baffled right now at the streak of anti-intellectualism and anti-expertise that is ripping a seam apart in the fabric of American life. Since it seems to be the back seam where the zipper is located, it could ruin this Republic based in democratic ideals.

As a country, we may never be dressed again in a garment that manages to cover the different political beliefs and lifestyles we all live.

When we stop believing together as citizens in the validity of our elections just because our “team” didn’t win, we are truly lost.

When we don’t care enough about each other to wear something as simple as a mask, we no longer live by the Golden Rule, or, if you are Christian, Christ’s command to “love one another as I have loved you.”

We have become selfish, yelling about individual freedoms that will mean nothing if many of us don’t survive a pandemic where the virus is the most deadly we have yet to encounter.

And yes, there will be more, because they are intelligent about their own survival and adapt faster than we do. They don’t argue with one another. They just replicate, faster than a copy machine gone awry spits out paper.

And there are billions of them when they do. And they like living in the warm, moist crevices of our body. They literally kill us with their love to procreate.

But will we start killing each other over our differing views about science, education, media and liberty?

We will if we don’t start having a common definition of what “truth” means. And “truth” begins with our education, of which science is a part.

Ignoring well-established scientific knowledge and public health strategies to protect as many as best possible from COVID19 is to avoid using, as my Mom would say, “the good brains God gave you.” (Yeah, I heard it a fair number of times growing up.)

But I learned from my mistakes. It seems that with 250,000 people dead from coronavirus and more than 12 million infected -and those numbers rapidly rising daily – this country has not. [Data Source: the COVID Tracking Project]

I will be spending Thanksgiving alone. It’s not that there isn’t family to share it with; there is. But I am immunosuppressed and my child is a healthcare worker who sees cancer patients at his work. For my sake, for his sake, for my daughter-in-law’s sake and for the sake of his patients, we are not spending the holiday together this year, the first time in the 17 years since they met.

Does it delight me? Hardly. But I have made my own plan for the day to set up the Christmas tree and watch movies by the glow of its lights and all the candles on the hearth and coffee table. (Publix Instacart shoppers’ note: get more AA and AAA batteries.)

Here’s a similar truth we should all be able to wrap our minds around: it doesn’t have to be like this. If we all masked up when in public, stood 6-feet apart, washed/sanitized our hands often: we could slow the spread and keep the death toll from rising as sharply as currently projected.

If we heeded CDC advice, we wouldn’t wager the lives of those we love by getting on an airplane or in a car this year to see family and risk spreading the virus even further throughout the U.S.

All we need to do is use the good brains God gave us.

And be thankful for the vaccines that will soon roll out so that we will all be together at Thanksgiving this time next year.

Continue reading “The Good Brains God Gave You”

The GOP Left Me

For several years now, I have been saying I parted political company with the Republican Party because of Donald Trump.

But watching how the GOP is handling the transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden, it is clear to me now it was the party that left me.

I would like to say it was all about Trump.

(Sarah Palin was the original canary in the coal mine, followed by election of obstructionist Tea Party candidates who don’t believe in education and governance at all.)

But he is just the latest iteration of a candidate who now represents a political party full of Representatives and Senators with J.D.s from Harvard and Yale who have suddenly become anti-intellectual.

Today’s iteration of a GOP politician and supporter was born because Trump brought the WWE audience into the party, and they want all the outraged spectacle of a cage match, even when they know the fight isn’t real. The rest of the Republican Party decided “gee, this is kind of fun to watch after all.”

For five years now, Trump has given this bread and spectacle circus to them with his fact-free rallies, “lock her up” chants and red MAGA hats that let’s his supporters know they are bound together as a group that knows who is with them or against them by sight.

It is like Hitler’s yellow stars in reverse. Rather than identifying those considered unworthy of the “fatherland,” a red hat confers “legitimate” citizenship with it. Those not wearing one should be approached with all caution…that person might be an evil, Satan worshiping Democrat.

I am not being over the top here; I have Catholic friends who believe this because they have been spiritually convicted by the far-right priests of my Church this is true. That anyone who votes a Democratic ticket has been seduced by a secular world that has committed a Holocaust on the unborn. The rest of life’s continuum and the dignity that should be conferred on all humankind often goes unmentioned.

It is incongruous but acceptable to believe abortion should be illegal but the death penalty is justified. That Jesus would favor one political party over another, even though he made it abundantly clear in the Gospels he wasn’t interested in worldly power at all.

The rest believe it because Tucker, or Laura or Hannity said so; because Pat Robertson or Alex Jones or Steve Bannon said so; because social media has developed algorithms that curate news based on clicks that assume a preference for certain subjects; because a friend of a friend of a friend they don’t even know posted something on Facebook and it was reposted by two other people.

In today’s Republican Party, truth doesn’t matter.

Apparently, the will of the majority of voters is insignificant too.

Rather than moderate its policies or enact legislation that is wanted by most U.S. citizens who have been certified by local Election Boards as qualified legal voters, the GOP has turned to packed, right-leaning courts to absolve it of the duty to actually think about what it means to govern freely and fairly in a nation as diverse as is the United States.

That’s just too much work for them any longer. It’s easier to be lazy, spout lies and demonize others than it is to legislate and govern.

It is the anti-intellectual response that defaults to emotional reactions as the only valid source of being, and divides a nation against itself.

Which is ironic, given it was a Republican President who warned of this very thing and sacrificed all – including his very life – to keep it from happening.

A President who believed it was immoral to look down upon and enslave another part of humanity based solely on the color of their skin.

A President who thought it immoral to base the economic well-being of others on such a travesty as slavery.

No, the GOP is no longer the Party of Lincoln. It isn’t even the party of Reagan.

It is still the party of Roger Ailes, Roger Stone and Newt Gingrich: a party of populist rhetoric and a hatred of those who they can’t hoodwink; a hatred of all those who bother to think for themselves at all and expect a functional government filled with other people who do the same.

People who learned things in their biology, history and literature classes that they have carried forward with them through their lives.

People who know there is a universe of verifiable truths because they see it in a greater universe created by some sort of ordered intelligence they may not name as God, but they work to understand.

The GOP was turned from the ideals of Lincoln and Reagan long ago.

It has now become a total capitulation and surrender to the Donald Trumps of this world: egotistical, narcissistic man-babies (and women) who cry foul if they can’t be the winner every time, whether they have demonstrated the character and competence that justifies their winning or not.

Even by those educated to know better.

Can’t We All Just Get Along

If Donald Trump ever had a true plan for governing this nation, it was simply to ensure he erased everything Barack Obama accomplished in his eight-year Presidency.

Now Trump will get a lesson in how it feels to watch everything you’ve done be abolished as Joe Biden announces his plans for tackling COVID, re-entering the World Health Organization, the Paris Climate Accord, overturning the Muslim ban and protecting DREAMERS.

Of course, Trump was motivated by a desire to erase from history the achievements of our country’s first Black President. He is a racist. If anything animated him besides fame, it is his hatred for anyone who isn’t white.

He is not dissimilar to friends I have who continue to vote GOP. They know individual Black people they like and accept because they confer on those people some of their own whiteness.

But Black or Brown people as a whole? Those are people to be demonized, labeled and held down.

And a Black person who has earned legitimate political authority and power, or fame and money in the corporate or entertainment world? They are to be especially loathed.

Someone I know from Church who was angry at Trump’s handling of COVID voted for him anyway. Why? Because Fox told her Biden was feeble and would end up being replaced by Kamala Harris, who is a “socialist.”

This is the same woman who bragged to me how much all the Black women in her Pilates class just adored her as a way of proving to me she didn’t have a racist bone in her body.

I ran this story by a Black woman lawyer I know. She just shook her head, rolled her eyes and said “Really?” This is something I imagine those Black women in that Pilates class would do.

I am not claiming to have tons of Black women friends. I do have a few with whom I lunch and have deep conversations about their lives and what life is like for them because of the color of their skin.

More importantly, I have a bi-racial great nephew. It is his future that concerns me, because as he grows older, instead of admiring how cute he is with his creamy complexion and expressive brown eyes, other white people will look at him instead with fear and suspicion.

They will not know his heart as I do, will not know his history of growing up and that those occasional flashes of anger he shows are for a white mother who chose her addiction over him and a black father he has never known.

They won’t care that he has grown up in small Texas towns, raised in a white environment but being constantly challenged by his white classmates who have been taught early to hate Black and Brown colored skin, taught to jeer at the sensitivity about himself his life circumstances have inculcated in him.

Most importantly, when he is grown and driving down the road and is pulled over for some infraction real or imagined, that Sheriff’s deputy really won’t care and will misinterpret him if he seems sullen or frustrated in that moment.

It is because we sort people by the color of their skin rather than accept them for their shared humanity that we are in the fix we are in.

It is because we brought Black people here in the cargo holds of ships in 1619 in chained enslavement that we are in the fix we are in. It is because we fought Brown skinned people for the right to live on this land we whites came to conquer with our sense of superior entitlement that we are in the fix we are in.

We have never dealt with the original sins of this nation, with the evil that they were. Now we have to reckon with what led us to hand the Presidency to someone as revolting as Donald Trump. A fascist and a bigot of the highest order.

Many people are thrilled in this moment because Joe Biden is our President-elect and Kamala Harris our Vice-President elect.

But no matter how much Biden calls on us to unify (and he should, loudly and often), it still falls on each of us to heed that call. To look past skin color, to deal with deep wounds and deeper inequities, to close our ears to partisan rhetoric designed to keep us divided as a nation.

It is up to each of us to decide we are all going to get along.

But it is past time for leaders from both political parties to model that cooperation for us.

Lincoln told us, paraphrasing the Bible, that a nation divided against itself cannot stand.

Trump came as close to anyone in our recent history at proving him right.

It is time now: time to stand or time to fall.

Place My Tears in Your Jar, Again

Where do old friendships

Go to die?

Who struck that first mortal wound?

Did it happen with one glancing blow,

Or was it the small things that flow

From decades of learning

Where to make that single pin prick;

And relentlessly doing it again and again

Until one sees it is time to pick

Up

And leave off

And never return.

Oh there was laughter enough.

Why else would one stay

And endure knowing

You were really cat’s play?

That the secrets shared

Were held in scorn.

That true tenderness

Would never be stored.

That the idea of sisterhood

Was all in your head.

That this nauseous feeling

Has replaced kinship instead.

That your own defects

Helped the bridge of friendship collapse.

So you search your own soul

For its flaws and it’s cracks.

And you find they are

Themselves large, they run deep.

And you question whether

You ever could keep

Love, from the taint

Of the world’s bitter heap.

So you cry out to the Lord,

And you seek and you seek

That merciful place of His heart

Crowned in thorns.

And you see just how much

He himself has in love borne.

So the clutch in your throat

Begins to relax,

And the beat of your heart

Starts to slow, and the cracks

Of your brokenness, slowly do mend

By His Spirit and grace.

And you look in the mirror

And finally you face

That you are not perfect.

But you see in your eye

A reflection of Him,

And the hope that won’t die.

Photo by Mareefe on Pexels.com

Can I Be A Good Catholic and Vote for Joe Biden?

I hope so, because I already did.

I did so knowing there are priests – especially here in the U.S. – who will say I have violated the doctrine of my faith as laid out in the Catechism of the Church with regard to the right to life of the unborn.

Yet never have I publicly or privately advocated for abortion. In fact, you can go through this blog and find several essays where I have distinctly said I believe life begins at conception, even before I became a Catholic.

It would have never been an option for me, because the idea of being pregnant to me means my child lives within me. Also because, as the by-product of an unwanted teen pregnancy, I know what abandonment feels like. I wish on no child the questioning of why your birth parents could not love you enough to put your needs before their own.

But if the Church wants me to respect the sanctity of human life, then I must do so in its totality – from conception through natural death.

In fact, it is the very growth of my Catholic spirituality that has led me to turn away from Republicans in the last election cycle and this one and vote a Democratic ticket.

Let’s start with the greatest threat to human life: climate change. If we don’t do something to rapidly reduce the human footprint of carbon in our atmosphere, our planet will die and we along with it. That is called suicide. Suicide, according to the Church, is a mortal – and unforgivable- sin.

Then there is COVID-19. I blame neither Donald Trump nor China for a naturally occurring phenomenon. But I do blame Trump for not following through on mitigation efforts like mask wearing, social distancing, hand-washing, universal testing, tracing and isolation/quarantine practices for controlling the spread of coronavirus.

With a herd immunity approach to this virus unless a safe vaccine is developed, it means a minimum of 60% of the country’s 331 million residents would have to become infected. That means 198.6 million of us would need to become infected. At a 3% death rate, that means nearly 6 million of us would die.

When the Nazis deliberately killed 6 million Jews, we called it a Holocaust and said it was evil.

So what am I supposed to call a government’s decision to not do everything in its power to reduce death to its populace in a time of pandemic? A decision that requires overburdened hospitals to practice triage and to choose younger patients over the elderly in deciding who gets admitted to hospital for life-saving treatment or not?

I certainly can’t call it respect for life, because it isn’t. And right now that government is led by a GOP President and a GOP Senate that can rush through a last minute Supreme Court nomination, but for months have refused to provide further relief to millions of unemployed in danger of losing their homes, their food security, their right to the dignity of work as more and more companies announce layoffs.

Nor can I continue to support a political party that supports taking immigrant babies from the arms of their parents, forever separating them because they were too lazy and disrespectful of the human condition to use a computer program to pair babies with their parents. There could have been an app for that. God knows we have a plethora of apps to track every ounce of our water intake, our food ingested, our calories burned.

But we couldn’t make one to be able to reunite children with parents because of their immigration status? Isn’t this government sanctioned human trafficking in babies and small children?

Does my Church – so fallible about its own accountability of the sexual abuse of children by priests and – yes – nuns – not consider what the Trump Administration has done with its immigration policies an equal moral failure?

So my Church insists I must make a Sophie’s choice – vote in the interests of the unborn or the already living.

This election I chose the latter. My choice to do so is between me and my God….and no one else. Not even the Pope himself.