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My favorite line in Allen Ginsberg’s 1986 poem for Bernie Sanders

Shanah Tovah. This is not a religious piece, but I do want to acknowledge that the direct subject of this piece, the leftist poet who made it possible, had a rich experience with his Jewish heritage, which he turned into many great works of art. I do love the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, and I love the kind, brave man that he was.

For present purposes, I am focusing on the fact that in 1986 he wrote a swell poem for Bernie Sanders, which I will go into in a minute. But first, I want to talk a little bit about the transitory, which I will try to relate back to Ginsberg’s poem for Sanders.

A couple of years after Ginsberg wrote his poem for Sanders, around the same time I was becoming a democratic socialist in my heart, I was on a long road trip back from a quiet religious retreat in Kentucky with a close friend. As people comfortable with each other can do in the middle of night, we talked about everything that came to our minds, with free-flowing thoughts energized by the stars, the highway, and our appreciation for each other’s companionship at that moment in the journey of life.

After a while we became silent, and in the light of the dashboard, on a scrap of paper, I wrote a Howl-inspired poem. I have it somewhere. Its contents aren’t what matter for present purposes (although I remember it had quite a few “Molochs” and said something personally meaningful and bittersweet about this being “no monastery I live in” in my real life. Still a pro-choice Christian contemplative and democratic socialist decades later, I continue to wrestle with how to be contemplative, politically-active, and a real world wage-earner.) Then I told my friend that I’d written this poem, would he like to hear it? He said yes, and for the next few minutes I, for a unique time in my life, soulfully read cool stuff I’d just written that blew my buddy away.

It blew him away so much so that a couple of weeks later he asked me to do a repeat performance. We were hanging out drinking beer on a Friday night with this handsome and cool Buddhist guy who looked and acted like he was straight out of The Dharma Bums. My friend knew him because my friend had always wanted a Volvo and this guy restored old Volvos at a concrete storage unit on the edge of town. (I don’t think my friend [the capitalist pig!] ever got a Volvo, but I can’t really remember at this point and forgive him if he did–at least it would have been recycled I guess.)

Flattered that my friend had such appreciation for my poem to want me to read it for this real life Kerouac character, I whipped it out (the poem). My friend must have suggested in advance that I bring the poem along, as I don’t think I’d been carrying it around with me generally waiting for the chance to recreate the moment in a command performance. Well anyhow, I flopped. The Buddhist guy was polite but obviously unimpressed, and truth be told, my heart was not in it. It, the height of my creativity, was a poem that was meant to blow someone away only one time, in the middle of the night somewhere on a highway in the Deep South, not a timeless masterpiece like Howl.

Perhaps Ginsberg’s hastily-written poem for Sanders is somewhere on a vast continuum between my late night amateur Beat composition (or yours) and the masterpiece Howl. In any event, it does say something special about the transitory that I want to riff on. Continue reading

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After Trump’s goldrush and Carson’s godrush, the crap loading has begun

This piece was first published by Brother Francisco as Galtisalie for the Anti-Capitalist Meetup group at Daily Kos, which is a good place to look for and give comments that folks are generally too shy to post at gardenvarietydemocraticsocialist.com. NY brit expat, referenced in the update at the end of the piece, is one of Brother Francisco’s dear comrades in that group.

I am not promoting drugs, hate them myself, but I have to admit that buzzed hippies from time to time have said the darndest things, although that is not the reason I do not support prohibition (another subject). For instance, out of our chemically-bathed subconscious can flow troubling daydreams about being extremely large and unable to fit into a phone booth, or French fries turning into worms in your friendly McDonalds, or so said a friend of mine I interviewed about an LSD experience back in college while we chatted during work study.

Interesting too how freakish truth emerged when one of the greatest song writers and musicians ever was freaked out, tuned in, or simply baking. When Dolly Parton was making the Trio II version of After the Gold Rush with Emmylou Harris and Linda Rondstadt she:

asked Linda and Emmy what it meant, and they didn’t know. So we called Neil Young, and he didn’t know. We asked him, flat out, what it meant, and he said, “Hell, I don’t know. I just wrote it. It just depends on what I was taking at the time. I guess every verse has something different I’d taken.”

Conversely, in the un-fried seemingly conscious brain, many freedom-spouting politicians have been hard-wired by oligarchs to pursue their own dreams of power. To get and stay elected they do the darndest things, including promote hatred, deny medical care to women and poor people, and depending on the region (of the planet not the brain) steam or fry their constituents. Snipping these wires would involve political brain surgery, and, in the U.S., the brain surgeons tend to be Republicans.

When Republican governors and state legislatures refuse to expand Medicaid for false flag budgetary political reasons urged upon them by their billionaire bosses they are undeniably serving as death panels. Inquiring un-fried minds want to know where and what kind of system change is more needed.

As regards colonoscopy and other procedures that save lives, “Through its Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, Cuba, despite its economic limitations, has established a screening strategy that enables use of advanced technology based on current scientific evidence and with a favorable cost-benefit ratio, the latter due to broad use of domestically manufactured products.” MEDICC Review, July–October 2014, Vol 16, No 3–4.

While Cuba, for instance, needs to increase civil and political rights, its medical system, which emphasizes preventative care, is excellent and accessible to all. In the U.S., the result of lack of medical access is the unnecessary misery and death of women and poor people. Outside the gates of Apartheid communities, or on the escape flights of the theoretical future, some kids will definitely not be alright, but that is the price of capitalist “progress,” aka inequality, injustice, and unsustainability by design.

Well, I dreamed I saw the silver spaceships flying
In the yellow haze of the sun
There were children crying and colors flying
All around the chosen ones
All in a dream, all in a dream
The loading had begun
Flyin’ mother nature’s silver seed
To a new home in the sun
Flyin’ mother nature’s silver seed
To a new home in the sun

Continue reading

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A hundred years late, my Bernie 2016 sticker arrives in the Deep South

It was with great interest that I opened an item in my mail today. Mail is not something socialists in the U.S. ever should take for granted.

When the mail is being used against them, it is good. Eugene V. Debs led the Pullman strike. That was deemed bad, so the strikers were enjoined to go back to work, where they would face being fired. Debs refused to end the strike and was held in contempt.

The anti-worker Supreme Court said the injunction was valid because the government had a right to regulate interstate commerce and ensure the operations of the Postal Service, along with a responsibility to “ensure the general welfare of the public.” (Amazing how broadly those words can be interpreted by “Justices” when they are being used against the rights of the workers and the weak.)

When the mail is being used by them, it is bad. Under the Espionage Act of 1917, socialist newspapers were banned from second class mailing privileges because of their opposition to American involvement in World War I. Debs, who by then had unsuccessfully run for president four times outside the two-party system, continued to speak out for the right thing. He went back behind bars, this time because he had the audacity to give a speech urging resistance to the military draft during the war.

Upon conviction, he told the Judge:

Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

I listened to all that was said in this court in support and justification of this prosecution, but my mind remains unchanged. I look upon the Espionage Law as a despotic enactment in flagrant conflict with democratic principles and with the spirit of free institutions…

Your Honor, I have stated in this court that I am opposed to the social system in which we live; that I believe in a fundamental change—but if possible by peaceable and orderly means…

He was sentenced to ten years in prison and disenfranchised for life. Once again, the Supreme Court took a principled stand for injustice.

I have never had to rip open an envelope like that. I never even got started, while Debs never quit. He ran for president in 1920 from his federal prison cell in Atlanta. From that same cell he also wrote his only book, Walls and Bars: Prisons and Prison Life In The “Land Of The Free” (Chicago: Socialist Party, 1927), published posthumously and exposing the dehumanization of the prison system. Continue reading

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I awake to the violent global Übermensch system and its intellectual facade

I don’t know about you, but if I never have to read another piece that mentions the Koch brothers in the first sentence that would be fine with me. Oops. It seems so unnatural to do so, especially during a hot summer of so much fun, except for the police killings, right wing terrorism, ongoing Greek tragedy, and countless other bummers that are absolutely ruining my beach blanket bingo.

But I generally assume their will to power must be confronted by mine at every opportunity. And because their will to power (collectively including that of their amazing retinue of bought and paid for attendants) is way bigger than mine, it’s going to be pretty miserable if I spend much of my time dreaming of how to bring down their kingdom, but I do it anyway.

They alone (and they are not alone) also have a huge head start in cultural hegemony, with a massive perpetual intellectual propaganda campaign involving not only think tanks, billions of dollars, binders of semi-famous dead and living capitalist economists and other scholars, and a famous dead mercenary woman with a cool first name who wrote two incredibly awful but famously anti-altruistic novels in the 1940s and 50s followed by decades of mostly inhumane essay writing, but also by a famous and imposing dead German philosopher whose name until recently I could neither spell nor pronounce.

I suppose I should on some level study up. Instead, what a major part of me really feels compelled to do down deep on hot summer days with the planet melting is to ignore my anti-capitalist comrades, to practice the fine art of chilling out, which apparently involves working on thinking more happy and grateful thoughts, appreciating family, friends, and neighbors more, and whimsically watching life drift by with the thermostat turned way down. And I think on some level those ultra-rich superior brothers know that, which disturbs my reverie-potential even more. So, in truth, for me, it is much easier to want to fight them compulsively with all my meager energy and will to power, every single waking minute until, like the Black Knight in Monty Python, I can fight no longer, the assholes.

But I awake need more than my compulsions, even my compulsion for fighting the power. I awake need to be both among the familiar and a small hopeful part of nurturing a better world. I awake do not wish to be a human commodity waiting on economic growth to trickle my way or anyone else’s, but neither do I wish to be the silly Black Knight. Continue reading

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Pope Francis’s critical focus on sustainable agriculture

When it first came out, I did a lengthy “socialized reflection” on the praxis implications of Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium. I felt that this apostolic exhortation to the faithful presented a unique opportunity to the left to begin working with Francis, despite his failure to deal with birth control and choice. However, in addition to maintaining solidarity with humanity and particularly women on the need for birth control and choice, the left needed to understand Francis’s social doctrine within the context of Jesuit history and scholarship to avoid a purposeful minimization of its implications by the right. So, I did my best (a) to summarize some aspects of pertinent Jesuit history and (b) to discuss how Francis was in many ways repeating deeply held views that the Jesuits have been fleshing out since Vatican II, the advent of liberation theology, and the vicious right wing response to liberation theology.

Now Pope Francis has written a message of love and challenge to the entire world, Laudato si’. How should the left respond? That is a complicated praxis issue that I will not attempt to address in detail in this piece. Rather, I merely want to make one general point and to give a specific example of how his work and the left’s, cautiously together, hopeful, and prudent, is just beginning.

The general point I will make is that Francis is, with the huge exception of population, being “holistic” in his approach to environmental problems. Environmental problems tend to be looked at in developed countries as single issue right versus left “green” scientific and political phenomena only, without looking at the underlying economic, social, and cultural factors, including the dependency of capitalism on cheap fuel to generate profits and so-called “growth.” I have pointed out, somewhat humorously, in the context of Cuban agriculture and Cuban-U.S. relations that holism is a critical approach that the left has to offer the world. It is wonderful to see the Pope effectively endorsing this approach, as he also began to do in Evangelii Gaudium.

We know the right is not interested in holism. But how holistic is Francis’s holism? How holistic is the left’s holism? While continuing to criticize Francis on birth control and choice, there is a need for the left to come to a better understanding of the strengths and, yes, even some weaknesses of Francis’s much more scientifically-based document. Obviously there is the population issue to which Francis has blinders. But critique should not stop there. Please allow me to give a specific example with which I have some familiarity. Continue reading

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the revolution is within me without me, a time to blog, a time to …

This quiet little post involves a theme I have previously mentioned.

the primary season is upon us, a small part of the never-ending season of trying to end divide and rule and to establish liberty and justice for all

last night i put the headphones on (actually earbuds in, but i’m a child of the 70s, so I reflexively write headphones) and became immersed in the sounds of the language i love, the second language i have been trying to learn for years, looking also at youtubes of south american brothers and sisters who are trying to resist oppression and being met with bullets and bombs paid for by my corrupt hegemonic neoliberal government

i don’t know where any of this will wind up, but I know that the places i must go are not all online or outward

the first piece i ever did for anti-capitalist meetup was about a socialist philosophy that came out of india which emphasizes the need for inner nurturing as part of taking practical steps to heal the planet

the first group i ever joined at daily kos was religious

another group i have joined emphasizes meditation

another group i have joined was formed by a dear pagan comrade of mine who manages to be both loving and strong for the people

some of the hands and heads i kissed and bodies i hugged yesterday belonged to the now very old and weak republicans who brought me into this world

a couple of years ago, when i put my political journey story together, thoughts about inner peace were scattered throughout Continue reading

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Hillary Clinton’s Western Sahara Policy Would Be a General Election Issue,

and I will raise it whenever I want to, however I want to. I do not work for or represent Bernie Sanders. I am a free-thinking Democrat and democratic socialist (substantially to the left of Senator Sanders, who is a conventional social democrat) who takes orders from no one. Critique is something people on the left have been doing since the time of Karl Marx. You are free to disagree with my critique, but I will not be intimidated from presenting it. Continue reading

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Part 3 on the Need for Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism

Introduction

In Part 3, using the example of the repression of “far off” Western Sahara’s right to self-determination, I am going to discuss the most simple and yet most important reason why anti-capitalist democratic internationalism is needed: No Justice, No Peace. The long history of U.S. involvement, including the advocacy of Hillary Clinton while Secretary of State and continuing payments from a plundering Moroccan state enterprise to the Clinton Foundation, is a silent partner in a continuing humanitarian tragedy. This tragedy, virtually unknown to U.S. citizens, not only is ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings but also undermining international peace. Added features are the diminution of the reputation of the U.S. before the rest of the world, the promotion of the profligate use of irreplaceable natural resources, and the associated reduction of incentives for recycling regional phosphate supplies, which would in the long run enhance food security. And, I almost forgot, big bucks for transnational companies.

In case you missed the first two parts of this series:

In Part 1 of this series for the Anti-Capitalist Meetup group at Daily Kos, I opined that the starting point for justice is for human beings everywhere to know their rights as human beings:

Laws are to be in the service of justice, with justice being in the service of love. When we begin to think deeply about our own rights–not those written up in constitutions given to us by the powerful but those that should be written in our hearts because they can be logically derived by our minds and certainly encompassing the meeting of our basic human needs–we begin to recognize how irrational it is to think that these rights should or even can stop at national boundaries.

In Part 2, I summarized “The Political-Economic Basis For Anti-Capitalist Democratic Internationalism,” citing Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Marx. Since I wrote Part 2, the prospect has manifested of President Obama holding hands with Republicans in pushing through fast-track authority for new “trade” deals. The targets of these actions, the workers and otherwise vulnerable of the world, have not given informed consent. They cannot even see the drafts much less be a part of the negotiations. Thus, a complex dialectic is taking place in which the U.S. government, with a pretense of helping U.S. workers, relying on President Obama’s domestic reputation for caring about the disenfranchised, fully supports internationalism–but of the neoliberal anti-democratic variety, on behalf of transnational capital and the upper mercenary class.

Whether the president in the White House were the nominee of the thoroughly corrupted Republican Party or the slightly less corrupted Democratic Party, humanity needs a global anti-capitalist and deeply democratic mass movement:

I suggest that there are two principal political-economic reasons why truly compassionate USians must support anti-capitalist democratic internationalism. One is a “prophylactic” reason and the other is a “stimulative” reason. Both are interrelated, and the distinctions I draw are not absolute but illustrative.

The first/prophylactic reason is that, as the desperation of Central American children reflects: the U.S. is not isolated unto itself, as the border zeitgeist would indicate, but is instead the senior partner of global capitalist imperialism, creating destruction and exploitation of people and the environment all around the world.

The second/stimulative reason is that the workers of the U.S. themselves need socialism and are unlikely to get what they need from domestic, plutocrat-controlled political “democracy” alone, which will require outside stimulus. And, circling back to the first reason, if the U.S. does not itself become socialistic, it is unlikely that the cancer of capitalism will cease expanding and re-expanding around the planet until no more profits are to be made and the planet has been thoroughly cooked. Hence, outside stimulation of the U.S. to become socialistic is necessary both for the good of the U.S. and for the good of the rest of the planet, if one cares about it.

For Part 3, because it’s summer, and a Holiday weekend in the U.S. no less, I will mostly ask you to watch some short highly accessible videos about Western Sahara. Then, I will briefly quote from a technical paper I did a couple of years ago giving, among other things, my take on the importance of Western Sahara to global food security. After that, I will, using nonpartisan sources, point out the ugly money ties of the Kingdom of Morocco to the Clinton Foundation. Those ties are merely the tip of a discouraging bipartisan “iceberg in the desert” to make permanent the Kingdom of Morocco’s plundering of Western Sahara.

I want the Clintons to change their ways and do the right thing, which is within their power. Therefore, I am calling them out for their apparently legal but nonetheless reprehensible conduct. If you would like to blame me for “politicizing” this topic, perhaps you should blame (1) reality; and (2) the example of Pope Francis in speaking truth to the world’s comfortable.

We the people, the too often passive objects of neoliberalism, must become the active deeply democratic subjects forcing there to be real “liberty and justice for all.” Whether the issue is oil, gas, phosphate ore, or some other production input, to use the wonderfully insightful words of Michael Harrington (pp. 60-61, Ch. 3, The Twilight of Capitalism, Simon and Schuster, 1976), “the pervasive light, the special atmosphere” should be understood. This necessitates a holistic rather than deterministic critique: Continue reading

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Nationalist flags contradict Christianity and “liberty and justice for ALL”

Like our nation, Francis Bellamy, the Christian socialist who wrote the first version of the pledge of allegiance to help sell American flags, was a mixed bag of unresolved conflicts. His patriotic fervor combined with his interpretation of Jesus to be a socialist led to an egalitarian view that resources should be nationalized for the common good but did not remove from his mind ugly notions that some of the world’s “races” were not deserving to be part of the U.S. He got one rhetorical thing unequivocally right: the organizing principle of this country should be “liberty and justice for all.” But he never got around to accepting that the “all” actually should be “all.”

By placing his aspired socialism in a nationalistic framework, he undercut not only Jesus’s message of inclusive neighborliness but also the necessary outward-looking internationalism that later democratic socialists such as Rosa Luxemburg came to view as foundational. This internationalism would be focused on building a decent people-centered global society, not on clearing the way for profit-centered neoliberal corporate hegemony à la TPP, TTIP, TISA, and the like.

He also contributed to our slowness to grasp that our world does not as a matter of science and morality revolve around boundaries. As free-thinking individuals, it may gradually become self-evident that inalienable rights means everyone, everywhere. Perhaps those of us who are bi-ethnic tend to discover this tension in the pledge quicker because we are walking melting pots. Continue reading

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Another Bernie, a loving, quietly radical priest, has died

This memorial piece was first posted to the Anglican Kossacks group blog at Daily Kos. Father Bernie is also one of the religious influences to whom I dedicated my lengthy socialized reflection piece on Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium.

I can’t do this “justice,” but I wanted to at least acknowledge to Anglican Kossacks and others who may be interested the loss of someone not particularly well-known but nonetheless very special to the faith and justice movement of the southeast. Not everyone earns a doctorate in theology from Accademia Alphonsiana in Rome at the height of liberation theology and does a dissertation on “Civil Disobedience as a Christian Option.” Not everyone then brings this audacious scholarship, blends it with a warm Irish soul, and influences a generation of minds to consider that concern for the poor and disenfranchised is far more important in God’s eyes than material success. Thus did my dear Father Bernie.

I will be driving from Nowheresville across the Deep South on Saturday to Jacksonville, Florida, where my spiritual father will be memorialized on Sunday. It was with great sadness that I received an email from a friend on Thursday with this gut-wrenching information:

Death Announcement

The Rev. Robert Wallace Bernard (Bernie) Dooly died on Sunday, May 31, 2015. Fr. Bernie faithfully served as Canon of St. John’s Cathedral from 1994-2001, beloved Chaplain of the Episcopal University Center, Ruge Hall, in Tallahassee from 1979 – 1994, and also served at Trinity Episcopal Parish in St. Augustine from 1977-1979.

A Celebration of his Life will be held at St. John’s Cathedral, 256 East Church Street, Jacksonville, this Sunday, June 7th, during the 10:30 a.m. service. There will be a potluck lunch held in Taliaferro Hall following the service. All are welcome to attend.

Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord; And let light perpetual shine upon him.
May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

I know for a fact that at least one democratic socialist who also happens to be an Episcopalian will be in attendance. The person whom we will be honoring is why I am both, although he made no effort to recruit me into any recognized political movement.

Father Bernie was the kindest most vivacious soul I have ever met. However, his kindness and vivaciousness did not leave him meek before injustice. He was quite clear that he did not like what the Republicans were doing to the U.S. and our world in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. That was when I was part of his flock, or more accurately, his organic community of fun, deep conversation, contemplative prayer, Taizé music, folk guitar, and shared simple meals.

To me, in hindsight, he was like an Irish American Martin Luther King, Jr., liberating me from a lifetime of self-recrimination and isolation. He preached with no more than a few notes written on a bulletin wonderful, honest, and passionate sermons from the heart and the mind. He said that the first obligation of a human being toward God is to bring God our authenticity. Imagine that, being honest with, as opposed to fearful of, God. Continue reading