Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Our Political State ~ Not Business as Usual

LIA sticker from Left in Alabama
When I began this blog, Not Dark Yet, I first described it as an odd mix of poetry, political commentary, and spirituality. I later emended that to poetry, social commentary, and spirituality, because I realized that it is social commentary rather than political agenda that drives my concern in this blog space. I then decided that I would create a separate satirical blog, The Vidalia Onion Fake News Rooted in the South which I would reserve for the occasional political commentary for a satirical take on what is going on in the world of politics. (I should note that I used that term Fake News in 2013, before Mr. Trump began using it for the mainstream media). I had some fun with that site when I needed to express my exasperation over what those politicians were doing.

This year, however, that satirical blog has been silent since January. Real life politics has seemed so much like satire that it seemed almost a sacrilege to try to make it funny. Instead, I began a project on this blogsite that I refer to as Journalistic Poetry. I stated at the time that The best thing that poets can do is to bear witness to the times – articulate what is happening in the moment; speak to the real life experiences of your people ... My thinking was that if I could write one poem a week there would be some chronicle of our sacred/tested/doubtful union.

 High Stakes and Low Ebbs

Today I am stepping more into the realm of political commentary because of the increasingly high stakes at the local and national level. On the national stage we are seeing a dangerous dismantling of of our grand experiment in democracy as corporations strengthen their oligarchy while using the nation's culture wars to further ensconce themselves into the political fabric. 

Commentator David Brooks has been an astute observer of our national divisions. He recently pointed out that The acceptability of Trump must also have something to do with millions of religious voters being willing to abandon the practical wisdom of their faiths — that what exists inside a person is more important than what is external, that no bad tree yields good fruit, that you should never trade spiritual humility for worldly ferocity because in humility there is strength and in pride there is self-destruction.(1)

That abandonment of basic tenets of faith while publicly proclaiming religious beliefs has been on national display in my home state of Alabama. In a special election to fill the senate seat vacated when Jeff Sessions became Attorney General in the Trump administration, we have a choice like we have seldom seen. We have Doug Jones, a true statesman running as a Democrat. The Republican nominee is Roy Moore, a twice-removed state supreme court judge whose claim to fame is promoting his own brand of religion while presiding in court. 

Roy Moore (NBC News photo)
For years our state has had to deal with the embarrassment of Roy Moore. He was removed from office TWICE for defying lawful court orders. I don't see how that did not disqualify him from running in the Republican primary. The big problem is that so many in our state hear someone shouting the name of Jesus and wearing God on their sleeve and say Let's get God back into the government. He's our man!” They turn a blind eye to the unethical behavior and lawless acts because, he is one of us, he believes in God.” By our actions, we have abandoned the faith we attempt to preserve.

Religion professor Randall Balmer correctly states:

Moore claims to represent “family values” and, more broadly, evangelical Christian values. Aside from the disquieting specter of a 30-something Moore trolling shopping malls for teenage dates, Moore does not represent the evangelical movement he claims to herald. Historically, evangelicalism once stood for people on the margins, those Jesus called “the least of these.” Evangelicals in the 19th century advocated public education, so that children from less-affluent families could toe the first rungs of the ladder toward socioeconomic stability. They worked for prison reform and the abolition of slavery. They advocated equal rights, including voting rights, for women and the rights of workers to organize. The agenda of 19th- and early-20th-century evangelicals is a far cry from that of Moore and the religious right.(2)

Doug Jones (Birmingham News photo by Joe Songer)
Doug Jones, on the other hand is a statesman who would serve honorably in the senate and would represent our state well. He is the attorney who successfully prosecuted the bomber Sixteenth Street Baptist Church more than 40 years after the tragic bombing. He represents an opportunity for our state to rise above mindless rhetoric and to rationally address the real problems facing our state. Not since Gov. Albert Brewer has our state had a man of such stature and integrity to run for public office. (Albert Brewer completed Lurleen Wallace's term as governor when she died in office, and much to our state's detriment was defeated in his bid for a full term in office by George Wallace's racial scare tactics and demagoguery).

Time to Repent and Vote 

We Alabamians have tarnished the word Christian” and have corrupted the concept of democratic government. I am sad that our corruption and ignorance have not only gained the national spotlight, but that same corruption is tarnishing the country at large. It is time for us evangelicals to repent and make restitution for our sins.

December 12 is election day in Alabama. Our choice has never been clearer. How we will choose is unfortunately still up for grabs. We could take the high road of justice and compassion, or we could choose hate, bigotry, and racism at the hands or a morally corrupt judge masquerading as a religion and family values man.

The sad part is, I cannot tell you today how my state will choose.

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1. "The Essential John McCain," by David Brooks, October 19, 2017, The New York Times, retrieved at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/opinion/the-essential-john-mccain.html

2. "Religion Professor Says Roy Moore Is a Fraud," by Randall Balmer, The New American Journal, retrieved at https://www.newamericanjournal.net/2017/11/religion-professor-says-roy-moore-is-a-fraud/. (Originally published in The Washington Post, November 17, 2017, under the title, "I know Roy Moore. He’s always been a con artist."



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Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday Music: My Back Pages (Bob Dylan)

Here is one of Bob Dylan's more poignant renditions of "My Back Pages," with some great harmonica accompaniment.





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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Saturday Haiku: Distant Songs

sometimes a ruin
calls to that place of turning
to hear distant songs









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Photo: Ruins of Whitby Abby
Source: Earth Spotter

The 12th century abbey was built on the site of the 7th century monastery where Hilda was abbess when she encouraged Caedmon, the first English poet. The feast day for St. Hilda of Whitby is November 18.



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