Cuba: A Frank Response to the President of Berea College

A few days ago, I received a disturbing email blast from Lyle Roelofs, the president of Berea College (where I taught for 40 years). It was about recent “Events in Cuba.” The notice was upsetting because it reflected the one-sided narrative of the U.S. government and its subservient mass media.

This is not to vilify Berea’s president who is sincere and well-intentioned. It is however to demonstrate the effectiveness of U.S. anti-Cuban propaganda that would have even academicians think that “our” government has a leg to stand on in its denunciation of anti-democratic measures anywhere, of intolerance of any dissent, or of police attacks on peaceful protestors.

See for yourself. In his characteristic spirit of compassion, the president had written:

Dear Bereans

Many of you are aware of the ongoing unrest in Cuba as the country struggles with severe blackouts, a food shortage, high prices, lack of access to COVID-19 vaccinations as outbreaks increase, and an unstable economy.  Residents of the island nation have taken to the streets to protest, filming conditions to share with the world. In response, the repressive government shut down the internet.

While we all care about the people of Cuba as our fellow human beings, a number of members of our immediate community have family ties there, as well, so our concern extends particularly to them in this worrisome time.

President Biden addressed the situation on Monday urging Cuban leaders to hear the people and address their needs rather than enriching themselves or trying to repress their human rights.

At Berea College, where one of our eight Great Commitments calls for us to create a democratic society, we align ourselves with the people of Cuba and echo the President’s sentiments. In a democratic society, organizations and the government can cooperate to address the sorts of critical problems currently being faced by Cubans, but which are found to a lesser extent elsewhere as well.  For example, at Berea College our Grow Appalachia program combats food insecurity in Appalachia working to ensure community members have enough to eat and teaching them how to grow their own food.

Globally, the U.S. and Cuba are among the countries that signed the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, a list of 30 rights that every human being is entitled to. The right to free speech and health are most relevant to the current events in Cuba.  It is our hope that tensions will ease soon, the leadership there will work to provide food, access to vaccines, and make improvements to stabilize the country’s economy, and that this crisis will be an opportunity for improved relations with other countries, including our own, allowing urgently needed assistance to flow to the people of Cuba.

In solidarity with Cubans and Cuban-Americans,

Lyle Roelofs

What follows is my response in hopes that it might help Dr. Roelofs and the rest of us to be more cautious in accepting party lines about “official enemiessuch as Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, China, Russia. . .

Dear Lyle,

It was with rather eager anticipation that I opened your recently emailed note entitled “Events in Cuba.” Because of Berea’s commitment black, brown and impoverished communities, I thought your notice would express solidarity with virtually the entire world in its yearly demand that the United States lift the Cuban embargo (Cubans call it a “blockade”) especially in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, I found your comments quite incomplete and misleading. Together they gave the erroneous impression that:

  • All Cubans (“residents of the island nation”) endorse the anti-government street demonstrations
  • That Cuban leadership is ignoring the COVID-19 pandemic
  • That the same leadership is resisting improved relations with other countries including the United States
  • That Cuba should combat the island’s food insecurity by teaching people “how to grow their own food”
  • That Cuba is out-of-step with the United Nations and its “Declaration of Human Rights” by specifically depriving its people of health care
  • That President Biden has satisfactorily “addressed the situation on Monday urging Cuban leaders to hear the people and address their needs rather than enriching themselves or trying to repress their human rights.”

Such commentary appears to simply repeat the U.S. official story about Cuba without even once mentioning:

  • The U.S. economic embargo of more than 60 years
  • The blockade’s intensification under President Trump
  • That the Biden administration has kept all of the restrictions in place despite the pandemic and the president’s campaign promises
  • The resulting devastating effects of those measures
  • Cuba’s world-renowned health care system
  • Its development (unique in the former colonies) of several WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines
  • The U.S. policy of blockading sale of syringes to Cuba thereby preventing the country from administering its own COVID-19 remedies
  • Cuba’s long-standing attempts to feed its own people by extensive, government sanctioned urban gardening projects and by environmental policies that make it arguably the greenest country in the hemisphere
  • The fact that similar demonstrations are happening all over the world including U.S. allies such as Brazil, South Africa, Haiti, Lebanon, Colombia, India, Ethiopia, Israel, Iraq, and Afghanistan (not to mention Black Lives Matter in the U.S. and the January 6th assault on the Capitol) — without comment on your part or emphasis in the mainstream media at large
  • The allied fact that “a number of members of our immediate community have family ties” in the countries just mentioned.

I am making these observations as a longtime friend of Cuba and (of course) Berea College. I have visited the island many times, never as a tourist, but always as an educator and researcher. In fact, the last course I taught at Berea (Summer 2014) had my wife Peggy and me leading another study tour of Cuba.

I have published many articles on Cuba including here and here about the country’s vaccine research and development. My daughter was treated for appendicitis while visiting Cuba two years ago. After spending five days in the hospital there, she was released virtually free of charge.

With Jose Gomariz (a Cubanist scholar, Jose Marti specialist, and former Berea College professor of Spanish) I once taught a Berea Short Term course at Havana’s Instituto de Historia de Cuba. The course was entitled “The African Diaspora in Cuba.” When I visited Cuba with the Greater Cincinnati Council of World Affairs, I was befriended by a family outspokenly and fearlessly critical of the Castro government. And in my many stints with the Latin American Studies Program of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, we took students to Cuba each semester to meet government officials, opposition forces, and diplomats at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. In all, I’ve been there around a dozen times.

During the Fidel Castro years, I vividly recall a U.S. Interests Section spokeswoman revealingly lamenting the fact that Cuba (as she put it) did not hold presidential elections (thereby demonstrating her misunderstanding of Cuba’s electoral system). “As everybody knows,” she admitted, “he’d win hands down.”

What I’m suggesting is that there is much more to the Cuban story than we’re led to believe by United States propaganda against that beleaguered country.

By simply rehearsing the U.S. official story, Lyle, I suggest that (uncharacteristically) you are not helping the Berea community understand Cuba, its history, and the role of the U.S. in creating misery there, or what our government could do this very day to relieve it – namely lift the embargo and allow the import of syringes into the country.

Respectfully, Mike Rivage-Seul

The Biblical Roots of Our Pandemic Response: The Chinese Alternative

Over the past week, three approaches to the widespread availability of anti-Covid-19 vaccinations have crossed my desk. One was the comical music video (above) celebrating a supposed post-vaccine normalcy including a return to restaurants, movies, gatherings with family members, friends, grandchildren and mask-less interaction with the world at large. I couldn’t help smiling and laughing at my own relieved celebration of freedom’s prospect after more than a year of quarantine restrictions.

The second approach however was more sobering. It was an essay by Ernesto Burgio published in the Wall Street Journal’s Science and Technology International Magazine. Its basic message was “Not so fast; the human race is not nearly out of the woods.”

The third slant on the expected end of our current crisis returned me to the world of comedy and entertainment – to Bill Maher of all people and his recent riff on China’s competition with the United States (see below). He called it “We’re Not ‘Losing’ to China – We Lost.” Without saying so, Maher’s thesis implied that China’s system of governance holds much more promise of dealing with Burgio’s dire warnings than does our own.

Finally, and speaking specifically as a theologian, the three pieces just referenced caused me to jump to a fourth level, a spiritual one. The leap had me concluding that nothing less than a China-inspired change in the West’s guiding spiritual mythology will save us from destruction.

Let me explain.

The 1st Anthropocene Pandemic

In his Wall Street Journal piece, Burgio pointed out that scientists have been predicting something like SARS-CoV2 pandemic for the last 20 years.  In fact, Covid is merely the most dramatic manifestation of a long-expected more general biological crisis resulting from a two-century long “War on Nature” – from what Pope Francis has called a systemic attack on humankind’s “Common Home.”

In recent memory, pandemic precursors have already surfaced as outbreaks of:

  • Ebola
  • Nipah
  • Hendra
  • Marburg
  • Flu-Orthomyxoviruses
  • Bat-Coronaviruses
  • SARS 1
  • H1N1
  • HIV AIDS

Covid-19 and those predecessors along with the pandemics to follow are the consequence of climate change, deforestation, and the creation of mega-cities that pack humans together in circumstances redolent of our related mistreatment livestock on factory farms.  The upshots of it all were prepared by related culturally induced comorbidities such as obesity and diabetes exacerbated by unhealthy diets dominated by sugars, salt, oils, and chemical preservatives.

According to Burgio and in view of such systemic causal links, it is senseless to seek salvation primarily in pharmaceutical remedies (including vaccines). What’s demanded instead is systemic reform of the post-modern lifestyle including rejection of fossil fuels, adoption of environmentally friendly diets (with drastically reduced meat consumption), and careful restoration of animal habitats and ecosystems.

The problem is, such radical lifestyle reforms are virtually impossible for capitalist cultures like the one found in the United States, the most powerful causal engine of environmental destruction. Especially here, where private enterprise is king, there is simply no central authority powerful or effective enough to institute the rapid comprehensive changes required to head off future pandemics, much less to save the planet. Indeed, half the American population cannot bring itself to even recognize that the pandemic is real, that human activity causes climate change, or that we’ve indeed transitioned into a new (Anthropocene) geological age.

And that brings me to Bill Maher’s observations suggesting that any hope that the human race might have lies with China.

The Chinese Promise

The title of Maher’s piece says it all: “We’re Not ‘Losing’ to China; We Lost.” That’s because (in Maher’s words) unlike us, when Chinese authorities see a problem, they fix it. For example, and specifically relevant to Covid-19, when the pandemic hit, they threw up a quarantine center with 4000 rooms in 10 days. They made robots to check children’s temperatures and got them back in school almost immediately. As a result, China has returned to something close to normal. It will be the world’s only major economy to register significant growth during this extraordinary year.

In fact, Maher’s rant echoes what Burgio himself pointed out in his essay when he said:

“. . . it is an indisputable fact that Asian countries, first of all China, but also South Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore have been able to stop the pandemic in the bud. It is also clear, to refute those who say that only authoritarian governments have been able to stop the pandemic by limiting civil liberties in a coercive and sometimes violent way, that Cuba, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland have done the same and have had very few deaths and minimal economic costs. All these countries have implemented precise strategies to contain the chains of infection, tracking and monitoring systems, organized quarantine areas and departments specifically dedicated to medium-severe and critical cases, implementing the gold standard in the management of pandemics: focusing on and strengthening primary health care.”

So, if it wasn’t because of the “authoritarian” character of its government, how explain China’s flexibility not only in dealing with Covid-19, but with its short-order elimination of extreme poverty, its rapid development of infrastructure, and its uniquely effective “foreign aid” as demonstrated in its Belt and Road Initiative?

Answering that question brings me to the earlier-mentioned realm of theology and spirituality. The answer is that China’s “Civilization State” (and eastern culture in general) is more effectively spiritual than anything found in western “Nation States.”

Spiritual Resources

The fact is that Chinese culture deeply influenced by Marxism recognizes more clearly than do westerners the truth of Burgio’s starting point – his approving reference to Pope Francis’ recent encyclicals (Laudato Si’, and Fratelli Tutti) with their defense of the earth as humankind’s “Common Home.”

Instead, the West’s individualism and emphasis on competition prevents it from embracing anything resembling Francis’ appeal to the common good. This has been especially so since its endorsement of Margaret Thatcher’s dictum: “There’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first.”

Regrettably, Thatcher’s point is supported by the fundamental Judeo-Christian myth of creation. As interpreted by Augustine, it spins the tale of our first parents’ “original sin” that corrupted all humans and all of creation as well.

If we’ve been told from birth that we’re all corrupt and that nature itself has been vitiated, why would we be surprised to see one another as enemies with whom cooperation (vs. competition) is impossible? Why would we be surprised that we harbor rapacious attitudes towards Mother Nature herself or that we easily excuse governmental depravity?

Obviously, China (along with most eastern cultures) does not believe any of that. As a result, in the name of the common good and with support from the vast majority of its people, it can turn on a dime when faced with problems like the Covid-19 pandemic. As Maher says, “When the Chinese see a problem, they fix it.”

By contrast, our culture with its crippling spirituality and adversarial conception of democracy finds itself gridlocked into a syndrome of discord and immobilizing cross-purposes.

Conclusion

As Burgio says, Covid-19 is not a mere bump in the road. Instead, it represents a “syndemic” – an entire set of health-related problems involving myriad interacting afflictions that cannot be cured by hospital-centric health systems whose ultimate response is technological and pharmaceutical.

Ultimately, the response must be spiritual and civilizational. We must face the fact that normalcy is gone. “Vaccine Day” happy talk won’t save us. Nor will attempts to defeat, stifle, control or replace China as the world’s emerging leader not only economically, but spiritually as well. Only fundamental change along the lines of China’s flexibility and efficiency inspired by notions of common good and common home can save us now.

Should Progressives Be Inspired by the DC Rioters?

Last week, Michael Moore asked an important question on OpEdNews. He wondered “Why Are We Not Uprising?” His revolutionary issue was the lack of single-payer healthcare so relentlessly highlighted by the worldwide covid-19 pandemic. Why no revolution, he asked, when so many are dying from clearly remediable causes – when the vast majority of Americans want single-payer?

Response to Moore’s article showed that he had indeed touched a revolutionary chord.

But then last Wednesday, when an actual uprising took place, everyone, it seemed, wanted to join hands across the proverbial aisle separating left and right. They jointly lamented the shocking breakdown of law and order. (The “Risings” Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti provide an example of that shared reaction.)

Think about it, everyone said: the rioters actually “desecrated” the Capitol Building’ “sacred” space! They broke some windows. They took selfies of themselves standing at the podium of the House of Representatives. They ransacked poor Nancy Pelosi’s office! They forced Mitch McConnell and Co. to run for their lives.

Washington policemen responded with a wink and a nod.

The horror of it all!

Something similar (with important differences) happened this summer, when Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrators took to the streets. Theirs’ was a largely peaceful uprising in the spirit of Martin Luther King. But then, agents provocateurs (and perhaps some demonstrators themselves) had the temerity to break into and loot Wal-Mart’s “sacred” precincts. Windows were smashed; fires were set.

That time, police responded with an iron fist. Demonstrators were beaten, tear-gassed and arrested.

Yes of course, there were those important differences between the two insurrections just cited. The DC protagonists were Trump supporters and right-wing fanatics. Their issue was election fraud. The cause of the BLM demonstrators was police brutality directed towards black and brown people.

Despite those distinctions however, don’t you see what’s happening? Michael Moore’s wish has come true! The first phase of the revolution is unfolding before our very eyes. But even its protagonists don’t recognize its portent and promise.

That’s because they’ve been hoodwinked into seeing each other as the enemy. Rather than joining forces against their common overlords, they’re punching down. The rightists think their enemy are blacks and immigrants whose numbers are rapidly changing U.S. demographics. Meanwhile, leftist demonstrators are the very ones mistakenly vilified by the rightists and their sympathizers among the police.

The empowering solution is for all of us to see the common revolutionary terrain on which we’re standing, namely:

  • Citizen anger, be it left or right is entirely justified
  • Both what happened In DC this week and in streets across the country (and world) last summer are the initial stirrings of a widespread working-class revolution.
  • Michael Moore is right. He’d agree, I think, that the real violence in question here is not breaking windows or setting fires. It’s a system that in the midst of a worldwide pandemic refuses (despite agreement between Democratic and Republican majorities) to refund our taxpayer dollars in the form of single-payer healthcare and guaranteed income for workers displaced by forces beyond our control.
  • That’s our money they’re not returning to us in this emergency!
  • Everyone can also agree with Trump supporters that our election system is entirely fraudulent. Voting machines are completely questionable; they should be replaced by paper ballots. Campaign contributions are nothing but legalized bribery. Voter suppression’s many forms (from unnecessary ID laws to the dismantling of the U.S. post office) are a sad fact of American life. Gerrymandering is hideously anti-democratic. So is the Electoral College. The list of fraudulence goes on.
  • Pelosi and McConnell do not represent us, but their donors. Following the example of our Founders (cf. Jefferson on this!), we should force them all to flee for their lives from outraged citizens and their pitchforks whether the attack comes from the right or the left.
  • The offices of our mis-representatives deserve to be ransacked.
  • Ordinary people should seize congressional podia and make their voices heard.
  • The police too are working class people misled into identifying fellow workers as the enemy while defending their own natural enemies.

I’m currently reading Barack Obama’s autobiography, The Promised Land. It’s an account of a well-meaning ambitious young black man whose rise to the pinnacle of political power gradually but inexorably transforms him into the servant of a class he initially identified as inimical to the interests of the people he wanted to help. It’s the story of an imperceptibly slow cooptation, early-onset blindness, and betrayal of ideals and common sense in favor of power, profit and prestige.

A similar cooptation threatens all of us at this pre-revolutionary moment. It will succeed if we allow our overlords to sell us a narrative that covers up the workers’ revolution that has the Pelosis and McConnells of the world frightened out of their wits. Like young Mr. Obama, we’re overlooking how the rich and powerful are blinding us to our common cause as wage-earning Americans.

Michael Moore (and the rest of us) should take note.

My Confusion & Fear of Walking on Water

Readings for 19th Sunday in ordinary time: I KINGS 19: 9A, 11-13A; PSALMS 85: 9-14; ROMANS 9: 1-5; MATTHEW 14: 22-23

In today’s Gospel, we hear Matthew’s iconic account of Yeshua walking on water – and of his invitation to Peter to follow the Master’s example.

The story is relevant to our times filled as they are with turbulence, polarization, and uncertainty. Those were the disturbing characteristics of Yeshua’s time as well – and of Matthew’s early church. In both contexts, there was turbulence everywhere. But despite it all, the early followers of Yeshua were asked to do the impossible – to walk on water themselves.

Before I get to what that might mean, here’s a reminder of how our own tempestuous times mirror those of Yeshua and Matthew.

My Own Confusion

If the truth be told, I must admit that I hardly know what to think anymore. The polarizing spirit of the day has me pretty upset. I can barely listen to the news each day.  And the mere images of the politicians I have come to despise cause my stomach to churn. I can’t stand to hear their voices – or those of their ever-harsher critics. And besides that, I see no alternatives. (How much better is Joe Biden than Donald Trump?)

However, the immediate cause of my upset and confusion is the video I posted here last week – an interview by Jason Dean of Sacha Stone, the founder of the International Tribunal for Natural Justice. It generated a lot of controversy when it appeared on OpEdNews on Thursday.

Subsequently, a whole ZOOM meeting of the site’s editors, contributors, and readers had everyone arguing about the interview’s truth claims. Is the coronavirus a pandemic or a “plandemic?” Does wearing a facemask make sense? There was wide disagreement during the call.

Those questions and emotions generated by the video were rooted in the polarizing figure of Sacha Stone himself. He’s charismatic, articulate, extremely outspoken, and given, I fear, to hyperbole. On the one hand, he is deeply spiritual and reflective of the best of the mystical traditions shared by all the world’s great faiths. His passionate concern about and energetic action against the trafficking of children for pedophilic purposes is unmistakable and genuine.  

On the other hand, he somewhat off-puttingly fills his discourse with references to evil, Satanic cults, the deep state, and to ruling class rituals devoted to drinking the blood of fear-adrenalized two and three-year-olds.  

Obviously, then Stone himself is controversial. He illustrated, I said, the difficulty of classifying people today on the basis of the traditional categories of “left” and “right,” liberal and conservative.

For instance, he is a supporter of President Trump. But he has long despised, he says, all politicians as liars and sell-outs to the rich 1% that govern our nation through the lawmakers they have long since bought and sold. Nonetheless, Stone sees Trump as one of the two modern-era U.S. presidents of true human worth. The other one? John F. Kennedy.

In all of this, Stone finds prominent support in a former CIA operative, Robert David Steele. Steele was described by one OEN ZOOM call participant who knows Steele well, has corresponded with him, and has interviewed him formally as “a brilliant guy.” In fact, as an elite insider, Steele not only backs Stone’s claims about cults and blood, he serves as Commissioner and Chief Counsel on Stone’s International Tribunal for Natural Justice. Steele says 22,000 children are disappeared each day for purposes of pedophilia and employment in those blood rituals.  

Is all of that disturbing and confusing enough for you? It’s almost more than I can bear. It has my head spinning with questions I thought resolved long ago about Trump, his portrayal in the media, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Even more seriously, it makes me wonder if our world is indeed controlled by sexual perverts who seem (in Stone’s words) “soulless” and as if they were aliens from another planet.

My only hope is that despite Steele’s endorsement, Stone’s claims about trafficked children are false or exaggerated. Failing that, my hope is that the truth of Stone’s accusations will all unmistakably come to light in the context of the explosive tip-of-the-iceberg saga of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. Such revelation has world revolutionary potential.

Yeshua’s & Matthew’s Confusion

In the context of this Sunday homily, my thoughts about national and personal upset and about revolutionary solutions return me to the social and political circumstances of Yeshua’s own day and of the Gospel writer, Matthew some fifty years later. Both contexts were no less turbulent than our own. As a matter of fact, they were even more so.

Yeshua, of course, lived under Roman occupation. As a good Jew, he surely hated that. The four Gospels are filled with indications of his antipathy towards Rome. However, as a reformer of Judaism, the Master was even more upset about the collaboration between Rome and the Temple Establishment’s scribes and priests. In his estimation, they were even worse sell-outs than our own presidents, congresspeople, judges, media, police, and military.

I’m sure that Yeshua along with his inner circle and his poor and oppressed audiences hardly knew what to think.

The same was true for Matthew’s audience. More than fifty years after Yeshua’s death, tensions with Rome had exploded just as Yeshua had predicted they would. In the year 70, Rome had finally punished Jerusalem’s Jews for their insubordination. In fact, the genocidal Romans had attacked and brutally destroyed the Holy City of Jerusalem, killed more than a million of its inhabitants (including the entire leadership of the emergent Christian community) and razed its temple to the ground. Fifteen or 20 years later, when Matthew wrote his Gospel, his community was still reeling from that defining act of devastation.

It’s in that context that Matthew spins his iconic story of Yeshua walking on water.

The story goes that following Yeshua’s feeding of the 5000 (last week’s Gospel focus), Yeshua forces the apostles to get into their boat and row to the other side. [The text says, “Yeshua made (emphasis added) the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side.” Perhaps these experienced fishermen (as opposed to the land lubber, Yeshua) saw a storm was coming and were reluctant to set sail despite Yeshua’s urgings.] In any case, a storm does come up and the apostles fear they are all about to drown. You can imagine their cries for help.

Then they see a figure walking on the water in the midst of high threatening waves. At first, they think it’s a ghost. Then they realize that it’s Yeshua. He’s walking on the raging waters.

Peter, ever the impetuous leader of the apostles, doubts what he sees. So, he says “Prove to me that it’s you, Yeshua; let me walk on the waves just as you’re doing.” Yeshua says, “Join me then over here then.” So, Peter gets out of the boat and, like his teacher actually walks on water for a few steps.

Then, despite the evidence, he begins to doubt. And as he does so, he starts sinking below the water line. “Save me, Lord!” he cries out again. Yeshua stretches out his hand and saves Peter. Then he asks, “Where’s your faith? Why is it so weak? Why did you doubt?”

Of course, this whole story (like last week’s “Loaves and Fishes”) is one of the dramatic parables Matthew composed. If we get caught up in wondering whether we’re expected to believe that someone actually walked on water, we’ll miss the point of this powerful tale. It’s about Yeshua’s followers doing the unexpected and irrational in the midst of the seriously threatening crises life forces upon us.

You see, Matthew’s Jewish audience shared the belief du jour that the sea was inhabited by dangerous monsters – Leviathan being the most fearful. And courageously walking on water was a dramatic way of expressing what Matthew’s community believed about Jesus, viz. that he embodied the courage and power to do the completely unexpected in the midst of crisis and subdue the most threatening forces imaginable – even the most lethal they could think of, the Roman Empire.

Yeshua’s invitation to Peter communicates the truth that all of us have the power to confront monsters if we’ll just find the courage to leave safety concerns behind even in the most threatening conditions, to confront life’s monsters, and join Yeshua in the midst of its upheavals.

Problem is: we easily lose faith and courage. As a result, we’re overcome by life’s surging waves and by the monsters we imagine are lurking underneath.

Conclusion

So, what does it mean to confront today’s angry waters and invisible monsters. What are we to believe before those who tell us that everything’s fake, there is no truth, and that the world is run by leviathan beasts hiding below the waves boiling all around us? What are we to think for instance, when the police and military we were taught to trust, betray us utterly? What do we make of the fact that there are no leaders we can follow – when we fear that talking heads, pundits, and even the spiritually astute are only sowing confusion, spin, falsehood and doubt? What’s entailed in stretching out our hand towards our Great Teacher inviting us to walk on water and ignore the threatening confusion and fear engendered by our uncertain times dwarfed by those he himself and his followers endured?

Frankly, I’m not sure. As I said, I remain more confused than ever.

However, I do think that walking on water today means desperately grasping Yeshua’s hand in the sense of getting back to the basics of our Great Master’s message about the Kingdom of God. That’s the anchor for many of us. He told us that despite all appearances to the contrary – despite the engulfing waves:

  • We humans are not truly in charge. Life Itself is working things out in an evolutionary pattern that is beyond any of our thought categories (Matthew 6:25).
  • A New Era is in the process of birthing – a new heaven and a new earth is about to dawn (Matthew 3:2, 4:17; Mark 1:15).
  • In that order, empires of all kinds (including our own) are doomed (See the entire Book of Revelation).
  • The new heaven and earth are destined for everyone – not merely for the 1% (Luke 4: 14-22).
  • In fact, the present reality will be turned upside down. Those now considered “first” will be last (Matthew 20:16).
  • The dawning Kingdom will prioritize the needs of widows, orphans, immigrants, the poor and the oppressed.
  • It will be governed by a politics of love (not fear or hate).
  • There, the identity of those now despised (the poor, hungry, thirsty, houseless, naked and imprisoned) will be revealed as embodying Yeshua himself (Matthew 25: 40-45).

Embracing those truths promises to save us from being overwhelmed and drowned. No matter what the “informed” or “experts” might say, living by those convictions represents what it means to walk on water in these uncertain times.

Do the Terms “Left” & “Right” Still Have Meaning? The Case of Sacha Stone

At last week’s ZOOM meeting of OpEdNews contributors, editor-in-chief, Rob Kall, noted that some people have questioned the continued relevance of the terms “left” and “right” to designate positions on the political spectrum. Rob asked, have those categories outlived their usefulness? 

Appearing to be in accord with Rob, one ZOOM contributor recalled that even Ralph Nader seemed to agree that the terms no longer serve. According to Nader, “left” and “right” classifications even impede concerted action for meaningful political reform by polarizing debaters and blinding them to the areas of agreement that they share. 

All of that took on high relevance for me, when I came across Jason Dean’s YouTube interview of Sacha Stone.   

Stone is a Zimbabwean blogger, activist and founder of the NewEarth Project whose purpose is to “create a new way of conscious living.” His International Tribunal for Natural Justice focuses on human trafficking and child sex abuse. Stone is also a close colleague and collaborator with CIA whistleblower Robert David Steele

In Dean’s hour-long, wide-ranging interview, Stone’s dynamic, articulate and intriguingly faith-centered statements exemplified a thinker one would be hard pressed to classify. I finished wondering whether he was left, right, conservative, liberal, radical, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Trumpian, apolitical, Christian, New Age, anti-Catholic, ecumenically religious, irreligious, or simply an anti-vaxxer and anti-mask provocateur (both of which he certainly was). 

In any case, however, Stone came across as a potential ally and thought leader that someone like me (a progressive left-wing activist and spiritually based critic of the corporate establishment) could learn from and work with. And this despite Stone’s many initially questionable assertions including his description of Donald Trump as “absolutely perfect.” 

So, I suggested that at the following week’s ZOOM meeting, we might discuss the Stone interview. Rob agreed. The interview’s highlights follow. 

A Hippie or Libertarian? 

Stone began with a description of the world’s ruling class as completely degenerate. And that included the leaders of national states, financiers, and religious establishments like the Catholic Church with its corrupt popes and hierarchy. (Stone was particularly hard on the Jesuits and the Catholic practice of sealing off women in convents and sending young, innocent boys to seminaries.) All of those institutions, along with their secret intelligence agencies (especially the CIA, Mossad, mi6, etc.) represent the world’s obscenely rich who comprise no more than 10% of its population. 

Those positions seem “left,” don’t they? But there was more. 

The hell of it is, Stone continued, that the policies of such miscreants prevent humans not only from meeting their physical needs. Their unquestionable dogmas and programs, rules and regulations also make it impossible for most of us to realize our human vocation as self-determinative creators of community, beauty, meaning and art.  

And so, Big Pharma has us consuming poisons instead of respecting our bodies’ own natural healing processes. Big Ag leaves little alternative to ingesting similarly poisoned non-foods in place of our growing gardens and eating locally and only what is good for human health. Official state educational institutions indoctrinate all of us into thinking that what’s natural is harmful, while artificially produced products are preferable.  

Doesn’t all of that sound like a back-to-nature hippie and home schooler?  Or maybe Stone’s a libertarian. 

The applicability of that latter category came through in his extremely strong positions on vaccines and facemasks during the present COVID-19 pandemic, as well as on taxes and on signing official certificates: 

  • Never allow authorities to vaccinate you or your children with serums whose media of transmission are not only harmful but will enable our watchers to even more efficiently track our every move. (In fact, our keepers’ ultimate goal is to similarly mark for identification and tracking every single creature on earth – for purposes of profit and control.) 
  • Never wear a face mask, he emphasized. Don’t purchase anything from any store requiring masking. Show your outrage and make sure shop owners know why. 
  • Never sign anything without fully appreciating the meaning of your mark. It’s a sign that you approve of the transaction in question. So many of them are actually questionable at the very least.  
  • Birth certificates are an abomination – a transfer of your offspring’s future into the hands of the state. And death certificates are only intended to establish actuarial tables for rapacious insurance companies.  
  • Yes, pay sales taxes. But don’t fill out those 1040s. They are used for purposes no conscientious human being can approve.   

So, that’s it maybe. Perhaps Sacha Stone is a libertarian. After all, he admits admiring Ron Paul.  

A Trump Supporter? 

But maybe not. . . Further statements made him sound like a white evangelical Republican. Get ready: this is where Stone’s designation of DJT as “absolutely perfect” comes in. 

Echoing those evangelicals, Sacha Stone affirms that Donald Trump is God’s anointed. He’s doing God’s work, Stone says, through executive orders whose intention is to eliminate the human trafficking that is the focus of Stone’s activism and that he claims represents the very heart of the international economic system. No one knows about those executive orders, Stone said. 

Neither has anyone else in government dared to question the foundation of U.S. policy since 9/11/2001. On that very day, Trump alone recognized what happened and immediately said so on camera. He said, “That was a controlled demolition, folks. I know; I’ve built skyscrapers.” In Stone’s words, Trump was the first living soul in America to make that call.  

Moreover, Trump has done what no president had done before him – he has reached out in friendship to designated enemies like North Korea, Russia, and China. And you know what? For those heroic acts on behalf of world peace, Mr. Trump has been roundly vilified by the mainstream media, and by TV pundits from MSNBC to Fox, from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal

Trump is doing God’s work, Stone insists. He’s not only signing those executive orders that are saving children’s lives. He’s also laying the groundwork for the complete collapse of the entire system by embodying and thus exposing its unreality, deception and unviability.  

And it’s working. All of our false idols: Hollywood, academia, the central banking cabal, along with every organ of government are crumbling before our eyes. That is by definition the grace of God. Good Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and other people of faith and no faith at all should be applauding Mr. Trump, rather than attacking him.

Stone’s Spiritual Grounding 

Say what? Trump is God’s anointed? But doesn’t he embody government corruption, lies and deception? Isn’t he mistreating children at our southern border? Isn’t he himself money-driven, corrupt and an inveterate liar? 

Despite his earlier statements, Stone seems to agree — in a backhanded sort of way.  

It’s here that his self-confessed “inverted logic” and deep spirituality enter the picture – all within the context of COVID-19. Here’s Stone’s line of reasoning: 

  • We are now living at the greatest moment of civilization. 
  • In this unique context, COVID-19 is actually a Godsend – but not in the sense that it was authored by the Universal Mind that presides over everything that is.  
  • Instead, the human soul is forged within that Mind’s dispensation of freedom that allows us to self-harm and then self-heal through our own action — to absolve and resurrect ourselves. 
  • In this quadrant of the omniverse, there are no rules; only karma and dharma, the laws of cause and effect – what we sow, we reap.  
  • In the midst of the pandemonium we ourselves have caused, each of us and the entire human community must forge our souls like nuggets of coal pressured into diamonds by our self-inflicted sorrow, pain and hurt which has made us both the poisoner and the poisoned. That’s what causes the Christed light suddenly to emerge. 
  • At this moment of evolution – through our manufacture of pathogens, through the machinations of the pharmaceutical and agrochemical food system, we are experiencing an “orchestra of evil.” But we must remember that it is our orchestra; and we are the conductors. 
  • Collectively and at the civilization level, we have reached a fulmination point – where it’s time to absolve all the poisoning at every level.  
  • A small group of people consciously and intentionally standing in that flame can lift the entire human race. The spark we stubbornly hang on to will eviscerate the now-prevailing darkness. It is only a holographic projection that of itself has no soul – no Christed light. 
  • The bottom line is that we all must practice right action and pure truth in our own lives. 
  • We must live in the NOW, because that is all we have. It is always perfect – the point of perfection, absolution and forgiveness, transcendence, and transmutation. “It’s when you choose to forgive the trespass against you, to extend the hand of friendship, to build that bridge and be the mender of broken things in this world.”  
  • All of us must live in that space. 

It is Sacha Stone’s emphasis on the perfection of the NOW that provides the key for his judgment about Donald Trump’s own perfection. Since the NOW is all we have, and since it is always perfect calling us to absolution, forgiveness, transcendence, and transmutation, everything within that moment (including Mr. Trump) is calling us to create the world we all desire – a world of personal responsibility, beauty, art, and love.

Conclusion 

So, what is Sacha Stone? Do the categories of “left” and “right” apply to him? And even though he supports Donald Trump, is an anti-vaxxer and rages against facemasks in the midst of a pandemic, can “progressives” dialog with a person like that? 

Indeed, is Stone correct that in this extraordinary moment in our personal and collective histories, we are called to at least suspend our judgments, to recognize common ground, and join with brothers and sisters on the “right” to bring down our common deceivers and exploiters? 

Join with us next Saturday from 8:00 to 9:30 on ZOOM to discuss it all. (Write to OEN editor-in-chief, Rob Kall at rob at opednews.com and put OEN ZOOM Meeting in the subject heading and he will provide the link.)

Trumpty Dumpty’s Great Fall: His Unwitting Support of Black Lives Matter

It’s happening now. And it’s irreversible. It was promised to us in the 1960s as the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius” – a world where harmony, understanding, peace and trust would abound.

The Mayans reiterated the promise in 2012, when they predicted that the perfect alignment of the sun, the earth, and the center of the Milky Way (for the first time in 26,000 years) would inaugurate the “sixth era of the sun.” It would bring to humanity and the Earth itself a positive physical and spiritual transformation.

It’s happening now before our eyes.

And the agent of this profound change? Its polar opposite! A Trumpty Dumpty sitting on a “great and beautiful” wall symbolic of resistance to everything promised to us by Mayan wisdom.

Yet, Trumpty prepared us for the “great fall” of the entire world that his wall of separation symbolized – a white supremacist patriarchy that now lies in pieces impossible to reassemble despite the best efforts of all the king’s horses and all the king’s men.   

Trumpty came, remember, specifically calling into question everything we were taught to revere. He said the news was fake; so was history, political polling, our voting system, Constitution, and even science. His very language patterns – repetitive, incoherent, and verbally challenged – called into question accepted standards of grammar and eloquence we had become accustomed to in smooth talking politicians and “respected” public figures. In Trumpty’s eyes, all of that was bunk and fake too.

And he was right.

However, the rude irony is that the accuracy of Trumpty’s demythologized iconoclasm has been underlined by the very people that the wall he’s been sitting on promised to exclude. It’s immigrants and especially the Black Lives Matter activists who are successfully joining him in questioning (but from the other side) his white supremacist understanding of the world as well as our history, laws, language, and implementation of democracy.

Think about it: before BLM, who would have thought Americans would even consider demolishing statues of Christopher Columbus and Confederate generals, let alone of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other revered “Founding Fathers?”  Impossibly, Americans are seriously rethinking the “official story” of their nation and engaging in righteous iconoclasm.

But the movement goes much deeper than that. As Robin DiAngelo has pointed out in White Fragility, the world’s ruling Caucasian minority is now coming to realize that society itself is rigged at its intellectual core – and in the favor of the white supremacists Trumpty promised to restore to greatness.

According to DiAngelo, it’s all a mirage – white culture’s beliefs in

  • The supposed superiority of some forms of knowledge over others:
    • White Eurocentric knowledge over non-White, Indigenous and non-European ways of knowing
    • Written expression over oral
    • History over memory
    • Rationalism over wisdom
  • Acceptance of the supremacy of scientific linear thinking that recognizes as true only what can be quantified, and peer reviewed by scholars
  • The assumed neutrality of the white European Enlightenment
  • The Ideology of individualism
  • Meritocracy

For DiAngelo and Black Lives Matter, such convictions and white values themselves are arbitrary. And that includes its reverence for the king’s English. So is its philosophy of “work before play,” “planning for the future,” adherence to rigid time schedules, and governance of life itself by Apple watches.

Before BLM and COVID-19, none of that was questionable for the cultural mainstream.

Now it is. American culture, if not the entire world, is questioning its basic world view and way of life.

The whole turn of events has opened for humanity what Indian scholar Arundhati Roy has called “a portal” – an opening from old discredited ways of thinking and acting to new more credible ones. A door has opened to the other world Mayan wisdom has told us is now possible.

In other words, humanity is ceasing its efforts to reassemble Mr. Trumpty’s shattered reality and to reject his wall and all it stands for. We’re telling each other that the time has come to finally walk through today’s open doorway into the promised Aquarian Age that (at least unconsciously) we’ve all been longing for.

Money for Nothin’: Why Pay Federal Taxes?

The do-nothing approach of the know-nothing Trump administration to the COVID-19 crisis has raised a fundamental question for me. Why are we paying federal taxes?

I mean, if (unlike countries even such as South Korea and China) “the greatest country in the world” can’t even make sure that its citizens have enough cotton swabs for coronavirus tests, what is it doing for us? Why am I paying taxes?

And I’m just talking cotton swabs – not to mention low-tech items like test kits themselves or plastic gloves, protective clothing for nurses and doctors, face masks for the rest of us, hospital beds, or ventilators. Cotton swabs!

Of course, the answer is that we’ve somehow bought in to Reaganism. To use his words, it somehow convinced us that “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Remember that? I do.

It was Reagan’s version of the Edmund Burke quote: “That government is best which governs least. . .” Or as Republican operative, Grover Norquist, put it, “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

Whatever the phrasing, its bottom line over the last 40 years has the government doing less and less for its citizens – and we end up paying more and more.

It’s as if we had two choices: (1) pay taxes those who provide us with the services we need (like healthcare, education, affordable housing, serviceable roads and bridges) or (2) pay them to those who on principle do nothing for us. Pay for something or pay for nothing! By electing Republicans (and many Democrats too), we’ve been making the latter choice.

Is that crazy or what?

And what’s the government doing with my tax dollars – and yours? It’s like we’re paying protection money — to our representatives — to protect us from the services we’re paying for.

I thought government’s first duty was to keep us safe. Right now, though, in the face of the biggest threat to our safety in the last 75 years, our “representatives” are doing nothing – absolutely nothing to that end.

And they’re proud of it.

In fact, we’re on track to re-elect the lot of them again next November.

Go figure.

A Return to Normal Should Be the Last Thing We Want

Readings for 4th Sunday of Easter: ACTS 2:14A, 36-41; PSALM 23: 1-6; 1 PETER 2: 20B-25; JOHN 10: 1-10

This week’s readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter contain an important message for us in this time of Coronavirus. They call us to personal and community transformation – to persist in our recently imposed collective abandonment of the world’s values around profit, pleasure, power and prestige – the ones that are destroying our planet and that were rejected by the great prophet from Nazareth.

Given our immediate context, the readings’ implied message is: Don’t simply pick up where you left off. Instead embrace the new life that Mother Nature has so recently imposed. When the smoke clears, don’t go back to normal.

That’s the highly political theme of today’s readings. They focus on the image of “Life Itself as our guiding Shepherd,” and Jesus as the gate to the sheepfold protecting those within from destructive “strangers.” In biblical symbolism, such references are loaded with political meaning. Since the time of King David, Judah’s kings had always been referred to as shepherds.

So, when today’s familiar responsorial says, “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” It’s laying out a list of imperatives for kings like David. As God’s administrators, they are to make sure people have food and drink, shelter, leisure, and a clean and verdant environment.

And when John the evangelist has Jesus refer to himself as the sheepfold’s gatekeeper, John is calling attention to Jesus’ Way as leading from one reality (the world’s) to another, the fold he called the Kingdom of God. There, everything will be reversed. The first will be last; the last, first. The rich will be humiliated and the poor have the earth for their possession.

Unbelievably, the coronavirus has shed a bright light both on the corruption of what we’ve come to consider “normal,” and on what Arundhati Roy calls the “portal” and Jesus calls “the gate” leading to a revolutionary reality with kingdom overtones.

The Old Normality

To begin with, consider the old normal, specifically here in the United States.

Like the USSR in 1989, the USA has collapsed before our eyes in a matter of weeks. Yes, it’s already a fait accompli. And no one knows what to do about it.

The country’s economy has drawn to an absolute standstill. And it’s not going to return to normal any time soon. Unemployment is projected to exceed Great Depression proportions. People already routinely line up for blocks-long breadlines.

Moreover, the predominantly capitalist nature of America’s mixed economy has switched overnight to a predominantly socialist one. Instead of being allowed to perish (as capitalist theory would demand) the country’s largest enterprises have proven to require repeated bailouts from the central government. It happened with the Dot Com Burst of 2000, with the Great Recession in 2008, and now with the COVID-19 Crash of 2020. The system is completely unstable, and its survival requires those periodic infusions totaling trillions of dollars each time. Meanwhile millions go hungry and are left unemployed and wondering where their next meal might come from.

That’s called “socialism.” And in a matter of weeks, it’s happened in what we brag about as “the richest in the world.”

At the same time, the central government pledged by its Constitution to protect its citizens claims no responsibility to do so. It has left that obligation to local governments and to mutual aid organizations.

The resulting chaos has lifted the curtain that previously had prevented our realizing the actual swath of the sudden systemic collapse. Besides the political breakdown just noted, the disarray has touched at the very least, the following key elements:

  • Healthcare: Like nothing else, the COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the insanity of the U.S. healthcare non-system. We spend twice as much as the rest of the world in this area and end up with a vastly inferior product. U.S. healthcare has proven completely unable to respond to an absolutely predictable viral crisis. Disgracefully, with a far smaller population than China’s, we currently lead the world in Coronavirus deaths. As a result, polls show that a strong majority from both parties want to switch to single payer healthcare. However, presidential candidates from both parties, revealing their ownership by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, steadfastly refuse to even consider that option. 
  • U.S. Industry: America’s system of production has also proven far less able to respond to COVID-19 than China’s. Our industries cannot even produce enough cotton swabs, much less, simple products like virus test kits, hospital beds, or protective gear for its first responders. That too represents a failure of the underlying neoliberal capitalist system that has off-shored productive capacity for more than 40 years.

However, the systemic failure unfolding before our eyes goes much further. It touches:

  • A phantom democracy: Ours is a phony democracy. It is based on bribery masquerading as “campaign contributions.” Its voting machines are easily hackable. The reigning system of gerrymandering has politicians choosing voters rather than the reverse. Voter suppression is widespread and obvious. No wonder only about half of Americans bother to vote. 
  • A decayed infrastructure: Roads are potholed. Bridges are increasingly dangerous.
  • Homelessness: Our streets are filled with people sleeping on grates, while homes and office spaces lie empty. The system can’t bring the two together.
  • Overflowing Prisons: The United States imprisons a greater proportion of its people than any other country in the world. Most of them are black and brown. This racist system has an imprisonment rate 5 times higher than most countries in the world. And conditions in the privatized prisons are generally abominable.
  • A propagandized mainstream media (MSM): Six giant corporations – Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany and Viacom — own most newspapers, TV and radio stations. They act more like government propagandists and stenographers for politicians rather than fulfilling their traditionally assigned Fifth Estate function. Like those living in the former USSR, most of us have learned to mistrust the MSM in favor of on-line sources – the new samizdat equivalents.
  • A corrupt military: The U.S. military fights perpetual wars no one understands: To put down rebellions against its imperial policies, it currently spends (officially) nearly $2 billion each day ($718 billion in total annually). During the Obama administration, Americans dropped more than 26,000 bombs on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. Its drones terrorized populations in those countries on a daily basis. In other words, the United States continues to be what Dr. Martin Luther King called “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”
  • A politicized “justice” system: The court system has been packed for the next generation to favor corporations and the rich rather than ordinary people. That’s true all the way up to the Supreme Court whose key decisions (like Citizens United) have neutered democracy and punished women and the poor. Its predominant right-wing members should be called “Injustices” rather than Justices. 

Today’s Readings

With all of that in mind, consider today’s readings as they centralize the primacy of Jesus’ “Way” over destructive values like those that the United States has come to embody. What follows are my “translations;” you can find the originals here.

ACTS 2: 14A, 36-41: Jewish Peter continues last week’s first Christian sermon: Peter says, “The crucified Jesus whom you mistakenly executed achieved the full Christ-consciousness the world has been waiting for.” When the crowd heard this they asked, “What then must we do?” Peter answered: “In the Spirit of the Christ, reject the world’s values and join us in the reformation of life dictated by our own holy faith.” Thousands of good Jews said “yes” that very day.

PSALM 23: 1-6: His listeners’ “yes” was premised on a traditional Jewish understanding of God: The Divine One is an accompanying kind Good Shepherd – the traditional symbol of a king. The divine order leaves no one in want, but provides food and drink, housing, rest, comfort, refreshment, courage, protection for everyone without distinction. 

1 PETER 2: 20B-25: In a later letter Peter elaborated: If the world hates and hurts you for trusting such a God, know that you must be doing something right. You’re actually following in the footsteps of Jesus. Remember how they insulted him and that he remained nonviolent even when it cost him his life. Such awareness will keep you whole and on the right path blazed for us by our beloved Good Shepherd.

John 10: 1-10: A even much later reflection on Jesus as Good Shepherd: Jesus often used strange imagery to confuse his enemies. For instance, he referred to himself as a shepherd and to foreign occupiers (“strangers”) as sheep rustlers. In today’s reading, he calls himself the “gate” of the sheepfold, but also the “gatekeeper.” In the spirit of Psalm 23 (above), he speaks of his friends as his “sheep” and the purpose of his shepherding as protection and fullness of life for them.  

Conclusion

As already indicated, Arundhati Roy recently picked up Jesus’ gate theme.  At the prospect of ending the current lockdown, she spoke of our standing before a “portal” leading to a new way of life. It opens onto the new world our Great Holy Mother Earth has displayed for us these last six weeks.

Whatever the immediate causes of the virus, it seems that the Goddess of All has used it to make us realize that the world’s catastrophic way of consumption, environmental destruction, hurry and stress is not inevitable. Rather, it is clearly possible for the entire world to leave all of that behind.

Our Mother has shown us unmistakably that we humans are the actual virus afflicting the world. With our infernal machines ground to a halt, the sky cleared, birds and animals returned to their natural habitat, and rivers ran clear again.

In fact, another world (previously considered impossible, unrealistic, and utopian) has been shown to be indeed possible. Its restoration constitutes the very meaning of the religious term “repentance.”

Easter in the Time of COVID-19

It was a miracle
No one thought possible
Before Ash Wednesday.
Suddenly,
Traffic stopped,
Stores closed,
Schools shuttered,
Even churches.
Focus shifted
To health, family,
Leisure,
Jokes, stories,
Children, grandchildren
Lovemaking,
Reading, studying,
Conversing, writing,
Napping, dreaming,
Cooking and eating
Together.
Houses never cleaner –
Or messier (Your call).
Finally knowing
That Special Other,
And our very selves.
Imagining and living
Without hated jobs
And nosey bosses.
 
With cards freshly reshuffled.
The New Deal came
They said couldn’t be.
Hearts opened
Skies cleared
People sang
From porches
And open windows.
Eyes smiled
With other masks
Dropped and replaced.
Could you tell?
 
And now it’s Easter
Sad tears for the dead
Clear eyes
To see that their passing
Was no Act of God
Or preordained,
That New Life,
Another way
Is possible NOW
(It always was)
Where no one
Dies like that,
And no one’s work
Brings tears,
Where all finally
Get that recompense
Guidance and well-being
Each child deserves.
 
So, no matter what
Wall Street’s
Wolves and vultures
Might howl and screech,
From behind
Presidential Podia,
Tell them:
There’ll be no return
To the tombs we knew
Before Good Friday,
Ash Wednesday
And our cleansing
Lenten fast.
Seize the day:
It’s Easter
NOW
Like never before!

Trump Has Not Out-lefted the Left: It's What Fascists Do

So now the word in the mainstream media (MSM) is that Donald Trump has successfully co-opted the so-called “American left.” After all, they tell us, he’s implemented Universal Basic Income (UBI); he’s promised to set up government hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients; he’s proposed delayed foreclosures and evictions and has strengthened unemployment measures for laid-off workers. Unwittingly, we’re told, he has become a “socialist.” And worst of all (for his opponents) under that new identification, his approval ratings have risen.

Does this mean he’ll be reelected next fall even though his handling of the coronavirus crisis has been abysmal? Remember: he mocked it at first. The testing kits he promised still haven’t materialized. And, as usual, his pathological duplicity makes it impossible for anyone to know what’s really going on in the man’s little head. Do his promises mean anything, or will they be rescinded tomorrow?

Nonetheless, there’s a grain of truth in his latest manifestation as socialism’s champion.

Additionally, if we understand fascism as “capitalism in crisis”, Trump’s co-optations can be unmasked as mirroring faithfully those of his forebears in that system. And finally, there’s hope to be found in the president’s rising numbers.

Trump’s Socialism

To begin with, it must be acknowledged that all of the above (UBI, government-sponsored healthcare, policies preventing homelessness, and unemployment insurance) are indeed key planks in any socialist platform.

At the same time, it is also true to say that the president has very little choice in the matter. History has shown that in circumstances like these, heads of state interested in self-preservation and regardless of their ideological propensities, best serve their interests by intervening in the marketplace on behalf of their official constituents.

Put otherwise, the crisis at hand has once again exposed the fact that capitalism’s regular-as-clockwork systemic dysfunctions can only be remedied by socialist programs. (There are no exceptions to that rule.) That’s because government-coordinated socialism is far more efficient in addressing pressing crises than the necessarily disjointed, atomized and uncoordinated capitalist responses. This has been demonstrated most recently by China’s quick success in dealing with COVID-19.

In reality, however, Trump’s proposals are far from genuinely socialist. To begin with, ALL of them are emphatically temporary. His version of UBI are intended to last a month or two; his government hospitals are narrowly targeted at coronavirus patients (all others are still on their own and at the mercy of giant health insurance and pharmaceutical conglomerates); the evictions and foreclosures will resume when the current crisis has passed. Republicans will also reprise their attacks on unemployment insurance (and Social Security) when and if we return to “normal.”

By way of contrast, socialism’s remedies are permanent; they represent once-and-for-all transformations of the reigning economic system. Socialism is about Medicare for All, affordable housing, rent-control, job guarantees and adequate wages.

Moreover, socialism is an international movement of working-class people. Its philosophers — those who favor the working classes instead of their exploiters — are the ones our educational system of indoctrination has taught us to hate. We’ve been taught to despise Karl Marx, but to love Milton Friedman. Despite our ironic distaste for them, our class’ philosophers have always addressed themselves to “the workers of the world.”

Today’s socialists recognize what the coronavirus crisis has laid bare, viz. that even apart from present circumstances, we’re all in this together. Socialists also see clearly that our common enemy is the greed and self-centeredness that globalized capitalism itself has forced on our employers. Without heartless devotion to the “bottom line,” virtually none of those we work for would ever survive under free enterprise competition that rewards and necessitates starvation wages for so many and environmental devastation for us all. The system has made our employers our mortal but largely unrecognized enemies.

Trump’s Fascism

As opposed to socialism’s internationalism, Trump is a nationalist. Recall his inaugural proclamation, “From now on it’s only going to be America First, America First.” Nothing could be further from the ideals of citizens of the world. That is, insofar as circumstances have forced socialism upon him, Herr Trump is a National Socialist.

And that’s exactly what the fascists who came to power in the 1930s were. They were National Socialists in contrast to the international socialists and communists they hated so fiercely. In fact, Trump’s nationalism and his attempts at co-opting socialist policies to mollify a rebellious populace represents his tearing a page right out of Mein Kampf.

Think about it. As already mentioned, fascism is best defined as “capitalism in crisis.” Or as Benito Mussolini described it more exactly, fascism is corporate capitalism united with state power. In ultimate form, it enforces its order through a police state armed against its traditional enemies, viz. communists, socialists, labor organizers, Jews, non-whites, the disabled, immigrants, gypsies, etc. All those scapegoats receive blame for the inescapable inefficiencies and dysfunctions of the newly christened old system. All of them found places in fascism’s death camps.

Why then the name-change in the 1930s? Why the “National Socialist German Workers’ Party?” It’s because the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the depression that followed had completely discredited capitalism. No one wanted to be associated with it any more than (until recently) people wanted to be associated with socialism and Marxism after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Following the Crash everyone, left and right, claimed to be some kind of socialist.

It’s similar today, even though the name itself is not yet so much in fashion. Still, socialist policies are much in favor among the American people. A solid majority wants Medicare for All. The Fight for $15.00 minimum wage is extremely popular among wage workers. In this age of climate chaos, environmental protection laws receive widespread approval. The same is true for free college education and forgiveness of student loans. And Social Security remains the most popular program ever instituted by the federal government.

More particularly, at this time of corona crisis, people need money to pay their bills. They want those monthly checks. Under the threat of COVID-19, they don’t want to worry about deductibles and co-pays. They need rent relief.

Hope behind Trump’s Ratings

All of that is hopeful. Any rise in Trump’s approval ratings because of the policies just reviewed reveal that Americans favor what the Republican Party is ideologically incapacitated to provide. Republicans will never permanentize the programs we all want.

And if they do, that’s o.k. too. Whether a red administration or a blue one meets genuinely human needs is beside the point.

More likely, however, the temporary programs currently receiving approval simply describe for true socialists (whether they embrace the name or not) the policy trajectories they must follow, propose, fight for and finally implement. Now’s the time to insist on a Green New Deal.