• Tag Archives freedom
  • All in a Morning’s Jaunt

    Spring                                                      Bloodroot Moon

    Today is the much nicer day of the next three.  Tomorrow the high will be 46 and windy, Monday 41 with ice and snow. Today it is 53 and sunny. I chose walking over museums today.

    Before leaving I ate my first and last breakfast at the hotel.  Their main breakfast is a buffet, served for the  many students staying here.  The coffee was weak and served in tired blue plastic mugs.  Jack Reacher would have scored the coffee very low.  A group of 18 students from Germany didn’t seem to mind the coffee though.

    Outside the wind was mild, though the temperature in the morning was in the high 30’s.  I saw people in shirt sleeves but I stuck with my hat, Chilean fjord special muffler and my Ecuadorian coat.  There were a number of people out enjoying the sunshine when I passed the Willard Hotel.

    (apparently my Android takes self-portraits.  This one showed up in my pics today.)

    Those of you who watched House of Cards would recognize the Willard from the scene where Clean Water held its fund-raiser on the steps, then crossed the streets with trays of food for the striking teachers.  Up close it looks like money and power compressed into architecture.

    About a block from the Willard and right next to the Whitehouse–how did I not remember this?–is the department of the Treasury.  Keep the nation’s finances right close by the Oval Office, I guess.

    Michelle’s garden is on the south lawn and visible from the fence where we all gathered, gobsmacked by the presence of this icon of politics and American might.  The Whitehouse has been the home of all U.S. presidents except for George Washington though Truman vacated for four years while it got a top to bottom rebuilding.

    Onward to the Mall, entering the green west of the still not open Washington Monument.  It’s having repairs and rejiggering of its foundations due to a 2011 5.8 earthquake whose epicenter was in Virginia.

    Walking along the reflecting pool on my way to the Lincoln Monument I saw a very large Irish Wolfhound, gray and stately, walking its people, unfortunately too far away to meet.

    At the monument there were a lot of people though not the crush I’ve  experienced at other times.  This is a moving place as I’m sure you already know.  It is, as it says right over Lincoln’s head, a temple.  Immersed as I am right now in Greek and Roman mythology it’s easy to see the architect and sculptor’s reach back to those ancient worlds for adequate ceremonial features.  He was and is a giant in our history and this haunting building makes that place clear.

    A brief thought passed through my head that this was a monument for the ages, then Ozymandias came in its wake and I realized I was a citizen of Rome at Rome’s peak.  London at the height of the British Empire.  Xi’an during the T’ang empire.  Edo during the Tokugawa era.  And the glory of those cities now lies in the past, a memory, not a present fact.  So it will be with Lincoln and Washington, D.C. itself.

    After the Lincoln Monument I went by the additions to the Vietnam Memorial, two statuary groups, one three men, the other three women, and wandered on to come upon what must be the most jingoistic of all our monuments and one built under the reign of George II, George W. Bush.  Nothing against the vets of WWII, among them were both my parents and an uncle, but this monument reeks of American exceptionalism and the projection of US power.  With George W.’s name on it it will forever be linked, as I’m sure he intended, with his misguided efforts in Iraq.

    This is an example of the unintended consequences of the use of power.  No one can or should compare the US WWII effort, the last ‘good’ war’, with the ill-advised and deceitfully sold war against the Iraqi people.  This monument will itself stand as stone and metal irony on just this point.

    In case, though, all these monumental treatments of liberty and freedom seem ill-advised, I found this on the back of a truck parked on the corner of Constitution and 15th, just two blocks from the Whitehouse.  There is always someone who would take freedoms away.

    By the time I trudged my way back–I figure 4 to 5 miles round trip–this guy had exhausted himself.  A lunch at the Elephant and Castle then a long nap.  Woke up refreshed and ready to go back to the PRB show tomorrow.

  • Our Body, Our Politic

    Spring                                                        Bee Hiving Moon

    OK, I admit it.  I got suckered in by that warm weather.  Now I miss it.  So, sue me.  Even so, I still prefer the usual seasonal transition, but if you’re gonna make a change at least stick with it for the duration.

    Interesting art day today.  College modern history class this morning going through art developments from 1880-1930. I’m ready and looking forward to it.  Then, at 11:15, I meet Ode in the Sports Show, walk through it with him and afterward have lunch.  The Great Scanning Project from 1:00 or so until 3:00 or so.

    Saw the Supreme Court may strike down the Health Care Law.  If they do, probably in the interest of limiting the power of government.  Our polity demands a tension between the liberty and freedom of the individual and notions of fairness and equity in the nation at large.

    A strong, stubborn part of me recognizes liberty and freedom as essential to a good, full life.  Another, also dominant, part reacts viscerally to a society that tips the scales against the poor.  That puts a thumb on the balance.  Discrimination, out right bigotry has broad, systemic power.  And that hurts me when I see it.

    Our country, this rich country, does not need to withhold from its citizens.  We can share while maintaining our wide zone of individual liberty.  I know we can.  Look at how much we shared as a nation to turn back Hitler and Japan.  Look at the dramatic, substantive changes since the Civil Rights Act.  We’re better as a whole than the limited vision of a few.

    No matter where you stand in terms of faith the West’s great religions insist on equitable and just treatment of the poor, of women and children.  Surely we can agree on that, at least.



  • The 4th of July

    Mid-Summer                                                     Waxing Honey Flow Moon

    Independence Day.  Celebrating our ancestor’s victory over the British army and considering how their enlightenment ideals apply to our time.  Happy 4th of July!

    For an unreconstructed radical like myself, these are trying times.  I wonder where the sense of communitarian spirit has gone.  Yes, we have a can do, go it alone spirit, too and I participate in it.  The ethical underpinnings of Western civilization, however, fed by the the deep springs of Athens and Jerusalem have always reminded us that we share this journey.   Our lives are not ours alone, but belong as well to the whole, to the commonweal.  When we establish a government of the people, by the people, and FOR the people, we make this claim a part of our countries essence.

    The rugged individualist, the objectivist, the capitalist have the inclination to see the community as a source for their betterment, which is fine as long as their betterment does not come at others expense.  In that case these same perspectives become exploitative and parasitic, not interdependent, mutual.  A 5-year old knows that if all you do is take and take and take, then the other kids will no longer want to play with  you.

    The atomistic viewpoints of groups like the Tea Party and, in an insult to the Christian faith, the evangelical right, make it clear that they want the government to enforce their bigoted views of morality:  no stemcell research, homophobia and respect for only one point of view in struggle over Roe v. Wade.  They want no government aid to the poor, no environmental review for corporate projects that threaten the long term health of our natural world.  They have a vast umbrella of negatives with which they hope to block the sunshine of equality and shared responsibility.

    They want the constitution, like the bible, to be an inspired document, written not by men and women, but by gods, inviolate and sacrosanct.  It isn’t true of the bible and it is even much less so true of the constitution.  Both of these documents live, that is, they get swept into new eras, with new challenges and demand a hermeneutics for understanding their relevance.  Always.  This is an iron law of human history, no document from the past means the same thing today that it did yesterday.  That is anachronistic thinking at its most damaging, its most infantile, its most destructive.

    My sister lives in Singapore and, up until very recently, so did my brother, Mark.  This makes accessible, in a personal way, the viewpoints of other cultures toward our country.  Many people don’t like us, see us as arrogant, uncaring and ruthless.  Of course, the big kid on the block often has that reputation, deserved or undeserved, but our recent actions, Iraq and Guantanamo among them, have cemented these opinions.

    Even so, I have this urge to celebrate our country.  We are a beacon of freedom, a beloved place of opportunity and real diversity.  We have committed ourselves to constructing a nation not on history or geography, but on founding ideals of freedom and equality and brotherhood. (sic) The number and variety of persons who come to this country from all over the world, the number and variety of them who become part of the patchwork quilt that is our history and our present at its very best, attest to the essential value of our presence.  We negotiate the boundary between sending cultures and our history and, again at our best, we do it with open hands and hearts.

    Have we slaughtered Native Americans and held slaves?  Yes.  Have we engaged in first-strike aggression?  Yes.  Have we often pretended that our nation, defended by two oceans, exists alone and isolated?  Yes.  Have we laid waste to our natural resources in the name of jobs and profits?  Yes.

    We should not be, cannot be, proud of these transgressions, but I submit that we are not the Great Satan.  We are not the only nation whose actions have transgressed human decency.  Further, I would submit that we are not even the worst, not even close.  Look at the Armenian and Jewish genocides.  The pogroms in Russia and the slaughter of the Stalinist era.  The vicious regime of the Khmer Rouge.  This is a long list and it runs deep in our world history.  No, we are a nation that has blundered and made arrogant mistakes, but we are neither all bad nor all good.  We are, rather, an imperfect nation with an imperfect history.

    As I look around the world, I find no country more committed to creating a united states of freedom, no country more committed to embracing the worlds refugees, no country more aware of its errors and no country more able to make amends.  We are a young nation, barely 240 years old, maybe an early adolescent in terms of our development.

    We must not give in to the petty, the self-aggrandizing, the screw the other guy mentality of our rising political movements.  We’re better than that.

  • Freedom

    Spring                                                Full Bee Hiving Moon

    It is never safe to speak and act for freedom in an unfree place.  How many have learned that lesson?  American revolutionaries.  French.  East Indian. American Indian.  The South African blacks.  The list could go on and on.  Spartacus.  Socrates.  Even Jesus.  It is never safe to be unfree.  That’s the paradox, the motivator.

    And freedom will have its way.  History, though I know the arguments against this position, is on the side of freedom.  It is an ache in the human heart that never goes away until satisfied. Ask the African-Americans or undocumented folks in the USA today.  Ask the Muslims in France or the Turks in Germany, the Romany especially in the Slavic countries.  Ask the Jews of the diaspora anywhere.

    To stand on the side of freedom is to stand with the future and against the past.  Each of us takes a position every day, with every purchase we make, every political decision we try or fail to try to influence, every value we pass on through our behaviors and our teaching.  To live is to choose.  Always.

    I spoke with a man today about the political environment for working against climate change, for healthy and sustainable forests, agriculture, cities.  The political winds today blow against us.  Is that a reason to sit down and wait them out?  No.  It is a time to stand up, to find the actions we can take that will move us toward a more just and verdant world

    One of those actions, always, is to work on the side of freedom.  Ai Weiwei and others held in China today need and deserve our help.  Not as an action against China, but as one for it.  For a world where political speech and action has a place of honor, not a jail cell.

  • Freedom. A Powerful Word.

    Imbolc                                                    Waxing Bridgit Moon

    This Valentine boy would like to send a big Valentine to all the folks in Tunisia and Egypt, to all folks anywhere, including Iran and Pakistan, even to the Tea Party folks, who yearn to be free.  The yearning for freedom and liberty, a chance to steer toward a future of your own choosing is a powerful force.   Once it becomes a dominant theme, its power can and has toppled governments and tyrants.

    That said, it carries the same dangers as any revolutionary movement.  As the Who sang, “Here is the new boss, same as the old boss.”  Those yearning for freedom may be no better equipped to create a climate that nurtures freedom than those they’ve ousted.

    Why?  Because, no matter the ideology, right or left, Islamist or evangelical, there lies, underneath the layered texts imposed on it,  a human heart, a heart that has its own agenda, no matter the rules imposed upon it.  Often that heart surprises us with its generosity, compassion, fellow feeling; but, too, with its fear, prejudice and ruthlessness.

    Still, to paraphrase a UU campaign, I’m committed to standing on the side of freedom and equality, so I give a hearty tip of the hat to all those brave enough to stand up for what they believe, even ones with whom I disagree.

    My hope is that whenever freedom lovers grab power, they will reflect a moment on the injustices that brought them there and determine how, this time, their reign will be different.